Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence

Memorandum 21

Submission from Space Enterprise Partnerships Ltd


  My company offers consultancy in the creation of successful partnerships to develop innovative space based capabilities. It is based on the premise that it is now very difficult for a single company, particularly the smaller specialist businesses, to maintain all the leading edge capabilities to succeed in the very competitive space environment. Independent advice to identify potential partners who have both the technical ability and access to the necessary investment is therefore increasingly necessary. A particular feature is the increasing need for international partnering.

  Until recently I was the Director of Business Development for Space Science, Exploration and Propulsion at QinetiQ. During my time with the company I created and managed a small satellite project, set up the first major electric propulsion projects and helped bring some of QinetiQ's advanced defence technologies into the space arena. The successful programmes were based on exploitation of key QinetiQ capabilities matched to those of a range of international partners. The electric propulsion programmes demonstrated that Britain still has the potential to lead the world in creating innovative new business from technical excellence.

  During the past two years I have also been chairman of the UKSpace Science and Exploration Sub-committee.


  In written evidence I am most keen to register support for the submission to your enquiry by UKSpace. This clearly identifies the many benefits that Britain's space activities bring and the vital, if too often understated, role that space now plays in our daily lives. In the wider, global space community there is universal acceptance that space is both a symbol and a quantifiable measure of the technical and scientific standing of a nation. Not only are the established "space-faring" nations looking to new initiatives to extend their space-based capabilities; many new nations are now actively seeking their own capabilities for both strategic and economic reasons. Your enquiry is therefore particularly timely.

  May I therefore offer two supporting items of evidence to the UKSpace submission:

Space science and exploration

  Although the immediate economic benefits may often be intangible the sense of achievement from today's exceptionally challenging space science and exploration projects is an essential ingredient in the motivation of the science and technology community. I know of few other walks of life where people work for much longer than their nominally paid hours for the satisfaction of achieving the apparently impossible. Yet this is the commitment and determination which is needed to maintain a technical lead in a competitive world. I would suggest that if Britain is to remain economically competitive this entrepreneurial culture must be encouraged through continuing investment in both the national and ESA science and technology programmes which have brought so much past success. In this respect the creation of a Large Facilities Council (LFC) offers a valuable opportunity provided that it is firmly founded on sound commercial practice aimed at facilitating the entrepreneurial culture.

Space Electric Propulsion

  This is a good example of Britain's ability to develop world class technology in the face of the most fierce international competition if properly supported. The US is a decade ahead of Europe in the adoption of this advanced space propulsion for commercial and defence missions. This follows significant institutional investment in science and defence programmes and more recently commercial investment for a recognised emerging market. By comparison development in the UK has been achieved through more modest but sustained MOD and BNSC. Consequently Britain will provide the most technically advanced space electric propulsion system in the world for the ESA Gravity Field and Steady State Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE) mission to be launched in 2007. The same research and development has also produced the most efficient high power electric propulsion systems so far for future large commercial spacecraft. As ambitions grow to explore our solar system and provide increasingly more capable space-based commercial services the performance and economic benefits of space electric propulsion will be realised in the same way that the motor car replaced the horse and trap a century ago. As a direct result of the past government support Britain now has real commercial prospects in this evolving market.

  I would be happy to offer oral evidence in support of space electric propulsion as an example of the benefits of long-term government support for leading edge technology development.

October 2006

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