Satellite Bulletin: Governing the UK Space Industry

29 May 2015

Joanne Wheeler

The UK Space Innovation and Growth Strategy (IGS) of 2010, set out the joint industry/ Government business strategy for the space industry to 2030 under the previous Labour Government. The strategy transitioned into the new administration in 2010 when it was enthusiastically endorsed by the coalition Government. The IGS Restack in 2014, setting out the continued and updated strategy to 2030, is likely to be adopted in its entirety by the new Conservative Government, which came into leadership this month.

The success of the UK space industry has been recognised and supported by each administration in, at least, the last 10 years.

Within Government generally there is an appreciation of the value of the growth of the space industry and a recognition that space-based applications have an importance across many Government departments.

Governance after the May 2015 Election

The two key Ministers responsible for the decisions affecting the UK space industry are:

  • Joseph Johnson MP, Minister of State at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills for Universities and Science whose responsibilities include: innovation and commerce; the "Eight Great' technologies, of which satellites are one; the space industry; STEM skills; and public understanding of science and engineering. He takes over from the Rt Hon Greg Clark MP and previously the Rt Hon David Willetts.
  • Ed Vaisey MP, Minister of State at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, whose responsibilities include: telecoms and spectrum; and digital infrastructure.
It will be interesting to see how both Ministers embrace the space industry over the next five years and, I hope, take a long-term view of the importance of space technology and understand the need for sustainable access to essential spectrum resources. I will also be looking to see how they tackle other regulatory issues.

Encouragingly, as part of the Government’s intention to provide wider access to space and remove barriers to growth, the UK Space Agency has signed an agreement with Ofcom that will see both organisations working more closely together to ensure that the space sector’s spectrum needs are properly addressed in developing the UK’s spectrum strategy. With the ITU WRC-15 coming up and the squeeze on access to spectrum, particularly in certain bands, this is welcome but the test will be in its implementation.