Is UK Space simply a Cash Cow for Government constructed Consortiums?17th Dec 2020
We sit at a crucial crossroads for the UK’s space ambitions to make the right decisions to ensure the best route to success. The choices that need to be made could make the difference between being ‘first to market’ in Europe or making a complete mess of it. As a country we should place our collective support behind one of the proposed Scottish vertical launch sites, placing more weight around the proposal most likely to succeed.
However, as we have closely monitored any progress in the UK realising its own space ambitions, not only do we witness a repeat of the mistakes the country made back in the 1970s, it has also been combined with a whole new level of backroom deals and “selling off” the country’s ambitions in a strategy that lies squarely at the feet of Dominic Cummings, Boris Johnson and co.
The spaceport issues set aside for now, we look at the overall creation of a new industry in the light of a renewed position within Europe (as an ex-partner in the EU project) and a likely new type of relationship with America pending the departure of Donald Trump.
Back in the 70s when the country gave up on its ambitions it handed everything over to the Americans while opting into the European Space Agency central funding model, with an annual contribution into the centralised pot and a system of grants allowing for UK companies to claw some of those funds back into our own space economy.
As with the Brexit campaign, where it was focussed on looking after our home grown industries and retaining crucial funding for projects closer to home (remember… £350m per week for NHS on the side of a bus), the introduction of our “New Space” sector was awash with offers of a world beating home-grown industry that would be an envy on the global stage. Whilst also simultaneously competing head on with the hugely successful commercial space activities across the Atlantic.
So, here we are, almost two years down the line since the groundwork started in earnest, have we learned the lessons of the past and stepped away from a child-like dependence upon the “big boys” in America and the mighty European Union?
It was never the case that the UK was a mere piglet suckling upon the teat of Europe or America, but rather that the UK had simply given itself up for adoption. It handed itself over to its new set of parents without the sort of due diligence that an adoption agency would rigorously insist upon. And as the fledgling industry grew under the watchful eye of its new family, the UK didn’t even get as much as a monthly child maintenance payment.
Step forward to today, and two years into a program that was to set the UK up as a world leader, has the government currently sitting in Westminster, learned from those errors of the past?
Well, here is the problem. Because while the UK travels through its scheduled timeline of actions, the parents of our first born that we handed over for adoption, are starting to circle. And whilst we aren’t witnessing a complete handover, we are seeing almost tribal consortiums, likely the creation of the existing corporations and governments that have been reaping the rewards of the 70s born sibling of our “New Space” sector since, well…. forever.
Exit Home Grown Space Industry… Enter European & US Consortiums!
As witnessed during the Covid-19 pandemic in the UK, the Cummings strategy led to billions of pounds being placed into the hands of the Conservative party donors and close friends & colleagues. This should have been a warning sign to ensure closer scrutiny regarding other large funding projects. But rather, it brought up more red flags, showing that the government was more interested in handing over responsibility to sector leaders and allegedly private companies that are essentially the construct of governments.
It’s worth noting at this point that the Brexit slogan of “Taking Back Control” is so incredibly far from reality. Through the Covid pandemic and Brexit, the UK government has pursued a strategy of “Handing over Control”. The only real change has been the recipients. We have swapped the EU for a whole lot of private companies, close to cabinet ministers and advisors (Think Ferry companies with no Ferries etc.). And during the Covid pandemic instead of nurturing and developing our own NHS, billions have been handed to the likes of SERCO and Deloitte.
The UK Space industry has not escaped that strategy and is at huge risk of failing to achieve what the people of this country expected it to achieve. A home grown space sector will create jobs and opportunities for innovation and enterprise. The voting public will now start to see the handling off covid19 and brexit and use that as the yardstick with which to measure government performance and actions in other major projects including space. And when they start to see the lack of job creation, whilst consortiums that are ultimately the construct of government extract millions of pounds from the economy and show very little return for the taxpayer, people will want answers…. and they likely won’t get them – at least not truthful ones.
A series of detailed articles will show three scenarios currently unfolding that should result in red flags being hoisted high into the atmosphere for all to see – backed by evidence of wrongdoing that may not necessarily be illegal but most definitely doesn’t match with what has been presented both to the industry and to the job-seeking population of the UK. We see here a morally corrupt government riding roughshod over the people that put them into power. But this time it’s different… because not only are they disregarding the expectations of the country’s citizens, they are also showing a blatant disregard for the industry professionals who are striving to create an exciting new future for this country.
A catalogue of corruption or inept fiscal spending?
Our next three articles will analyse in fine detail how the Space Cash Cow is being milked and how none if it will result in the sort of jobs that the UK taxpayer was told would transpire. And how unscrupulous individuals and consortiums sit ready like vultures, not only to pick the meat off the bones, but to strike the first blows in preparation for the pending feast.
Part 1: UK money creating jobs in Denmark & Germany
Part 2: US firms lobbying for their piece of the pie
Part 3: The magic money trick: Conning the public