June 26, 2009

Britain Reviews Its Future In The Space Race

An expert panel will review the challenges and prospects facing the British space industry. The group will report its evaluation in six months and will make proposals on how the government can preserve the sector's rivalry.

Science minister Lord Drayson said that space work plays a huge part on daily lives. The new panel, the Space Innovation Growth Team (Space IGT), is headed by Andy Green, the chief executive officer of Logica.

His IT company offers software to space companies and is in a successful position to review the industry, from hardware manufacturing to applications. The IGT will listen to the entire sector, to hear from companies that entirely depend on space technology.

The goal of Green's panel is to outline a 20-year strategy for the British space industry. It will try to locate the key trends and then catalog the steps that both the industry and government have to take if they want to embrace any changes.

"We're clearly not going to outspend the Americans or the Indians; that's not the answer. What we're going to have to do is work smarter," Green said to BBC News. "We have to think through very carefully what it is that is going to drive wealth creation, and begin to build the skills and the investment that will make that happen."

And he added: "It is technology-driven businesses like the space industry which will provide an absolutely fundamental lever for economic growth in the UK going forward. I am particularly concerned to see that we get more young people interested in technology careers, and I think space has a tremendous opportunity to excite people about what technology can do."

This is the newest panel created by government. Panels created in the past have reviewed job potential in biotechnology and the car industry.

The Space IGT will have early statistics by the end of 2009, with a full report predicted by early 2010.

Drayson already has data outlining how the UK can work itself into the changing world of space exploration. He will most likely to call for a discussion on if Britain should have a committed space agency to co-ordinate government strategy.

British space activity was given a huge advance in May with the selection of the first UK citizen to the European Space Agency (ESA). Astronaut Corps. Major Tim Peake will become an ambassador for science and technology.

"Space is a bit of a hidden jewel in the UK," Lord Drayson told BBC News. "We have a number of hooks to raise its profile - Major Tim, the Harwell centre, the big Herschel launch that we've had recently."

"But what the IGT will do, I think, is give us a great platform to say more about the commercial opportunities and how space can really contribute to the UK economy and jobs in the future."


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