The following is a speech made by UKspace Chair, Graham Peters, at the British High Commission in Singapore on 5 February 2020, as part of the UK space sector mission to Singapore.
Good evening everyone. I am going so say a few words in response on behalf of UKspace which is the trade body for the space industry in the UK.
UKspace goes back over 30 years, representing over 120 members from the big satellite manufacturers and satellite operators down to SMEs and applications developers. We were originally formed as a body to lobby government mainly for R&D funding into the European Space Agency (ESA). But just over ten years ago, we realised that we needed to do a better job at explaining the economic and societal benefits that space brings. And that we could accomplish much more when government, industry and academia work together.
So in 2010, with our then science minister, we launched the space Innovation Growth Strategy or IGS where we set out a plan and an ambitious target to capture £40bn revenue per year by 2030 – then equating to around 10% of forecast global space revenues. That ambition lives on. The IGS was refreshed in 2014, and again in 2018 when we published an updated strategy called Prosperity from Space.
This new way of working on space, together with colleagues in government and academia, has had a profound impact on the landscape of the UK space sector. ESA set up a facility for the first time in the UK. The creation of the UK Space Agency and the Satellite Applications Catapult, British astronaut Tim Peake going to the International Space Station, space clusters springing up all over the UK, and preparations to launch satellites from British soil for the first time.
The UK’s exit from the European Union, as some of you may have noticed, has not been entirely painless. For the space sector, the exclusion of the UK from the EU’s Galileo satellite programme was very difficult at the time, but has provided a galvanising effect on the politics around space and the recognition of the need for sovereign capabilities. We had Boris Johnson standing outside 10 Downing Street shortly after becoming Prime Minister proclaiming that we would “get going now on our own position navigation and timing satellite and earth observation systems.” The change in narrative from the top has had a huge impact across government on the way it looks at space.
At the end of 2019, the UK made a record 15% increase in funding into the ESA (which as I repeatedly remind ministers, is completely separate from the EU, including the likes of Canada, Switzerland and Norway).
We are in the process of establishing a National Space Council to join up activity across government, at Cabinet level, bringing together the interests around the four pillars mentioned by Kara earlier.
And Brexit itself provides an opportunity to take back control of UK funding that would otherwise have gone into the European Union’s space programme. There is an expectation that we will use this opportunity to establish an ambitious National Space Programme to sit alongside our investments in ESA.
The UK national programme will take us in new directions; it will provide increased opportunities to deepen our cooperation with like-minded partners such as Singapore. We can build on existing collaborations such as the satellite QKD project, and the strong existing commercial bond between the satellite sector in the UK and here.
And finally, as a number of us discussed this afternoon, there is a an opportunity to use space to support the climate agenda. Space already plays a key role in monitoring climate change with 35 of 45 key indicators measured from satellites. Together we can use space capabilities not only to monitor climate change, but to provide solutions to mitigate it.
As a sector, we must do more work to explain how satellites support many of the actions in direct response to climate change. This relates to the more effective use of satellite data to support other sectors, such as transport, finance and agriculture, amongst many others. Space can be used to not only manage climate change, but also underpin ways to reduce it and respond to its impact. At the same time, working together on these challenges will deepen the scientific and trading bonds between our nations.
I have been impressed by the capabilities and enthusiasm around space that I have seen on this mission to Singapore, and I look forward to exploring further opportunities over the coming days and in future visits.