Submission from the Particle Physics and
Astronomy Research Council (PPARC)
1.1 PPARC is the largest funding partner
in BNSC. In this memorandum PPARC outlines how and why it invests
in space. It also outlines PPARC's relationship with its partners
in BNSC; with the European Space Agency (ESA) and with other space
agencies. PPARC also comments on the impact that current levels
of investment in space are having on the UK's competitiveness;
and considers what impact greater levels of investment might have.
1.2 PPARC believes that progress in space
science depends on technological innovation and that this innovation
benefits both the competitiveness of the UK space industry and
also the wider economy. The memorandum summarises what activities
PPARC undertakes to transfer this knowledge to other sectors of
the economy and includes some success stories.
1.3 PPARC believes that space is a strategic
activity requiring joined-up action in order to yield the full
range of scientific, economic and societal benefits. PPARC feels
that there is scope for increased recognition of the public and
commercial benefits offered by the sector, particularly across
Government. In this memorandum PPARC outlines why it believes
that the BNSC is the best mechanism for co-ordinating these activities.
1.4 PPARC plays an active role in supporting
the UK skills base. It funds training of PhD students and researchers
undertaking space related research in universities and laboratories.
It also inspires and stimulates the next generation of scientists
and engineers through its Science and Society programme.
2. WHY PPARC
2.1 PPARC's mission is to pursue a programme
of high-quality basic research in astronomy, space science and
particle physics. In doing so, PPARC also trains high-quality
scientists and engineers; increases the UK's industrial competitiveness;
attracts future generations of scientists and engineers; and stimulates
the public interest.
2.2 PPARC's research programme responds
to fundamental questions about the origin, current state and future
of the Universe and all that lies within it. This programme requires
long-term strategic planning and investment to provide UK researchers
with access to the state-of-the-art facilities necessary for competitive
research. The PPARC "Road Map" sets out this planning
in a structured way. It is built around nine key science questions:
What is the Universe made of and
how does it evolve?
What is the origin of mass?
Are we alone in the Universe?
Why is there more matter than antimatter?
How do galaxies, stars and planets
form and evolve?
Is there a unified theory of all
What are the laws of physics in extreme
How does the Sun affect the Earth?
What are the origins and properties
of the energetic particles reaching the Earth?
2.3 PPARC's Road Map elaborates on these
questions, and identifies current and possible future projects
needed to help answer them. Space science projects contribute
to answering most of these questions. And as advances in its science
often derive from innovative technology, the Road Map also helps
PPARC identify critical technologies requiring early investment.
2.4 This structured approach allows PPARC
to target investment to yield the highest scientific return. This
approach has enabled UK space science to be amongst the best in
the worldsecond only to the USA in terms of the numbers
of publications and citations. In open competition, UK scientists
have secured the second highest utilisation of the Hubble Space
Telescope (a joint ESA/NASA project). The ESA Newton
X-ray telescope, in which the UK led two out of the three instruments,
is yielding internationally peer-reviewed science papers at the
rate of one every working day.
2.5 On average PPARC invests over one quarter
of its annual budget on space science. This accounts for around
one third of the UK's public expenditure on civil space. Most
of PPARC's investment in space science is via membership of the
European Space Agency (ESA), through both its subscription to
the agency's Space Science Programme and funding of the domestic
activity to support the subscription (building instruments and
doing the resulting scientific research). To a limited extent,
PPARC also takes part in bilateral international projects with
other space agencies. The UK does not undertake national space
3. THE BENEFITS
ESA AND OTHER
3.1 Membership of ESA is of fundamental
importance to UK space science. Membership allows the UK to participate
in a far greater range of projects than would otherwise be possible.
Such projects are scientifically competitive on a world scale
andin several areasahead even of NASA, despite the
US agency's much larger budget.
3.2 ESA is a relatively effective organisation.
Financial and management control of the ESA Science Programme
has historically been quite successfulover the last 20
years the average cost overrun at completion of ESA science missions
is only 4%. The annual budget of the Science Programme declined
by about 20% between 1995 and 2005, but this has now stabilised.
However, the context in which ESA is operating is changing. A
number of issues will have to be taken into consideration;
The relationship between ESA and the European
Union (EU). The EU and ESA are developing a framework for
managing future space related activities in Europe through the
European Space Policy (ESP). A series of joint EU-ESA meetings
are being held at Ministerial Level in order to develop the ESP.
The relative financial contributions made
by member states. There are two parts to the ESA programmethe
Mandatory Activities (ie the "club membership fee")
and the Optional Programmes. The Space Science Programme constitutes
the majority of the Mandatory Activities. Member states' contributions
to the Mandatory Activities are proportional to their Net National
Income (NNI). This value is periodically re-calculated but at
present it is 17.7% for the UK, making the UK the second largest
contributor to the Mandatory Activities behind Germany. However,
most of ESA's activities are through Optional Programmes, in which
the member nations participate at a level of their choosing. Overall,
the UK contributes about 8% of ESA's budget.
