Space Is Not About Space Anymore

Insights from the UK Space Conference 2019

Last week Daria Ryzhkova, a CPO of Precious Payload, attended the UK Space Conference, the most important industry event in Great Britain. We put her insights and overall impression of the conference into one place. 

The UK Space Conference became a big PR-platform for the British government and GOs to promote space and space businesses. Further, the event was more oriented towards business cases than to engineer-specific issues. And if some team gave a pitch about it’s new, let’s say, antenna, then it immediately got a question “And who is your customer?”. Nobody talked about missions, but about the first clients and “after demo-mission” scenario.  

Even university teams there positioned themselves not as engineering units but as cheap R&D and BizDev which could help businesses to implement their ideas and talked about collaborations with enterprises. The SPRINT (SPace Research and Innovation Network for Technology) program has been launched to encourage British businesses to go to Unis for translating their projects in action.

At the same time, there was an interesting panel where speakers discussed why British kids want to be businessmen rather than engineers. The studies showed that there are no people to inspire teens. The role model is needed to show them that science, space, and engineering is cool and interesting.

There were a lot of sessions with the representatives of the UK government. It seems that British policy as a whole was aimed towards collaboration, and the main objective of the government is to place space teams and startups in an environment and to give all possible contacts for achieving maximum integration with the internal market. However, the global approach is welcomed, because of the country’s openness to working with people and companies from all over the world… since globalization is the key.

UK Space at a glance:

  • 42000 people are engaged in the space sector;
  • The hottest place within the heat map is Oxfordshire (Harwell Campus) and Scotland. By the way, do you know similar space clusters like the UK is building?
  • 566 mln are invested in R&D annually;
  • 350 mln were invested last year in ESA and with Brexit the amount of the investments likely to be increased. 

British space ecosystem has a window of opportunity for the companies and startups represented by Innovate UK, Seraphim Capital, Satellite Catapult, Scottish Enterprise, and that same ESA. There are a lot of programs and grants aiming to prepare a project for a seed round. Satellite Catapult mainly presents itself as a consultant for searching business customers and business opportunities for your technology. ESA works more with satellites, UK Research&Innovation – with hardware production and cutting-edge tech development.

In conclusion, the UK space market matches the model where the business is finding the engineer teams to develop their products. University teams comfortably collaborate with enterprises, because they compensate for the lack of expertise in product design&market analyze. And the taglines that have echoed in this conference were really challenging. We need to answer our client’s questions and focus on commercial services now. We need to change our angle in hardware production and space science issues. Space is not about space anymore.

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