Select Committee on Science and Technology Seventh Report


Does space matter?
1.We believe that space is a highly significant area of science policy. As other countries continue to exploit and explore space, it is crucial that the UK is also involved in this sector and it is necessary for the Government to take a more strategic approach to space. (Paragraph 14)
Current UK space policy
2.Despite recommendations by the National Audit Office, the BNSC has still not developed a robust performance management system. We are disappointed that the BNSC failed to take advantage of the opportunity to establish a performance management system offered by the implementation of the UK Space Strategy 2003-2006 and beyond. The new strategy should outline how the partnership will track its performance and BNSC Headquarters should ensure that performance monitoring is undertaken. (Paragraph 25)
Space Strategy 2007-2010
3.The new strategy is an opportunity for BNSC to outline clearly its vision and ambition for space. The strategy should inspire and motivate the UK space sector and emphasise the UK Government's commitment to space. (Paragraph 34)
4.We are concerned that there is a lack of co-ordinated horizon scanning within the BNSC partnership. We recommend that BNSC Headquarters assume responsibility for horizon scanning and informing partners of emerging issues. The BNSC should liaise with the Foresight programme within the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills on approaches to horizon scanning. (Paragraph 34)
5.We recommend that alongside the Strategy 2007-2010 the BNSC develop a long-term roadmap from 2010-2050. This roadmap should complement the short-term strategy by providing a flexible indication of where the space community is heading. The roadmap should be seen as an active document to be displayed on the BNSC website and updated at regular intervals incorporating policy changes or the results of horizon scanning activities. (Paragraph 34)
The partnership model
6.We support the UK's user-driven approach to space but are concerned that user Departments might start leading programmes without sufficient expertise or skills. We recommend that in the early stages of programmes BNSC headquarters provide the skills and expertise to enable user departments to engage with space solutions and that BNSC headquarters be responsible for building up understanding of space within Departments. BNSC headquarters should be perceived as leading projects in conjunction with primary and secondary user partners. The BNSC should explain in its forthcoming strategy how funding models in the future will work for projects involving many partners. (Paragraph 46)
7.If current levels of expenditure in space persist, the Government should not establish a space agency but should continue to pursue the partnership approach to space. If expenditure is substantially increased, the question of an agency should be reviewed. However, we believe that there are problems with the current partnership arrangement and that it should be strengthened appropriately. (Paragraph 53)
Strengthening the partnership
8.We recommend that the BNSC partners work towards strengthening the status and profile of BNSC Headquarters. As part of this, the BNSC should review the effectiveness of its brand internationally and nationally, including the possible impact of a change of name. Projects should be associated firstly with BNSC and secondly with the partner involved. The relationship between the BNSC partners and BNSC Headquarters should be clearly outlined in the forthcoming strategy. The recent machinery of Government changes provide BNSC with an ideal opportunity to establish a clear separation from DIUS. The BNSC should emphasise its independence from DIUS by splitting the costs of its administration between its partners or covering its own costs in order to become a clearly defined entity. (Paragraph 60)
9.We welcome the Government Information from the Space Sector (GIFTSS) initiative. We believe that there is further scope for BNSC Headquarters to provide leadership in the space sector and to promote the use of space within Government through initiatives such as GIFTSS. We believe that BNSC Headquarters would be well-placed to provide leadership for the space community, if empowered to do so. (Paragraph 62)
10.We recommend that the BNSC use the new strategy to set firm, specific goals agreed with the BNSC partners, as well as providing a general overview of aspirations in different areas. BNSC partners should prepare and publish an implementation plan for their part in delivering the strategy. (Paragraph 64)
11.We recommend that BNSC Headquarters produce an annual report and accounts, with a breakdown of funding by partners into national programme, subscription to individual ESA programmes and administration costs. BNSC Headquarters could then use this report to highlight positive or negative trends. The report should also report on performance linked to the space strategy. Such a report would give a clear focus to UK space activities and act as a branding exercise for BNSC. The report would also be a source of information for the space community and enhance scrutiny of UK space policy across the board. (Paragraph 66)
12.We are concerned that there is insufficient co-ordination across the BNSC partnership. We recommend that the BNSC include in the response to this Report the steps that they will take to address this shortcoming. (Paragraph 69)
