In our April 2021 space webinar, special guest Graham Turnock, CEO of the UK Space Agency, shared valuable insights on the evolution of the UK space sector and how current developments at the UK Space Agency and in Whitehall will shape the future. Alongside this, space industry delegates from the UK, Europe and more globally highlighted the most significant opportunities and challenges for the UK space sector.
Range of Opportunities for UK in space
Looking ahead over the next 5-10 years, we asked delegates to identify the most attractive opportunities for growth in the UK space industry. Among the key messages is the broad diversity of business areas which the audience found appealing. Manufacturing, launch services/spaceports and sensing/data/IOT/M2M services all scored highly, all of them noticeably higher than satcoms/broadband/broadcast. Interestingly, sensing/data applications/IOT/M2M topped the charts both in this poll and in a similar poll of delegates we conducted in October 2020, reflecting a clear industry enthusiasm for space data and low bandwidth services.
In Graham's view, future growth is likely to build on the existing pillars of strength in UK space, such as the satellite communications sector boosted by the recent UK government investment in OneWeb, as well as other initiatives such as the MOD's continued progress with the Skynet programme. Graham also pointed to the UK's emerging strengths in in-orbit and "new space" economies such as space debris removal, with companies operating in these areas experiencing strong growth in the UK as part of an anticipated multi-billion pound market.
When our attendees ranked the potential obstacles to the UK achieving its stated target of taking 10% of the world market by 2030, the results showed an interesting pattern:
With delegates flagging the need for the financing/investment and skills shortages as the most significant obstacles to growth, John Worthy, partner and head of Satellite and Space Projects at Fieldfisher, commented that this is consistent with the sector being in active growth mode. "When commercial opportunities are emerging fast, business' demand for investment and skills will always be a high priority. As the space sector has seen a major influx of new investors over recent years, attracting a record breaking USD7.7 billion in new investment in 2020, space businesses now have more access to growth funding than ever before. Across Fieldfisher clients, we have seen a significant increase in funding deals, supported by investors with a clear vision of how to engage with space business. As for new skillsets, those wishing to fill skills gaps by hiring from overseas will need to work through the new UK "points based" immigration system, which we are helping many clients to navigate."
Commenting on the 20% of delegates identifying Brexit as a barrier, Graham's view was that Brexit has helped to drive the UK's sovereign space capabilities up the agenda. With the National Space Council chaired by the Prime Minister, and the UK National Space Strategy due for publication shortly, he saw space now recognised as a top table issue in UK government.
Graham also commented that, while the UK's smaller institutional market for space business has been a disadvantage, this is being reviewed as part of the national space strategy. Graham believed that it could be helpful for the UK government as an actor in the space sector to be procuring and using more services itself, reflecting the model adopted in the United States. To be able to demonstrate that aspects of the UK space sector have an "anchor tenant" in government is a powerful tool in stimulating commercial activity.
Our special thanks go to Graham Turnock for his insights, as well as to our attendees for their input.
John Worthy commented: "As the UK space sector continues to grow, we are encouraged to see industry confidence across the sector. With space now taking higher priority in UK government circles, we look forward to an exciting next phase of growth, at both institutional space and commercial levels."
Look out for details of the next Fieldfisher Space Business webinar soon.
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