Eight European companies have formed a non-profit group to support the Galileo satellite global positioning system project, Europe's answer to GPS.

But as yet no UK companies have put their weight behind the system.

The Galileo Services group will focus on 'developing markets and products' that will use Galileo, Pascal Campagne, a spokesman for France's FDC (France Developpement Conseil) said yesterday. FDC is an independent satellite navigation consultancy based in Vincennes, France.

The eight companies, based in France, Spain, Italy, Belgium and Norway, make hardware or software products for satellite positioning services, Campagne said.

The formation of the group comes as European Union heads agreed to back the £2bn satellite project this week.

EU transport ministers are now set to decide details on the funding and launching of Galileo at their meeting later this month.

Galileo is intended to be the European answer to GPS (Global Positioning System), the constellation of satellites built and run by the USA.

Until now, Germany, the Netherlands and the UK have avoided committing to the funding of this expensive project.

Along with developing appropriate markets for the European satellite global positioning system, Galileo Services would also co-finance research and development in conjunction with the EU, Campangne said.

Galileo Services is not the first group formed to support and promote Galileo. In May 2000, the Brussels-based Galileo Industries was created as a joint venture between Rome-based Alenia Spazio, Alcatel's Alcatel Espace and the space company Astrium, with the aim of managing the European satellite navigation program.