13.We are concerned that BNSC Headquarters currently works under several constraints including limited resources and dependency upon its partners for funds. We recommend that BNSC Headquarters be provided with a small budget of its own, following the necessary changes to its legal status. BNSC Headquarters should use this budget to cover its own overheads and to run the National Space Technology Programme. We recommend that BNSC Headquarters review its staffing and skills needs and that additional resources are provided where necessary. (Paragraph 74)
14.We were very concerned about the attitude of DfES towards the partnership and hope that the new Department for Children, Schools and Families engages positively with the BNSC partnership. We strongly recommend that the Department for Children, Schools and Families joins the BNSC partnership. (Paragraph 77)
15.We can see significant value in greater contact between BNSC and MoD at ministerial and official level. We recommend that the BNSC and MoD evaluate how dual use technologies might be of benefit across the BNSC partnership and include dual use technologies in the forthcoming BNSC strategy. (Paragraph 80)
16.We are disappointed by DFID's lack of response to this inquiry. The use of space has clear relevance for DFID in the field of disaster monitoring and other environmental applications. We recommend that the BNSC strengthen links with DFID in relation to the use of space for environmental and disaster monitoring. (Paragraph 84)
17.We recommend that the BNSC continue to develop a close relationship with the National Offender Management Service, the Ministry of Justice and the Home Office Scientific Development Branch. These organisations should continue to monitor possible applications of satellite technology in offender management and security. (Paragraph 86)
18.More research is needed to understand how space applications might provide solutions for social problems. We recommend that BNSC work with ESRC and NHS Research to develop research funding calls, possibly in conjunction with STFC and with reference to the Foresight programme within DIUS, focused on the social and potential health applications of satellite technologies. (Paragraph 88)
19.We believe that it would unusual and inappropriate for industry to be a partner in the BNSC partnership. (Paragraph 89)
20.We recommend the creation of a Space Forum whose membership would include representatives appointed by the Secretary of State from industry, education, and academia. We suggest that this should be a dynamic small body with a maximum membership of fifteen, staffed by a small independent secretariat. The Forum should meet several times a year to scrutinise space policy and should report annually to the Secretary of State on the work of BNSC. (Paragraph 90)
European Space Agency
21.The UK's involvement in ESA is worthwhile. It enables UK scientists and engineers to take part in programmes that would otherwise be beyond their reach. Given the UK's level of investment in ESA, we urge the Minister with responsibility for space to sustain ongoing contact with the Director General of ESA. (Paragraph 95)
22.Although there are individual optional programmes where investment could be increased, we support the UK's selective approach to ESA and we believe that the UK has maintained on average a reasonable level of investment in ESA programmes. (Paragraph 106)
23.We acknowledge that all involved have taken action in order to remedy the under return to the UK. We recommend that the BNSC develop a strategy with ESA over the next year in order to ensure that this situation does not recur. (Paragraph 112)
24.We recognise the work that BNSC has undertaken helping ESA with the reform of its processes and encourage the BNSC to continue working in this area. (Paragraph 114)
25.We believe that the establishment of an ESA centre in the UK would be beneficial and recommend that the BNSC pursue this aim as a priority. (Paragraph 117)
European Union and European Commission
26.We welcome the European Space Policy and the inclusion of space in Framework Programme 7. We recommend that BNSC Headquarters in partnership with DIUS or the STFC hold a series of workshops in order to inform the space community about recent developments. The BNSC should advertise opportunities for scientists and companies arising from FP7 and should provide advice on applications where necessary. (Paragraph 122)
27.We acknowledge the BNSC's work in encouraging collaboration with other countries such as China and welcome the recent joint statement of intent with NASA. However, the development of new opportunities must not be undertaken if there will be a reduction in scientific quality. We recommend that the BNSC outline its current activities and future intentions in international collaboration in the forthcoming strategy. (Paragraph 129)
The UK space industry
28.We are impressed by the range of activities undertaken by the UK space industry and by its ambition to remain world-leading. We welcome the work that BNSC has undertaken in this area in order to track the health of the industry and recommend that such studies continue. (Paragraph 139)
Government support for the space industry
