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News

Capitalising on the common ground will help to open an exciting new chapter in space

11/10/2021

Jim Graham, Managing Director of QinetiQ’s space business, says UK Government’s new space strategy paves the way for a more collaborative and dynamic mindset, and he provides guidance on where to channel and prioritise our initial efforts.

The new UK space strategy provides room for optimism in the future development of the country’s space interests, especially as there is clear recognition of the importance of collaboration, new trade partnerships and agile procurement. However, the real test will be to see if this fresh focus on space really does provide the catalyst for a much-needed new approach where civil and defence goals are underpinned with the same safety, resilience and security objectives and where innovation for the NewSpace age can really flourish.

In our recent ‘Shared space’ Insights report we highlighted a number of key factors that we believe should be the drivers to optimise future success and progress in this increasingly congested, contested and competitive domain. I’m delighted many of our ideas feature within the Government’s new strategy for a more integrated and considered approach to the future development of the space sector. The challenge will be for the public and private sector to translate such supportive words into practical actions that will deliver secure and sustainable benefits, whilst fulfilling societal, military and commercial objectives.

According to our report, a genuine commitment to share new and legacy knowledge is one of the best routes for forging the new trade partnerships that are central to the Government’s new space strategy. The formation of a multitude of new and effective public-private partnerships and the hybridisation of public and private sector investment models will be of crucial importance in the NewSpace era. It is only through shared understanding, harnessing the respective strengths of both sectors and the spirit of inclusivity that such partnerships will really prosper.

While there is explicit reference to exploring new opportunities for dual civil and defence use in the Government’s strategy, I would like to see more emphasis given to dual-use technologies to help drive greater collaborative innovation. There is no doubt that increasing prevalence of such technology has led to trade and national security becoming ever more intertwined. This has helped to create a lot of common ground, but interoperability is nowhere near the level it needs to be and the onus is now on every Government to push for open, compatible standards and architectures to overcome current limitations.

In a similar way, the importance of public and private organisations working together to develop better space legislation is of paramount importance. The growing risks posed by counter-space technologies, orbital congestion and space debris, the activities of adversaries, and the global economy’s increasing dependence on space systems, all point towards a common need for operational resilience and security for all space technologies.

A renewed commitment to explore new opportunities for dual and civil and defence use is a major step forward. So too is the recognition that a more agile and dynamic procurement model is a prerequisite for a more concerted and effective approach to the challenges shared across borders and sectors. Such progressive steps will also reflect the speed at which the space sector is continuing to evolve.

Over the coming months and years, our collective focus should be on finding the best way to achieve the required balance of openness and security. This is perfectly achievable if public and private organisations acknowledge their respective strengths and move forward together to plug any gaps in their knowledge and skillsets.

That requires a deeper understanding of their respective ways of working, their constraints and their influences. It also requires positive encouragement for the myriad of innovative and specialist SMEs to work more closely with established primes on mission-led outcomes – all within a collaborative environment of novel partnerships. Over the past few years, QinetiQ has demonstrated just what can be achieved with such dynamic ecosystems and outcome-led procurement models and we believe such initiatives will fuel the collaborative and cultural shift required for the NewSpace age… and for the UK Government to fulfil its aspirations in space.

Download a copy of the Space Insights report

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