Financial Management Reform. The Director
General of ESA has begun a financial reform process, which Lord
Sainsburythe UK's Minster for Science and Innovation helped
to initiate. The Agency aims to refine its operation, methods
and organisation in preparation for the future.
Enlargement. At present there are 17 full
members of ESA and 5 "cooperating states". In the mid-term,
it is anticipated that membership could grow in line with the
expansion of the EU. The organisation will have to consider whether
and how the enlargement can be implemented. The issues are wide-ranging,
encompassing relationships with the EU, industrial policy, and
the focus of ESA's activities. The Director General of ESA is
presently consulting member states as to their views and the UK
has begun a corresponding national reflection.
Industrial return. ESA's industrial returns
policy is enshrined in its Convention and ensures that industrial
activities in each member state reflect their level of financial
contribution. This approach is intended to ensure that technological
benefits accrue to all member states. And it should be understood
that the vast majority of contracts are awarded in (vigorous)
open competition. The advantages and disadvantages of ESA's industrial
policy have been debated before and will be again in the context
of enlargement. But whether the status quo is maintained,
or the policy evolved to relax geo-return requirements, PPARC
wants to help ensure that UK industry wins an appropriate proportion
of the contracts to secure the economic and technological benefits
as well as the scientific benefits of the UK's involvement in
3.3 PPARC (acting through BNSC) monitors
the share of contracts awarded to UK companies in proportion to
the UK contribution to ESA (the "geo-return"). For various
reasonsincluding the current strength of the UK economy
relative to our neighboursthe UK's geo-return in the Science
Programme is currently less than the ideal. Coordinated action
between BNSC and ESA is addressing this issue with some success.
3.4 In summary, PPARC believes that membership
of ESA continues to provide the most cost-effective way of sharing
the costs of world class "big science" projects, maintaining
a vibrant and active space science community, and developing technological
capability in the UK.
3.5 Although the majority of PPARC's space
science activities take place through the UK's membership of ESA
our approach to space science is flexible and designed to obtain
the best benefits for UK science. This allows some scope to participate
in non-ESA missions on a bilateral basis with other nations. These
missions can allow niche or novel areas of science to be addressed
rapidly and cost effectively. An example is the PPARC involvement
in the NASA Swift astronomy mission. This relatively small
mission was launched in 2005 and is dedicated to the study of
Gamma-ray bursts. These are the most powerful explosions in the
Universe but occur randomly and rapidly and are poorly understood.
The UK was able to apply instrument technology already developed
on an ESA mission to make a financially modest (£6 million
over 5 years) but scientifically fundamental contribution to a
mission which has immediately yielded important scientific results.
3.6 The UK, through PPARC, is seen as a
desirable international partner. This is largely due to the quality
and expertise of UK space scientists and engineers. Hitherto,
the USA and Japan have been PPARC's principal partners for such
bilateral cooperation. However, subject to scientific priority
and resources, new strategic opportunities are emerging. In particular,
the space agencies of both India and China are becoming major
players. Each will launch robotic missions to the Moon within
the next two years and China is planning further missions of interest
to the UK science community.
4. IMPACT OF
4.1 PPARC's investment in space science
is fundamental to UK international competitiveness in space activities
as a whole;
Scientifically, as already described;
Technologically, because the challenges
of PPARC's science drives technological innovation through to
Programmatically, because the ESA
Science Programme provides an underlying base from which the UK
industrial community can achieve greater competitiveness and provides
opportunities for new companies to enter the field;
Operationally, because UK service
industries are prominent in providing services to ESA's technical
and operations centres.
4.2 PPARC's primary rationale for investment
in space is to yield scientific return. However, it is clear from
the above that the additional benefits of PPARC's investments
are intertwined with the UK's wider space policy, where the goals
may also be economic or societal. It is evident that other countries
(eg within Europe, Italy) and elsewhere (China and India) are
placing increased priority on investment in space science activities
as part of strategic national policy.
4.3 Due to the nature and complexity of
the work undertaken in the sector investment decisions have to
be made many years sooner than they do in some other sectors.
The UK is currently in a reasonably good competitive position
because of investment decisions taken some years ago. But our
position for the next 20 years is not as certain.