29.The ARTES programme is important to the UK space industry because it provides vital seedcorn funding for high-risk, early stage R&D. Investment in this programme should produce high returns. We recommend that the Government review its subscription to the ARTES programme before the end of the year. (Paragraph 148)
30.We congratulate the BNSC on its innovative approach to finding funding for the Alphasat programme. We recommend that the BNSC involve RDAs in funding ESA missions in future when there is likely to be specific regional benefit. (Paragraph 151)
31.We are concerned by the impact upon the space industry of the shift of funds from the DTI national programme to the Technology Strategy Board. We welcome the attempts by the BNSC to address this problem through the National Space Technology Programme and hope that industry and academia make the most of this programme. (Paragraph 156)
32.We recommend that the DIUS and MoD initiate another programme as a successor to the MOSAIC programme within the next year. (Paragraph 159)
33.The investment of private finance in the space industry is crucial and Government co-investment at a seedcorn level would help to attract private finance and venture capital. We acknowledge that the BNSC is already working with industry in this area. We recommend that the BNSC seek ways in which to stimulate the increase of private finance and venture capital in the field of space in its forthcoming strategy. The BNSC should elect a co-ordinator who can work with the venture capital industry in order to help companies to explain their technologies. (Paragraph 164)
34.We note the importance of SMEs in the space industry and believe that it is crucial that they receive appropriate support. We are concerned that in the past SMEs in the space industry have lacked non-financial as well as financial support from the DTI. We recommend that SMEs be represented on the Space Forum and that the Government establish mechanisms to increase support for SMEs. (Paragraph 168)
35.We are concerned that the current licensing regime impedes enterprise. We welcome the review of licensing and look forward to the public consultation on BNSC's proposals. We recommend that the BNSC pay particular attention to the needs of SMEs in this area. (Paragraph 171)
36.We welcome the BNSC's funding for space surveillance. We recommend that future plans for this area, particularly in relation to a possible European project for space surveillance, be outlined in the new space strategy. (Paragraph 174)
Health of space science and technology in the UK
37.In the light of the contrasting views on the health of space science and technology in the UK, we recommend that the BNSC undertake research in this area and commission a study on the size and health of the space science and technology field. (Paragraph 179)
38.We are concerned that there is a skills shortage in the space industry. Potential space scientists and engineers may be moving into other sectors due to the low profile of the industry. Although the UK is currently able to attract and retain international scientists and engineers to fill the gap left by a lack of "home-grown" talent, we are concerned that this situation is not sustainable, particularly if the number of overseas students entering UK universities declines. We believe that a broad programme of incentives may be necessary to ensure a continued flow of people into the space sector from UK universities and from abroad. We recommend that the BNSC work with DIUS, HEFCE, individual universities and industry in order to develop a 'people' strategy to address the skills shortage. (Paragraph 183)
Creation of the Science and Technology Facilities Council
39.We welcome the creation of the STFC and were pleased to hear assurances from the Chief Executive that the STFC will not favour funding for large facilities over basic science. We recommend that the STFC work with NERC and EPSRC to ensure that there are no gaps in funding for research in space science. (Paragraph 190)
Current levels of investment
40.We are concerned that investment in space science instrumentation has reduced over the last decade. We recommend that the STFC increase funding for space science instrumentation. (Paragraph 194)
Technology development
41.We welcome PPARC's approach to the Aurora programme and recommend that the BNSC develop mechanisms to increase the co-ordination between industry and academia at early stages in technology development, if necessary on a mission by mission basis. (Paragraph 198)
42.We welcome the proposal for the National Space Technology Programme and urge the Government to provide appropriate funding for this initiative. Information about the detailed mechanisms of the programme and clarification regarding its performance management and anticipated interaction with other bodies should be published in the forthcoming strategy. We recommend that the BNSC lead and manage the operational aspects of this programme. Arrangements should be altered so that the Director General of BNSC can be the Accounting Officer without the need for delegation of responsibility from the STFC. (Paragraph 209)
Technology spin-off
43.We recognise that there are mechanisms for knowledge transfer within the space sector. Given that the space sector is characterised by its remit across numerous Government departments as well as the STFC, NERC, and EPSRC, we recommend that the BNSC establish a broad space knowledge transfer network for academics and industrialists from the upstream and downstream space industry and related sectors to complement existing activities. We recommend that BNSC and ESA continue to emphasise the importance of knowledge transfer between the space field and other sectors. (Paragraph 221)
