Creating the Case for a National Pathfinder Programme
Posted on 02/08/2019
The Space Growth Partnership (SGP), on behalf of the UK’s Space Sector, published Prosperity from Space in May 2018 as its blueprint for stimulating growth of the sector. This report recommended a range of measures to increase investment, competitiveness and global positioning of the sector. The SGP is now consulting on one of these recommendations, creating a National Space Programme.
The National Space Programme (NSP) proposed by the sector is additional to the UK’s Space Agency contributions and is aimed at providing a consistent and strategic approach to taking forward UK and sector priorities for space research and innovation. Jointly funded by sector and government, it will be an important element of enabling UK businesses and universities to pursue £75bn in emerging worldwide opportunities for space over the next ten years.
The SGP believes the best way to secure a full NSP is to create a proposal to government for a shorter term national programme to kick-start the NSP. This would be carefully targeted at early high-value opportunities that can be delivered over the next three years, whilst establishing a roadmap for longer-term ambitions. It will enable the sector to develop the processes and teams to handle a new funding approach. SGP is seeking inputs from companies and universities to build the case for a National Pathfinder Programme to act as the first wave of NSP investments.
The focus of this activity over the next two months is to build a well-evidenced sector proposal that showcases interesting technology and sector ambition for additional UK research and innovation. SGP currently envisages bidding for £50-60m in the Autumn and proposes that the majority of this funding should be earmarked to take forward innovative UK research in two priority areas selected from the set of five set out below.
In addition to the two priority areas, it intends to include provision to progress activities crucial to delivering a growth action plan identified by the SGP for the sector. This could include funding for pre-competitive concept analysis studies, aimed primarily at SMEs and start-ups, to mature business cases for entrepreneurial ideas. It also plans to include measures to enhance the coordination of the demand and training for skills in the sector, step-up international space engagements and assess how best to secure increased commercial investments in new government space services.
SGP is asking for interested parties to complete an expression of interest form (which they will email to you once you send a request to the address below), either as an individual company response or as a consortium of UK-based companies, to provide it with the example projects that you see as a priority to build this case.
This is a programme to deliver research and innovation that meets the sector’s commercial priorities. The more information you can provide on the market case and likely returns on investment gives SGP the opportunity to compile a powerful narrative and case for funding. In particular, responses should set out whether companies will match-fund investments or alternatively set out how the project will secure private sector revenues and the scale of these. Any co-funding will be compatible with current state aid arrangements.
Priority innovation areas
The SGP is requesting ideas for projects that fit into the five highest sector priorities from a previous consultation in 2017. These priority areas are:
- Geospatial data
- Ubiquitous, resilient and secure connectivity
- Resilient positioning, navigation and timing and security
- In-space assembly, servicing and debris removal
- Food security (including farm demonstrators)
Projects must identify into which programme they fit. SGP will review projects outside these priority areas but there would have to be a compelling case for considering its inclusion in the proposal. SGP cannot take forward all these themes in a focussed bid. However, the data obtained from you now will be used to build a wider case for subsequent funding so SGP will ensure that effort on providing the information is not wasted.
There is a short window of opportunity to construct a proposal for government funding that the UK Space Agency will present to officials and ministers by the end of September. No funding has yet been secured for this programme – it is proceeding in parallel with ESA Council of Ministers preparations so there may be a need to prioritise the best way to bid to take forward sector interests. However, if companies and universities in the sector are prepared to come together and provide the evidence needed for a case, the SGP will make every effort to champion this as a coordinated sector position to secure funding.
UK Space Agency is running this consultation on behalf of the SGP and the process is:
- Complete the EOI template and return it to the UK Space Agency by 31 August 2019
- The Agency and Innovate UK will review and combine these EOIs to provide the case most likely to secure government funding. In order to maintain confidentiality, these reviews will not include industry or university representatives.
- The Agency will invite consortia representatives to meetings during September to refine the business case where it believes further inputs and clarifications will improve the case. Any confidentiality issues will be addressed before these meetings are held.
The requirement now is to build a powerful case to secure new government funding. If successful, the SGP envisages that final proposals for subsequent funding would be determined through a competitive call process run by the UK Space Agency as per normal rules.
Communications and returning EoIs
This request for EoIs is being distributed through all available channels; please feel free to send on further to other UK companies and institutions. To request an EoI template, email NSP@Ukspaceagency.gov.uk to register your interest and you will receive a copy of the EOI form. It must be returned to the UK Space Agency by 31 August 2019.
A good response to this consultation is expected and it is requested that applicants observe the two-page format in responses. As highlighted earlier, there is a separate step to refine the case with more information as needed. Responses highlighting proposed concept studies are not needed as this is already part of the case.
Space Growth Partnership
The Partnership was formed in 2017 to provide a coordinated response to the government’s modern Industrial Strategy. Its membership comprises the UKspace trade association, academia, the UK Space Agency, Innovate UK, Knowledge Transfer Network, the Satellite Applications Catapult and the Department for International Trade. By association, any individual or organisation operating in the UK’s space sector is part of the Partnership. A Space Sector Council was also formed in 2017, established as the most senior sector forum in the UK and provides governance for the SGP’s activities and champions the recommendations of the SGP to ministers.