Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence

Memorandum 118

Submission from British Telecommunications plc


  BT's profile of space-related activities and interests has changed considerably over the last few years and is likely to continue to evolve. BT sees its future in space as being to:

    —  provide satellite communication solutions to extend reach for our business customers— using customised VSAT, broadband and mobile products;

    —  extend services to other countries who rely on satcoms for their international links; and

    —  provide new and innovative services that use (and sometimes rely on) space capability, eg tracking of goods, mobile data services, disaster recovery solutions and the distribution of media and broadcast content.

  BT sees its major growth coming from serving large organisations by offering them advanced networked IT solutions both in the UK and on a global basis. BT sees Space as offering capabilities that can be incorporated into broader networked IT solutions for these customers and we are increasingly relying on other satellite industry players that offer capacity, infrastructure and products.

  BT responded to the BNSC's Space Strategy consultation and we attach a copy for information, because it expands on some of the issues raised below.

  In direct response to the topics raised in the Select Committee's Terms of Reference, BT has the following comments:

1.  The impact of current levels of investment on space-related activities on the UK's international competitiveness in this sector

  The Space industry is set to grow significantly in the coming years. Many of the rapidly developing countries are investing heavily into this field as well as the traditional leading space countries. The UK currently has the capability in terms of expertise, innovation and commercial awareness to exploit this but some Government support is needed to maintain that leading role. Success for UK industry will depend on whether the products it produces are user-centred. Hence, while the UK should strive to match investments in space sector made elsewhere to ensure it is not disadvantaged, it should only do so where there are clearly identifiable end-user benefits in view. In practical terms this means adequately funding the ARTES and Galileo programmes and looking at developing a national programme that fully supports the development of new and innovative end-user services.

2.  The benefits and value for money obtained from participation in the European Space Agency and other international programmes

  BT generally believes that the UK gets value for money for its participation in ESA and international programmes, but needs to be more proactive within ESA and the EU to ensure that the right direction is developed. It is important that Government fully supports more user led programmes of work through a more coherent and consistent approach. While we are well served by our BNSC colleagues they do not seem to be fully supported by some of their Government Department partners. This weakens their ability to speak authoritatively for the UK compared with more Space friendly European nations. We would support a more proactive role for BNSC in policy formation and execution even if this means changes to the way it is structured and operates.

3.  The maximisation of commercial benefits and wealth creation from UK space-based technologies through innovation and knowledge transfer

  BT believes this is a key area for the UK where we already have considerable creative and innovative skills. Focus on this through a properly funded National Programme would be welcome.

4.  The delivery of public benefits from the space-related activities of different Government departments (eg DEFRA, MoD, DTI, DfT), and the co-ordination of these activities

  BT believes there are significant societal benefits from greater use of space technology. However there appears to be poor coordination across government despite BNSC efforts. More active engagement between industry and the relevant Government Departments would be of benefit. To ensure industry participates fully, direct financial investment by the Government is likely to be required.

5.  Support for space-related research and the UK skills base

  BT believes that for the UK to retain its leading position in the field of Space it will need to invest more in developing its UK skills base. In an increasingly global market place, organisations like BT have access to skills across the globe. Many of the jobs created by the space industry will involve IT and software skills to deliver service to customers. Fortunately Space itself can generate interest in science and technology careers for young people and therefore help to generate and develop these skills.

May 2007

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