The Access Partnership team attended the Satellite Finance Network (SFN) Conference 2018 on 28 March in London, with the theme of Building on Success: how can the industry build on their success to facilitate investment, remove regulatory barriers and promote collaboration? As the conference considered its target of reaching GBP 40 billion in revenue by 2030, here are our takeaways from the event:
1. The Space Industry Act was welcomed
Building on recent space successes in the UK, the conference welcomed the Space Industry Act, its consideration of liability insurance for space missions, and the establishment of a regulatory framework for a space launch activity in the UK. The audience supported the proposed creation of a Space Growth Partnership, noting that regulatory certainty and expertise have established the UK as an extremely attractive option for emerging space players to develop technologies and services.
2. More should be done to fuel growth of SMEs in the space sector
Stakeholders from the smallsat manufacturing community noted that while the UK continues to be the largest contributor to the European Space Agency (ESA) telecoms budget, the distribution of ESA grants is not necessarily the best or quickest way to drive growth of SMEs in the space sector. More should be done at a national level to provide the necessary funding to accelerate growth.
3. Financing the next generation space systems
The discussion focused on different funding opportunities available from public funds, private markets and industry. Different investment paths are required for companies at different stages of their development. Venture capitalists have a stronger appetite for higher risk and higher returns from start-ups, while conventional private equity or institutional investors are more focused on scale within established businesses. What is clear is that the investment community has little appetite for investing in space assets without a clear focus.
4. Selling the UK space vision after Brexit
There was a consensus that the SFN and the UK space industry need to continue to evolve to meet the requirements of new space technology. A post-Brexit framework is necessary to ensure attracting internal and external talent and investment to the space community, with UK exports placed as the main source of growth. It is clear from the discussion at the conference that the space community is on-board with the plan. The challenge will be selling that vision and the benefits of space applications and systems to developers in the transport, agriculture, environmental, energy, utilities, government, telecoms and other sectors.