London Event Review: The fourth Satellite Finance Network (SFN) Annual Conference

By Joanne Wheeler, Andrew White


Members of our London Tech & Comms team participated in the fourth SFN Annual Conference which took place at Inmarsat's HQ in London. The event focused on how businesses can achieve growth and attracted nearly 130 attendees, representing companies such as Eutelsat, O3b, Airbus, Barclays, HSBC, the European Space Agency and Seraphim Capital.

After an excellent welcome by Alison Horrocks (Executive VP, Inmarsat) and Richard Peckham (BD Director, Airbus Defence and Space), the conference was kicked off by Bird & Bird partner Joanne Wheeler, a founding member of the SFN, who discussed recent SFN success stories, including advocacy to change two regulatory hurdles for the industry.

The first interactive panel session was chaired by Via Satellite's editor Mark Holmes, and covered senior executives' viewpoints on achieving growth. After a short coffee break sponsored by Barclays, we launched into a discussion on overcoming hurdles to achieve growth, Chaired by Stuart Martin, Satellite Applications Catapult's CEO. Panellists advised the audience a range of topics related to how start-ups can grow successfully and avoid potential pitfalls.

Andrew White delivered an engaging and dynamic speech advising companies on how to manage risks in commercial contracts to ensure growth.

A successful networking lunch followed, kindly sponsored by Satellite Applications Catapult, held in conjunction with an IP surgery hosted by Adam Brocklehurst (Patent Attorney, K2 IP). The afternoon session focused on maintaining growth, with Nick Flitterman (Head of Telecoms, Portland Advisors) chairing an engaging panel session on financing growth. Highlights included Stephen Ainsworth (Relationship Director, Barclays) and Marcus Plumley (Director, HSBC) discussing how SMEs and start-ups should approach banks for financial support.

The final panel discussed growth through exports, with Islamic Finance specialist Farmida Bi guiding the audience through the rules governing Islamic Finance and its derivation from the Shari'ah.

Inmarsat's CEO Rupert Pearce delivered an inspiring closing speech, commenting on the SFN's efforts to change the economics of space. Rupert expertly highlighted the increasing relevance of satellite uses for the future whilst emphasising the industry's need to maintain an open and innovative mind.

Joanne Wheeler commented: "space is no longer a 'quiet success story' but a well-recognised industry growing at 9% per annum. This can be seen by the maturity in the discussions at this conference, even compared with three years ago. The SFN brings different aspects of the industry together to stimulate growth with good results already."

The event was well received and guests continued to raise questions to the panellists after the discussions and during the networking reception. For more details on the day, live Tweets from the event can be found @twobirdstech.