4.4 The private sector is unlikely to invest
in pure science such as is undertaken by PPARC. All nations which
have a presence in space recognise this and most invest strategically
for the long term. And because the commercial space sector has
long lead-times this can make it unattractive for private sector
investment. This factor needs to be recognised and all stakeholders
in the sector should consider what mechanisms could be devised
to make investment by the private sector more attractive. But
it must also be recognised that investment by the private sector
alone will not be enough and must be accompanied by greater investment
from the public sector. Most other nations which have a presence
in space invest more public money per capita in their domestic
space programmes than the UK does. Countries such as China and
India have a low cost base and are investing substantially in
basic space technology and are likely to catch up rapidly. The
USA has leveraged its capability in basic science (supported by
substantial military funding for space) to create capability now
exploited in the civil domain. An example lies in the case history
of satellite navigation. This began with US scientists attempting
to track Sputnik in 1957. This led to the use of early navigation
satellites to provide targeting information to Polaris submarines,
and eventually to today's GPS navigation systemused by
a wide range of people from taxi drivers to hill-walkers.
4.5 The UK invests proportionately smaller
amounts in its domestic (non-ESA) space programme relative to
other countries. PPARC feels that it is in this area that increased
investment would generate a greater impact in three ways. Firstly
it would increase and accelerate technological innovation and
spin-off across all UK space activities. Secondly it would allow
more effective exploitation of the UK's NNI-based subscription
to ESA, where at present the UK is not always able to fund a sufficient
breadth of instrument contribution. And thirdly it would provide
the UK with the means to negotiate strongly on the fast-changing
4.6 With such long lead times and a rapidly
expanding market the UK needs to adopt a strategic approachnot
just a scientific approachto get the best benefits from
the space sector. An appropriate infrastructure needs to be in
place to enable the UK to take advantage of opportunities not
falling within existing Government departmental structures.
4.7 NASA, for example, is beginning a $100
billion lunar exploration programme which integrates scientific,
economic and technological goals. The US is open for international
partnerships to develop some aspects of the programme, such as
software, communications support systems or scientific instrumentation.
PPARC believes that the UK could well have expertise to exploit
both the commercial and scientific benefits from such a programme.
5. THE MAXIMISATION
FROM UK SPACE-BASED
5.1 Progress in PPARC's space science depends
on technological innovation in such fields as instrumentation,
control systems, propulsion, autonomy, software and data processing.
These technological innovations and capabilities often have the
potential to be applied far beyond the PPARC science for which
they were originally developed and can ultimately produce wider
economic benefits. PPARC actively helps the UK secure these wider
benefits especially by brokering "knowledge transfer"
at the interfaces between organisations and areas of application.
5.2 Nationally, the principal mechanisms
for creating such new technology are:
Rolling grants for long term research
PPARC R&D (PRD) for technology
Project development awards for flight
As a result of recent changes, the PRD mechanism
may involve pure academic teams, pure industrial teams or (typically)
mixed teams from academia and industry.
5.3 Nationally, the principal mechanism
for knowledge transfer of capability created in the PPARC
programme is through the PPARC Industrial Support Scheme (PIPSS),
which focuses exclusively on knowledge transfer objectives. PPARC
also participates in a DTI-supported "Knowledge Transfer
Network" for instrumentation, and also in RCUK supported
schemes to help transfer knowledge arising from UK investment
in all of PPARC's international subscriptions (to ESA, CERN
5.4 There have been a number of successes
in knowledge transfer from the PPARC space programme, including;
E2V ltd. E2V are specialists
in optical sensors and a major supplier to PPARC's programmes.
Their work has led to export contracts in the space, healthcare,
defence and aerospace sectors. E2V is an active participant in
partnerships with universities. In 2005 E2V Technologies had 1,300
employees and a £100 million turnoverwith exports
accounting for 75% of sales.
LogicaCMG. LogicaCMG is also
a major supplier to PPARC's space science programme through ESA.
LogicaCMG software supports a third of the world's satellites.
By 2004 LogicaCMG had 6,000 employees in the UK and a £1.7
billion turnover. Logica's expertise developed through science
missions has helped its other business sectors. Experience gained
on PPARC-funded projects in flight dynamics software has led directly
to at least 50 million export contracts.
Thruvision. Thruvision is
a spin-off company created in 2005 to exploit space instrumentation
technology for remote security screeningwhich is now being
trialled at airports.
5.5 PPARC is keen to help devise mechanisms
to enable UK industry to maximise the commercial and technological
benefits from the UK's investment in space science by supporting
technological innovation and transferring knowledge and skills
into the wider economy.
5.6 The UK space community in universities
and industry is highly innovative, and is well used to working
together. However, for the UK to remain competitive in a global
marketplace of ideas the UK needs to improve its ways of working,
for example by accelerating the process from R&D to market.
This will need improved funding models and ways of integrating
intellectual capital. The formation of the new Research Council
could act as a stimulus for this process.
