Ambitious plans were unveiled today for a giant leap into space that would create a UK industry worth £40 billion a year and 100,000 new jobs.
The 20-year vision, outlined by a collaborative group of Government experts, heads of industry and scientists, aims to expand Britain share of the global space market from 6% to 10% by 2030.
Much of the focus would be on potentially lucrative satellite technology, an area in which the UK excels.
To achieve the growth needed will require many millions of pounds of private investment, and a doubling of the Government’s space funding to £550 million a year over the next decade.
But the rewards could be enormous, according to a report published today by the Space Innovation and Growth Team (Space IGT).
Demand for space technology is booming with the worldwide market predicted to grow from £160 billion in 2008 to £400 billion by 2030.
The Space Innovation and Growth Strategy report calls for a six-fold increase in the size of the UK’s space sector, generating an industry worth £40 billion a year that would secure 100,000 new jobs.
Currently, Britain ranks 21st in the world in the league table of national space investment. France, Germany and Italy all spend proportionately more, placing them in the top 10.
A doubling of Government spending would move the UK to 10th place in terms of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) invested in space.
The higher level of national funding would also allow the UK to play a bigger role in European Space Agency (ESA) programmes.
By 2030, Britain could lead three major ESA missions, benefiting from “substantial” industrial contracts as a result, according to the report.
Andy Green, chief executive of the leading IT company Logica and chairman of Space IGT, said: “Today, we have a clearly defined opportunity to grow the UK’s share of the global space market to create a world leading £40bn UK space industry by 2030.
“I have not taken the safe route with this report. I could have focused on simply exploiting the niche markets where the UK excels, instead, I have encouraged the team to look at the bigger picture and identify specific opportunities where we can go further, faster.
“Failure to capitalise on this opportunity risks undermining a high-value British manufacturing success story and the spectre of large multi-nationals moving business out of the UK.
“If we get this right, the UK space sector could provide the basis to help energise an economy emerging from recession, an create 100,000 new jobs over the next 20 years in an industry that already provides tangible economic and societal benefits.”
A key part of the plan involves a dedicated national R&D programme for space, jointly funded by industry and the Government. It would cost an estimated £20 million in 2011 rising to £100 million by 2015.
More than £5 billion would have to be raised by industry for new Private Finance Initiative (PFI)-funded partnerships with the public sector.
Recommended projects include:
* The establishment of world-beating Earth observation services, providing climate change and security information as well as other data.
* Space-based broadband and telecommunications technology complementing fixed terrestrial and wireless networks. Internet from space could be worth £29 billion by 2030 and would cut carbon emissions by 40 million tonnes per year.
* A national campaign to inspire young people about career opportunities in space and increase the take up of science, technology, engineering and mathematics subjects at school and university.
* Doubling the number of space industry apprenticeships.
The report called for the establishment of a National Space Policy delivered by the new Executive Space Agency launched by the Government last December.