New agency for UK space

Posted on 10 Dec 2009 by The Manufacturer

An executive agency will be created to take the UK’s space and satellite sector into a new space age, Science and Innovation Minister Lord Drayson said today.

The new agency will replace the British National Space Centre, and bring together for the first time the six Government departments, two research councils, the Technology Strategy Board and Met Office that currently oversee the organisation of UK space activities to enhance efficiencies. The Government’s plans to accelerate growth and jobs within the space industry were set out in Lord Drayson’s speech at the Appleton Space Conference.

Space has been one of the nation’s unsung economic success stories in recent years, growing by approximately 9% a year since 1999/00 — more than three times faster than the economy as a whole. It currently contributes £6.5bn a year to the UK economy, and supports 68,000 jobs. The UK is also currently second in the world only to the USA in space science.

Lord Drayson said: “Our space sector hasn’t missed a beat during this recession. This is the classic story of outstanding UK science and entrepreneurship continuing to create jobs and achieve exceptional growth. The new space agency is about making sure that the UK fully exploits its competitive advantage in satellites, robotics and related technologies.”

The announcement comes following a public consultation on how to fund and organise the civil space sector so that it meets the challenges of the future and delivers the greatest benefit to the country. As well as maximising the role of space technologies in driving economic growth in high tech, high skilled services, the agency’s responsibilities would include:

• strengthening the UK’s relationship with the European Space Agency;
• agreeing with UK industry how to maximise the benefits of space technologies;
• working with the scientific community to provide a clear voice on decisions that affect the sector.

Richard Peckham, Chairman of UKspace — the industry body for space — said: “The decision to create a UK Space Agency is very welcome and it represents a real opportunity for the UK to further boost its innovative space industry, a sector that is ripe for future growth globally that will help the country exit recession more quickly.”

“It will create a stronger focus for the better delivery of services in both the public and private sectors using space and will enable a far greater return on the country’s investment in the space sector. With the space industry showing itself resistant to the recession and with an annual growth rate of 9%, space provides an example of the sort of high-tech industry that can lead economic recovery and the creation of more highly-skilled jobs in the British economy of the future.”