6 THE DELIVERY
DEFRA, MOD, DTI, DFT),
6.1 The space related activities which PPARC
supports deliver public benefits in three areasscience,
education and knowledge transfer. These activities also deliver
wider public benefits which are much more difficult to quantify,
such as the inspirational value they provide to the creative industries
and the public in general.
6.2 Space is pervasive and is used by numerous
Government departments. The investment in space is very much user
driven. And whilst this approach has, to a certain extent, been
successful PPARC believes that there may well be scope for more
joined-up thinking by BNSC partners and other stakeholders in
order to enable Government departments to fully appreciate the
public and commercial benefits offered by the sector.
6.3 In his written statement to Parliament
on the Comprehensive Spending Review
the Chancellor outlined the new challenges which Britain will
face. PPARC believes that the UK space sector could play a considerable
role in developing innovative responses to almost all of these
6.4 The merits of having a single dedicated
space agency have been debated several times before. And although
most other leading nations have a single dedicated agency, PPARC
believes that the BNSC partnership arrangement (especially if
developed to its full potential) is an appropriate model for the
UK as it ensures a more customer focused approach.
6.5 The partnership approach should not
inhibit Government departments from developing a common space
policy, and in fact should facilitate the process. Developing
a common policy could help maximise the delivery of public benefits
from space related activities. BNSC would be an appropriate vehicle
to develop such a policyprovided sufficient consensus and
commitment existed, or could be developed, across Government departments
for such an approach.
6.6 Acting through CCLRC, the BNSC partners
are proposing a `Joint Partners Space Technology Programme'. This
is an encouraging development whichamong other benefitswould
ensure that Government departments had sufficient advice on the
potential that space offers for various applications.
6.7 In 2005 BNSC set up the UK Space Board
(currently chaired by the PPARC Chief Executive) to provide a
strategic steering role. The Board has been successful in strengthening
the coordination of UK civil space activities.
7 SUPPORT FOR
THE UK SKILLS
7.1 PPARC plays two distinct roles in education;
Delivering excellent training in
exciting scientific research through its post-graduate studentship
To communicate the excitement and
benefits of PPARC sciences to the general public and especially
to inspire the next generation to train in science, technology,
engineering and mathematicsskills which are essential for
the long-term health of the UK economy.
7.2 Far from being "ivory tower"
academics, PPARC space science students are often working in an
international environment and employing novel technology and computing
techniques to solve difficult problems in time critical projects.
Not surprisingly such skills and experience are in great demand
in other sectors. Research commissioned by PPARC suggests that
around half of these students take up careers in the commercial
7.3 PPARC believes that space can be a remarkable
tool in attracting and sustaining young people's interest in science,
technology, engineering and mathematics. PPARC has a dedicated
Science and Society programme which for example, supports three
"robotic" telescopes to allocate observation time to
school children. It also operates a loan scheme which has allowed
thousands of schoolchildren to get "hands-on" with samples
of Moon rock.
7.4 Science and Society goals are included
in every major project PPARC funds. For example, in the planned
ExoMars mission, PPARC aims to ensure that UK schools will be
given opportunities to meet the scientists involved in the project
and to use interactive (and inspirational) educational material.
7.5 Evidence for the direct impact of space
activities on career decisions exists historically in the US (where
an "Apollo" generation of innovators was created in
the early 'seventies) and more recently PPARC, along with partners
EADSAstrium Ltd, BNSC and the Regional Development Agency "Yorkshire
Forward", has published a consultants' report entitled "The
Education and Skills Case for Space".
The report looked at what evidence existed to show that relating
space activities to young people improves educational standards
and skills and can affect choice of a science or technology subject
post-16 or on entering university. This report reveals better
evidence that the excitement of space does affect educational
standards and students' subject choice for post-16 and university
7.6 In summary, PPARC believes that its
space science activities are contributing both directly and indirectly
to the skills base of the UK and that exciting opportunities exist
to increase impact in this area.
41 The European Organisation for Nuclear Research. Back
The European Southern Observatory. Back
In 1995 PPARC commissioned a study to trace the career paths
of PhD students within the remit of PPARC. The study focused on
students whose PhD awards had ended 6-8 years earlier-as it was
expected that they would be well established in a career. In 2003
a further study was commissioned to follow up these students and
to establish how their career had developed since 1995. A copy
of this report can be found on the following web page; http://www.pparc.ac.uk/pbl/pdf/PiedaOldCohort.pdf Back
A copy of the report can be found at http://www.pparc.ac.uk/Ed/ESCS.asp
This report follows on from the report by Prof Martin Barstow
(University of Leicester), entitled "Bringing Space into
School Science", which was published in 2005. A copy
of this can be found at http://www.pparc.ac.uk/Ed/barstowpage.asp Back