Think Tanks

« Deconstructing Vince Cable | Main | George Osborne should give every taxpayer a receipt, detailing how their money is spent »

Making Space Britain's new frontier and looking beyond Europe

By Dan Lewis of the Economic Policy Centre.

Today, the Economic Policy Centre launches a new paper by James C. Bennett, SPACE: Britain's New Frontier. An anglophile from Wyoming with 30 years of experience in the private, entrepreneurial and public sectors of the space industry, Jim has sketched out how the UK could actually succeed in what is know as New Space - widely understood as the emergence of international private ownership,  financing and innovation in the space industry at arm's length from government.  This is perhaps most forcefully embodied by Virgin Galactic -  British marketing and finance, American engineering and techonology and Emirates financing.


Spacebnf Arguably, the UK’s underperformance in Space which started with the implementation of the 1875 Explosives Act (beat that example for regulation stymying long-term  innovation). This act prevented crucial rocket experimentation in the 1930s which happened in Germany, the USA and Russia. The paper explains the genesis of the industry in the postwar period and brings us up to the present. The UK does have significant niches (like satellite insurance - a classic financial export - and small satellite design) in the global space industry which command a lot of respect.

To give you some numbers, the UK Space Industry turns over around £6 billion pounds per annum and public support amounts to some £268 m. The big surprise to me what that much of this, a good three-quarters goes on European programmes via the European Space Agency - an EU Quango. It's extraordinary that we do so little with the USA, Canada, Australia or India - this really must change. 

The paper  makes the following policy recommendations;

1. The UK should broaden its cooperative perspective beyond Europe – 75% of funds are currently allocated to the European Space Agency.

2. The new UKSA must seek to take advantage of NASA’s international cooperative programmes which the UK has failed to do in the past

3. The Commonwealth States – Australia, Canada and India – all have areas of space expertise which the UK could successfully cooperate on.

4. Therefore the UK should aim to cooperate with Canada which has expertise in radar imaging satellites

5. And with Australia which has extensive launch ranges

6. As well as with India which has across the board capabilities including launch vehicles, satellites and now interplanetary probes

7. The UKSA should send key personnel to Ottawa for an extended stay at the Canadian Space Agency to study what a small-to-medium scale agency can accomplish

8. The UK should explore collaboration with Canada and Australia on dual-use (civil and military) space technologies and systems like communications and earth observations satellites to leverage UK defence investments in space and the high level of trust of the USA on technology-export issues

9. The UK should seek to learn and copy from the Isle of Man’s favourable operating environment for space commerce

10. The UK should seek to develop a civil regulatory framework for spaceflight and space activity that attracts capital from all round the world

11. The UK should seek to actively earn from the USA’s deep experience of licensing launch sites and spaceports with a view to the future licensing of sites like Lossiemouth in Scotland

Says author, Jim Bennett;

Britain faces an historic opportunity to be a major player in space and the government must rise to the challenge. You don’t need Astronauts to have a successful space programme. The New Space environment now offers British entrepreneurs, financiers and scientists a chance to take a seat at the main table on their own terms. Britain has networks of close ties, experiences, and mutual trust not just in one direction, but in three: Europe, the USA, and the Commonwealth. It should seek to maintain its existing productive ties with Europe, exploit the ease of business between the US and Britain to develop New Space entrepreneurship, and enhance its cooperation with the often-underestimated capabilities of Canada, Australia, and India”.


You must be logged in using Intense Debate, Wordpress, Twitter or Facebook to comment.