UK Space Agency: Innovations and Growth Team

30th Jun 2020
UK Space Agency

Space development policies in most countries are determined by a dedicated agency, the Space Agency; in the USA, it is called NASA, in Russia — Roscosmos, in Europe — ESA, in Great Britain — UK Space Agency. Even though the UK is among ten space powers, the current UK Space Agency appeared only in 2010. Until then, a rather weak industry was formally supervised by the British National Space Center.

Space Innovation and Growth Team, known as the Space IGT, was the initiator behind the UK Space Agency. Its goal was to formulate a 20-year UK space industry growth strategy, dubbed IGS — Space Innovation and Growth Strategy.

20-year UK Space development strategy

Space IGT was formed under the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). The latter appeared in June 2009 as a result of the merger of the two government departments: Department for Innovation, Universities, and Skills (DIUS), and the Department for Business, Enterprise, and Regulatory Reform ( BERR). The initiative group included:

  • Andy Green, IGT chair and Logica CEO
  • Lord Drayson, Minister for Science and Innovation
  • Perry Melton, Inmarsat COO
  • Major Timothy Peake, ESA astronaut.

In addition to this team, several world-famous space companies, including Virgin Galactic, SSTL, Astrium, and Avanti Communications, contributed their share to strategy development. 

The result was first made public on February 10, 2010. The document contained a 20-year development plan for the UK Space Sector, which laid down the following goals:

industry capitalization of £40 billion;

increasing the number of jobs from 68 to 100 thousand;

increasing UK space products and services share in the world market from 6 to 10%.

The program’s initial stage involved restructuring the industry and creating the UK Space Agency, which partially or fully took over the powers of other organizations in matters of technical support, financing, and coordination of projects. In particular, ESA, the British National Space Center, the British segment of the Galileo navigation satellite system, Space technology and instrumentation funding from the Research Councils UK and Technology Strategy Board, etc.

Keeping up with the times: adjusting strategy to reality

Since then, all critical public policy issues in space have been supervised by the UKSA. UKSpace, a trade association that unites leading British space companies and supports various startups, helps with this.

In 2014, after a progress report, the Space IGS strategy was updated. UKSA, together with UKSpace, adjusted the plan to the current situation. However, this plan still covers a period until 2030.

Andy Green, the head of Space IGT, was responsible for the new edition of the strategy. Today he acts as a Chair IGS Steering Board and President of UKSpace, actively contributing to the development of the country’s space industry.

UK Space Agency copes with its responsibilities, and the results of its activities are clearly visible. More companies producing small satellites and launch vehicles get registered in the country, while the country plans to build its own, UK spaceports for suborbital space tourism. All of these were possible thanks to the UK Space Agency. 

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