Introduction to Earth observation programmes
44.We are impressed by the UK's commitment to Earth observation internationally and nationally. We welcome the establishment of the NERC National Centre for Earth Observation and the Centre for Earth Observation Instrumentation. It is essential that these bodies develop relationships with other organisations such as the STFC, Defra and the Met Office. Earth observation is especially important to the study of climate change. It is crucial that the UK work internationally to ensure provision, availability and maintenance of long-term, sustained data sets in this area. (Paragraph 227)
45.The BNSC has undertaken several initiatives in order to increase awareness across Government of Earth observation. However, we believe that understanding of the variety and potential uses of Earth observation data could be increased. We recommend that the BNSC develop a strategy to improve understanding of Earth observation across Government. The new Centre for Earth Observation and Centre for Earth Observation Instrumentation should be hubs for knowledge transfer from academia to user Government departments and agencies. (Paragraph 234)
46.The BNSC lacks a clear and co-ordinated Earth observation programme. We recommend that the BNSC review the co-ordination of its work in this sector, including the role of the Earth Observation Programme Board, and apply the lessons learned. We recommend that BNSC Headquarters lead on the creation of a GEO strategy, working closely with Defra and other interested parties. (Paragraph 238)
47.We understand the reasons for Defra's cautious approach to funding GMES and recommend that it continue to work with the BNSC and the ESA regarding its concerns about the programme. If these concerns are addressed, given that extra funding to GMES would benefit UK industry through the ESA's policy of juste retour, we recommend that the Government consult industry regarding the level of subscription it deems necessary to stimulate activity and then consider providing additional funding to GMES. (Paragraph 251)
48.Defra's lead on GMES is proving problematic. We recommend that the BNSC Headquarters provide the lead and work closely with Defra as primary user. GMES is a programme where a strengthened BNSC Headquarters could provide leadership, drive and ambition. (Paragraph 256)
49.The Government needs to work out how it will support applications arising from GMES. We recommend that the BNSC commission a study similar to the ABOTTS report looking at the opportunities and challenges created for the UK Earth observation sector by the GMES programme. The UK's approach to the GMES programme including applications should be outlined in the space strategy. (Paragraph 259)
Satellite navigation
50.We welcome the work that DTI and DfT have undertaken to identify new applications and services that will be enabled by Galileo. We recommend that the Government report on progress in this area in the annual BNSC report. (Paragraph 261)
51.We seek assurance from the Government that it will continue working at a European level to ensure that Galileo remains a civil system under civil control. The Government must clarify the ways in which military forces would be allowed to use Galileo and whether Galileo could be used for military applications. (Paragraph 262)
52.We recognise the role taken by DfT to co-ordinate work on the Galileo programme. We recommend that DfT be known as primary user for this programme, DIUS as primary funder and BNSC Headquarters be identified as the lead with the appropriate transfer of staff accordingly. (Paragraph 263)
53.We are concerned that the failure of the concessionaire and subsequent alternative funding proposals for the Galileo programme are likely to result in rising costs to the UK. We recommend that, before the next Transport Council meeting, the Government publish a new analysis of the costs and benefits of the Galileo programme to the UK. We recommend that the Government report to Parliament on a regular basis on its intentions in relation to Galileo. (Paragraph 269)
54.The telecommunications sector is still growing. It is important that the Government continues to fund initiatives in this area such as ARTES and Alphasat, which provide vital seedcorn funding for high-risk, early stage R&D. (Paragraph 273)
55.We recommend that the Government work at a European level to ensure that there is a consistent standard of regulation across Europe. When reviewing its practices, Ofcom should take the views of satellite operators regarding the international impact of its activities into account. (Paragraph 277)
56.We welcome the UK's involvement in the Aurora programme and recommend that the STFC ensure that the UK maintains its strong role in this programme. (Paragraph 282)
57.We welcome the recent Joint Statement of Intent signed by BNSC and NASA and hope that this signals the beginning of fruitful collaboration on the MoonLITE and MoonRaker missions. We congratulate the STFC on its timely funding of preparatory work in this area. (Paragraph 286)
