SEP, a typical firm, employs 3,900 and had a budget of $400 million in 1986. Besides developing propulsion systems, its specialists are involved in image recognition and processing in association with the French-Swedish SPOT imagery systems. SEP also will help develop composite thermostructural materials for Hermes, the European space shuttle scheduled for launching in the mid 1990s.
"There is a good bit of scientific talent spread through the 150 R&D centers here in the Bordeaux region," said one company president who requested anonymity. "It's too bad, in a way, that Eureka [the French-backed, European high-technology program] does not have a military component and the corresponding funds inherent in the American Strategic Defense Initiative." He and other industrialists can grab the spotlight again in December 1988, when France holds another such exhibition.