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Report Lays Out Ambitious Plan for British Space Sector

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
February 10, 2010
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Today, the Space Innovation and Growth Team (Space IGT), a joint collaboration between industry, Government, and academia, set out a 20 year vision for the UK to grow its share of the quickly expanding global space market from 6% to 10%. The majority of investment required for what will be a six-fold increase in the size of the UK’s space sector will come from industry, but Government must also play a full part in this by doubling its spend on space.

Among sixteen recommendations are plans to:

  • Create a domestic space industry worth £40bn per year by 2030, providing 100,000 new jobs around space positioning itself to take a major portion of the expanding export market
  • Create the right environment for the UK Space industry to increase investment in R&D, space services, operations and PFIs by between £5 billion and £10 billion aimed at commercial and wider export markets including a call on government to double the national funding for space projects to £550m per year by 2020
  • Implement a dedicated national R&D programme for space of £20 million in 2011, rising to £100 million in 2015, with industry and Government each contributing equally to this programme
  • Establish the UK’s own Earth Observation service based on a PFI that provides data that helps meet national needs in security, verifying climate change, policing carbon trading agreements and delivering local and national services – with the aim of developing turn-key and data services for export markets
  • Help the UK deliver broadcast and broadband services to rural communities and, further, to help the UK’s ICT sector continue to grow while developing space solutions – including ‘data centres in space’ that cut its CO2 emissions by 40m tonnes per year
  • Develop an open innovation centre at Harwell for business incubation that also provides UK centres of excellence in Earth Observation services, climate change verification and modelling, and security from space.
  • Launch a national campaign to inspire young people about the career opportunities in space and champion increased take up of science, technology, engineering and mathematics subjects at school and university – an acknowledged UK need
  • Industry to double its use of apprenticeships to meet recruitment needs and double the number of school and college visits made by space professionals to promote job opportunities

Space is one of the key enablers of the global economy, having revolutionised telecommunications, climate and weather forecasting, information sharing, commerce, security, banking, navigation and TV broadcasting.

Space is increasingly regarded as a critical national infrastructure, like water or power utilities, and touches our lives on a daily, if not hourly basis. Demand for space is booming with the worldwide market predicted to grow from £160bn in 2008 to £400bn by 2030 (Source: The Space Economy 2009, The Space Foundation).

The Space Innovation and Growth Strategy, published today, describes how the UK is ideally placed to increase its share of the global space market from 6% to 10% over the next 20 years.

To achieve this growth industry will need to increase R&D spending and raise over £5bn to fund new PFIs and government will be asked to double its national funding for space programmes and technologies to £550m over the next 10 years.

Britain currently ranks 21st in terms of national space investment (Source: OECD 2005), with France, Germany and Italy in the top ten, but doubling the national commitment would move the country to 10th position in terms of GDP invested in space – enough, if spent wisely, to deliver the growth planned.

This comparatively modest level of national funding would, however, permit the UK to play a bigger role in European Space Agency (ESA) programmes. The report describes how Britain could lead three major missions by 2030 and be in a position to win substantial industrial contracts as a result.

Launching the report, Andy Green CEO of Logica and Chairman of the Space IGT said:

“Today, we have a clearly defined opportunity to grow the UK’s share of the global space market to create a world leading £40bn UK space industry by 2030.

“I have not taken the safe route with this report. I could have focused on simply exploiting the niche markets where the UK excels, instead, I have encouraged the team to look at the bigger picture and identify specific opportunities where we can go further, faster.

“Failure to capitalise on this opportunity risks undermining a high-value British manufacturing success story and the spectre of large multi-nationals moving business out of the UK.

“If we get this right, the UK space sector could provide the basis to help energise an economy emerging from recession, an create 100,000 new jobs over the next 20 years in an industry that already provides tangible economic and societal benefits.”