3 ESA and the UK |
UK funding for ESA
20. ESA's total budget for 2013 was 4.2
billion. The graph below illustrates the UK's contributions to
1 Member State contributions to the European Space Agency (in
21. In November 2012, following a high-level
ministerial meeting at ESA (the 'ministerial council'), the Government
announced it was increasing the UK's contributions by £60
million a year. This
would bring the UK's total annual contribution to ESA to £240
million. The Minister
assured us that this was extra funding, which would not detract
from the overall science budget.
He outlined the case for this spending increase as follows:
I bought the argument that there was an important
industrial return for Britain. Secondly, a lot of space science
cannot be done on your own; it is a collaborative activity, and
there are worthwhile research projects in space that we can do
via ESA. Thirdlythis was partly dependent on how the negotiations
panned outwe were able, through our membership of ESA,
to get a role in the international space station, hence the value
of Tim Peake's flight, setting aside all the scientific and technical
benefits, in signalling to younger people the excitement of science.
This funding increase was set for five years from
22. There was consensus that the UK's contributions
to ESA provide good value for money.
Furthermore, the recent increase in funding has been welcomed
as "very good news"
that had produced "shockwaves across Europe". 
As a result, the UK's credibility in the European space sector
had increased and the UK had a "stronger voice" in ESA.
David Parker, Chief Executive, UK Space Agency, told us that the
UK was "a growing and much more prominent player in ESA"
as a result of this increased funding commitment.
Jean-Jacques Dordain, Director General, European Space Agency,
also welcomed the investment, saying that it was "the most
important news" from the 2012 ministerial meeting.
Return on UK investment
23. Whilst Major Tim Peake's mission to the International
Space Station might have been the most high profile outcome of
the recent investment increase, other tangible results also appear
to have been secured, particularly at the Harwell site in Oxfordshire,
where ESA has announced its intention to expand its operations.
ESA's European Centre for Space Applications and Telecommunications
(ECSAT) was first opened in 2009, but "will be developed
by ESA following agreements reached between the UK and ESA in
November 2012" in order to reflect "the increased importance
given to space by the UK".
ECSAT "will support activities related to telecommunications,
integrated applications, climate change, technology and science".
This will sit alongside ESA's existing business incubation centre
at the site.
24. David Parker told us that the expansion of
ESA's operations at Harwell was "an example of the much stronger
influence that the UK now has in the European space community".
He said the development "anchors the UK in ESA and ESA in
the UK. It gives access to the know-how and capability of ESA,
and ESA is able to take advantage of everything that is already
happening in the campus at Harwell".
Jean-Jacques Dordain outlined his vision for Harwell as follows:
Harwell, for me, is not only a new centre of
ESA in the UK but it is a new type of ESA centre. For me it is
a pilot for what I would like to have as ESA centres in the future,
which are open centres, and not any more ESA centres with a wall
around, a fence. The beauty of Harwell is that we are putting
ESA facilities in a campus where there is already a lot of competence
and expertise. That makes a difference. That is Harwell. Innovation
is coming from connecting different expertise. Innovation does
not come from a closed circle. It is only by connecting different
expertise that you raise innovation.
The UK has secured a demonstrable return on its investment
in the European Space Agency. This should encourage the Government
to make similar commitments in future.
The UK's position in ESA
25. The 2012 funding changes firmly establish
the UK amongst the top four players in ESA in terms of financial
commitment. However, unlike France, Italy and Germany, the UK
has relatively few nationals working in senior positions within
ESA. The absence of a UK national at director level has been highlighted
to us as particularly problematic. We heard that having a UK director
was important for "industry", "the national perspective"
and "changing some of the cultures in ESA".
26. Jean-Jacques Dordain argued that a lack of
sufficiently qualified UK candidates was the most significant
reason for the absence of a UK director. At the last round of
recruitment, he stated, "8% of the total of candidates were
British candidates" and this was less than half the number
of candidates fielded by France, Germany or Italy. Whilst he hoped
that a UK director would eventually be found, he cautioned that:
The influence of a country is more related to
the contribution of that country. The more you contribute, the
more influence you have. We have more and more weighted votes
at ESA. The influence is much more to have a competitive industry,
because they are making the proposals, and to have competitive
27. Richard Peckham, UKspace, offered a slightly
different explanation for the absence of a UK director:
There are two factors. Certainly, one issue is
that we have not put forward enough good candidates. The other
is about the will to do it and then prosecuting your case. Germany,
France and Italy each has three directors. For them, clearly this
was a national priority; they were going to have three directors,
and they pushed it at all levels politically, making sure there
were good candidates and encouraging people to apply. We just
did not do that. We put in the application. We had probably a
couple of quite good candidates, but the rest of the push did
not come with it. [...] You really need to push; it is part of
the overall negotiation when you are negotiating how much subscription
you put in. You just have to make clear that this is part of the
28. The Minister told us that he "would
rather we did have a director" but that "it is hard
to judge exactly how important it is".
David Parker appeared to partially concede that more could be
done to support future applicants as he told us that:
Maybe we have to do more work on the UK side
to get good candidates going forward. There will be opportunities
when the next round happens in a couple of years' time, but do
we need to have a director just to have influence? No. Would it
be a good thing? Yes, of course.
There is likely to be a reshuffle within ESA in 2015,
which could provide an opportunity for a UK national to secure
a director-level position.
29. The UK's presence in ESA could be further
strengthened by the appointment of a UK national in post as director.
Simply hoping that UK candidates will apply and be successful
is insufficient. We recommend that the Government take steps
to put in place support mechanisms for potential candidates alongside
a concerted drive to increase the UK's representation amongst
ESA's senior staff.
67 Ev 72 appendix 1 Back
Q 161 [David Parker] Back
Q 160 [Rt Hon David Willetts MP] Back
Q 160 [Rt Hon David Willetts MP] Back
Q 162 [Rt Hon David Willetts MP] Back
Q12 [Professor Holdaway]; Q 12 [Professor Smith]; Q 15 [Professor
Holdaway]; Q 38 [John Auburn]; Q 97 [Jean-Jacques Dordain]; Q
147 [David Parker]; Ev w2, para 12; Ev 49, para 19; Ev w5, para
18; Ev 63, para 20-22 Back
Q 100 [Jean-Jacques Dordain] Back
Q 33 [John Auburn] Back
Q2 [Professor Holdaway] Back
Q 122 [David Parker] Back
Q 101 [Jean-Jacques Dordain] Back
Q 139 [David Parker] Back
Q 137 [David Parker] Back
Q 115 [Jean-Jacques Dordain] Back
Q 35 [Richard Peckham] Back
Q 111 [Jean-Jacques Dordain] Back
Q 34 [Richard Peckham] Back
Q 165 [Rt Hon David Willetts MP] Back
Q 144 [David Parker] Back
Q 165 [Rt Hon David Willetts MP] Back