Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence

Memorandum 67

Submission from the Hertfordshire Business Incubation Centre


  1.  This submission is from HBIC (Hertfordshire Business Incubation Centre) UK Space Incubator for ESA through its ESINET project (European Space Incubator Network and also the UK's centre for the Galileo Masters UK Challenge—Europe's SATNAV Competition. HBIC also manages a number of other European FP programmes identifying and supporting downstream activities derived from SPACE applications.


  2.  The UK is a dominant partner in the European space sector, it not only drives forward the economic activities from the upstream industry, but the presence and understanding of space is motivating the UK in identifying the sector as an enabling platform, from which to take forward new ideas in services, applications and technologies which are creating new marketplaces downstream.

  3.  This is evident in the significant take up and development of over 130 ideas being brought forward from the UK into the Galileo Masters UK Challenge in 2005 and 2006; this represents 40% of the ideas from across Europe. It is further highlighted by the fact that the UK Winner in 2005 has been invited to obtain significant assistance by EADS Space in the development of his idea and that the UK Winner in 2006 has gone on to win the whole competition and will be recognised at the European Galileo Master 2006.

  4.  The significance to the space sector is that this level of interest is due to the UK's presence in the upstream area and the knowledge that is being shown is in abundance. The estimation on the new marketplaces opening up due to Galileo is approx €10 billion per annum by 2010 with over five billion global users.

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

  5.  Currently there are new calls taking place within the FP7 framework under the thematic theme "Transport" that are looking to take forward the development of the space sector through its downstream markets. The current funding for this is estimated to be in the region of €300 millon over seven years (approximatley €43 million per annum).

  6.  The Galileo Masters UK Challenge has limited investment in the programme from across the UK; it draws support through its partners EADS Astrium, Thales, BNSC (British National Space Centre) and local government, although this is limited. Without a more structured fund and investment into this programme with links to other investment sources, the ideas being developed by the SME's and HBIC may be lost, leaving the UK behind its European and Asian partners.

  7.  HBIC is also the UK lead for INVESaT which is a consortium under Europe INNOVA; this project addresses the lack of interest by investors due to the difficulty they have in understanding the space related technologies and the way they connect to new ideas being raised by SME's into the downstream markets. This has been evidenced by the technology offered by Galileo and the extensive work already being carried out for the Galileo Masters UK Challenge.

  8.  With such emphasis and significants being thrown upon the downstream markets due to the space sector in which the UK has such a significant presence, to lose this lead in the upstream would inevitably cascade into the downturn of the UK's involvement in the downstream areas.

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

  9.  HBIC the UK Space Incubator and UK industry, is gaining a significant amount of support and development through participation in ESA and other international programmes; HBIC continues to strive to develop relations with other partners, to ensure that it has the ability to bring forward new innovations to drive forward the UK and the economy.

  10.  ESA one of the European partners and supporter of the Galileo Masters Competition, is leading the development of innovation through SME's, by its European network of incubation centres.

  11.  ESA also has a role in the FP6 INVESaT programme, lending it support to the brokerage, networking, technology transfer and development of the initiative.

  12.  It is vital for the success of the space sector that the development and exploitation of the downstream markets is harnessed. This is through the dissemination of space technology, enabling ideas to be supported to break forward into new marketplaces.

Maximising commercial benefits, wealth creation, innovation and knowledge transfer from UK space-based technologies

  13.  Does the cost and tragedy of natural disasters like Tsunami, earthquakes and volcanic activities, (the worst example being the tsunami on 26 December 2004 in the Indian Ocean, that took the lives of almost 300,000 people in countries as far apart as Indonesia, the Maldives, Sri Lanka and Somalia) and the decline in natural resources (oil, gas and water), outweigh the debate going on across Europe regarding the uncertain overspend on the revolutionary answer to GPS, Europe's Galileo Satellite Navigation System?

  14.  A UK entrepreneur believes that it does, as he has gone ahead to develop an exciting new system that could help to predict such events. Due to the timing signals from Galileo (GNSS) it can measure the speed of sound underground, in particular in earthquake or volcano prone regions; variations in the measured speed of sound will indicate changes in the subsurface state, stress and composition. These variations could be used as an early warning system of earthquake or volcanic events.

  15.  This idea is, therefore, only capable of being realised due to the revolutionary and enabling technology that is being developed for space.

  16.  It shows that without Galileo and the UK involvement in upstream and downstream activities, we could lose more than just a market share of the predicted €10 billion per annum marketplace.

  17.  As the management organisation for Galileo Masters UK Challenge, HBIC considers the UK Challenge to be a leading example of an innovative platform which brings together the public and private sectors, in a way which see's them supporting new ideas pre-investment.

  18.  The programme has to be seen as an asset to the UK; the ongoing support that we receive from our sponsors in industry, government and institutions is invaluable, but significantly more will ensure that the UK can continue to progress new innovative ideas to a marketplace that will be worth billions to the UK economy.

  19.  This is the right time to recognise space as an opportunity

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

  20.  The downstream marketplaces that will develop due to Galileo are immense and are not directly associated with SPACE, as noted by this year's Galileo Master; they range from Mobile Comms, Medical, Environmental and Logistics, through to Agriculture and natural resources.

  21.  Last year's UK Winner, Tracker<<Back has developed a duty of care technology which is unique in ensuring secure transfer of goods. This is a technology which is ideally placed to support and combat the growing trend for fly tipping, which costs local and national government millions of pounds each year. It is also undergoing trials by EADS Astrium as a live case study and is being reviewed by investors as significant technology which fits a wide range of uses.

  22.  What has also been seen by the development of space in the UK, and the visibility of the downstream through Galileo Masters UK Challenge is a unique platform being created which Government departments could use for ideas or challenges and thereby identify opportunities to fit their ambitions.

  23.  Probable Applications & Markets (downstream/service provision)

    (a)  Security—Tracking of valuable equipment and confidential documents.

    (b)  Vehicle insurance, tax control, monitoring (safety of life in accidents for emergency services).

    (c)  Environmental and Humanitarian aid—Advanced warning on natural disasters, location of natural resource (oil, gas and water).

    (d)  Agricultural—live stock tracking for land and fishery, crop and harvesting.

    (e)  Education in technology and markets, engineering and advancement in technologies.

November 2006

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