58.We welcome the BNSC's active involvement in the Global Space Exploration Strategy. We recommend that the findings of the BNSC Space Exploration Working Group be published and subsequently incorporated appropriately into the forthcoming space strategy. The Space Strategy 2007-2010 should outline how the UK intends to respond to the different international exploration projects. (Paragraph 291)
Manned spaceflight
59.It appears that the Government currently objects to manned spaceflight on principle and we believe that this stance is unjustifiable. Manned spaceflight proposals, like other proposals in other areas of space, should be judged according to a cost-benefit analysis. We recommend that whilst the BNSC emphasise the UK's interest in robotic missions at this stage, it also keep the option of scientific manned spaceflight missions open for the future. The Government's stance should be flexible enough to ensure that the best science can be funded, whether that be undertaken by manned or robotic exploration. (Paragraph 306)
Space medicine
60.We have not seen enough evidence to be convinced that a special stream of funding should be given to space medicine. Funding should continue to be available from MRC through peer-reviewed response-mode funding. The MRC should monitor developments in the field and liaise appropriately with BNSC. Given the current climate in global exploration, the BNSC should explore routes for non-financial co-operation with organisations such as NASA and ESA in this area. (Paragraph 319)
Space tourism
61.We are excited by the potential afforded by sub-orbital travel and the rise of the space tourism industry. We do not believe that it is the responsibility of Government to fund this work but developments in this area should be encouraged through appropriate regulation. The BNSC should use its consultation on regulation to discuss the establishment of a regulatory framework and responsible body with the relevant authorities. We recommend that the Government continues its policy of non-financial support to the space tourism industry and that it outline the developing nature of that support in the forthcoming space strategy. (Paragraph 334)
62.We share the BNSC's belief that in the development of launchers the "market" will provide. But there should be no "in principle" block on funding the development of launchers in the future. We recommend that the MoD and DIUS discuss whether a seed-corn funding exercise or prize might be developed in the future to provide an incentive for the development of a low cost small satellite launcher. (Paragraph 342)
Impact of space
63.The evidence that we have seen regarding the unique ability of space to increase interest in science is inconclusive. The Department for Children, Schools and Families should work with BNSC and interested organisations to assess what research is required to assess first the impact of space upon interest in science and secondly how an interest in space might be harnessed in order to encourage students to pursue scientific study to GCSE, A level and degree level. (Paragraph 349)
Space in education
64.The lack of involvement from DfES in the field of space education, despite its role as a partner in BNSC, was disappointing. We hope that the Department for Children, Schools and Families will become involved in this field and will work closely with BNSC and the DIUS. (Paragraph 355)
65.We are disappointed that, despite their initial investment, DfES did not actively follow up the Bringing Space into School Science report. The fact that many of the recommendations made by this report could be met by Yorkshire Forward's plans for a European Space Education Office in the UK seems to have resulted more from luck than judgement. (Paragraph 359)
66.We welcome the plans for the establishment of an European Space Education Resource Office contact point in the UK and we congratulate Yorkshire Forward on its ambition in taking this project forward. The plans for this project should be outlined in the space strategy. It is crucial that the UK and ESA agree on the aims, remit and activities that are encompassed by the project. We are concerned that the UK has higher expectations of this project than ESA since BNSC is presenting it as an all-encompassing solution to its problems in space education. As a result, the initiative may not deliver all that is required. We seek reassurance that this will be the start of a truly national education project and urge the BNSC to clarify in the space strategy which body will be responsible for education in this area. (Paragraph 363)
67.The ESERO contact point project should be used as a driver to create a one-stop website for space material. BNSC should work closely with STFC, the Department for Children, Schools and Families, and ESA to ensure that material fits into the curriculum. It is crucial that feedback is sought from teachers on the usefulness of such a website and the appropriateness of the material provided. (Paragraph 364)
68.  We acknowledge the work that the BNSC especially the STFC has undertaken in outreach. We suspect that unfortunately the public is still unaware of the variety, breadth and importance that space activities play in their everyday lives. We encourage the BNSC in partnership with academics and industrialists to seek ways to increase understanding and knowledge in this area. (Paragraph 366)

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2007
Prepared 17 July 2007