Space Cos Weigh In On Department of Science, Innovation, and Technology8th Feb 2023
British PM Rishi Sunak announced on 7th February 2023 that a new Department for Science, Innovation and Technology within the government would be created. The new department would be headed by the Rt Hon Michelle Donelan, MP, who has held ministerial positions in education in the Johnson government, and was Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport in the Truss and Sunak governments. Donelan has had no direct and sustained interaction with the UK space tech sector.
Sunak emphasized that the new department is expected to drive innovation. At the same time, Science minister George Freeman kept his post and was promoted to minister of state, according to nature.com. Donelan is being replaced in the culture post by the Rt Hon Lucy Frazer KC MP.
Space tech companies respond
The response from companies that will be interacting with Donelan’s department pointed to feelings of relief that the Sunak government was taking space seriously.
Skyrora Head of Government Affairs Alan Thompson said that,
‘Skyrora is delighted that the Prime Minister has recognised the compelling opportunity that Science, Technology and Space represent for the UK economy and allocated greater resource to reinforce this priority and seek to congratulate Secretary of State Michelle Donelan MP upon her appointment. Minister of State George Freeman MP and the time investment he continues to make to the ongoing success of the UK Space sector is of great significance due to the enormity of ‘making Space work’ domestically. Launch, and the realisation of the commercial launch sector, and gaining access to Space will form a tipping point in the UK’s qualitative next step in becoming a Science and Technology Superpower and we are delighted that Minister of State George Freeman MP remains in the driving seat to push this forward. Beyond the UK space industry, this newly created ministerial position will also be of huge importance for the UK tech ecosystem and its impact on the wider economy moving forward.’
While Skyrora will be facing the government during its launch certification process, other UK companies in the sector not so close to the launch issue shared a similar sentiment regarding the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology. Nadeem Gabbani, Founder of satellite products and services provider Exobotics, stated:
“The UK has suffered several setbacks to begin the year with the unfortunate Virgin Orbit launch mission and the closure of tech incubator Tech Nation, so it is good to see the government forming a new science and innovation department in an attempt to keep the UK on the front foot.”
“The reshuffle could have a positive long-term impact on high potential industries such as space, with the UK’s budding space ecosystem ever-growing. Streamlined innovation support can help drive regional growth to areas such as Cornwall which are leading the charge for the UK’s space efforts, supported by local businesses and education institutions.”