Brexit Britain to slash red tape to become 'leader' in space sector 'quicker than EU'


The comments were made today by Science Minister George Freeman. He — along with the Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance — provided evidence to the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee’s “Delivering a UK science and technology strategy” inquiry. The focus of the session concerned both the roles of the new National Science and Technology Council and the Office for Science and Technology Strategy, alongside the international dimension of the UK’s aim to become a “science and technology superpower”.

Mr Freeman expressed the opinion that the UK could benefit from both collaboration and competition on the global research stage — noting that the boundary between the two approaches would vary from sector to sector.

Highlighting aerospace as an example, he said: “We have a £16bullion UK space sector. It’s nascent but contains some really world-class small companies, and some bigger companies actually.”

However, he added, bedrock foundational collaborations — for example, with the European Space Agency (ESA), to which the UK is the third-largest contributor at £400million per year — “are fundamental if we really want to share economies of scale, share best practice and […] accelerate our pursuit of progress.”

It is important, he added, to be clear about the UK’s individual strategy and ensure that participants with the ESA supports that.

Mr Freeman noted that the UK is not trying to undertake such endeavours as establishing a rival to Airbus, the European aerospace corporation, or construct its own equatorial rocket launch centre.

Instead, he said: “What we’d like is through our membership of the ESA to grow the UK as a centre for regulatory leadership.”

In this area, he added, “we can move a bit more quickly than the EU”.

The Government, the science minister explained, would also like “to make the UK the best place to licence low-Earth orbit [LEO] satellites.”

Another goal is to “use our LEO satellite constellation to help our European Space economy on our doorstep to grow.”

READ MORE: Musk sparks Russian fury by humiliating Putin in space

While difficulties around Horizon Europe continue to provide a roadblock to scientific endeavours, progress has been made this week towards further developing OneWeb.

This is the UK-grown, internet-providing communication satellite constellation, in whom the Government is a prime stakeholder.

At present, OneWeb has succeeded in placing 428 of its high-speed internet providing satellites into orbit, a number that represents 66 percent of its total planned fleet.

The deployment of 36 more craft that was planned for earlier this month was aborted after Russian space agency Roscosmos refused to continue to supply launch services unless the UK Government divested its stake in the firm in retaliation for sanctions related to the invasion of Ukraine.

However, this obstacle has been overcome thanks to a new partnership that will see the rest of the OneWeb constellation installed in orbit with the help of Elon Musk’s firm, SpaceX.

In the future, it is possible that OneWeb may be adapted to offer GPS-like services, which would situate it as a rival for the EU’s satellite Galileo navigation system.


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