January, the time of year, companies, officials and analysts like to start hyping, guessing and sometimes meaningfully reporting on trends for the coming year.
With the start of a new decade at MULTIPLY, we decided to list what we feel are 4 key topics to keep in mind as 2020 unfolds. Some of these have also been picked up on in other forecast articles that we reference in this summary.
The Big One, One Trillion That Is
The one-trillion space economy – dream or reality? To date, the space economy is valued at an estimated $400 billion (with some various views on this). However, entrepreneurs, officials, investors and analysts are citing $1trillion. Despite the Commerce Secretary, Wilbur Ross supporting this projection it faces some, unsurprising, criticism. From whether you can count industries like space tourism (yet to emerge) and growth figures being inconsistent with economic trends.
Despite a tendency to err on the side of caution and take numbers with a pinch of salt and a magnifying glass, the value of space needs to be understood. If we look at the indirect impact realised from downstream activities, through to economic growth realised by new space, $1trillion looks less like a dream. There is reason to be hopeful but not over-inflated. We need to encourage private investment, but not put them off by imitating a tech bubble before it bursts.
Investment Private and Public
The ESA Ministerial last year saw the UK increase its contribution to the programme and with the growth of national programmes like Skynet 6, there is reason to be positive about ongoing steady investment from government into the space sector.
Deloitte cited a continued steady investment through 2020 from both government and venture capital sources. In respect of the latter, there is a long way to go in terms of private investment in the space sector in the UK. Partially through a perceived risk, high capital investments and a lack of proven for-runners. Corporate investors have similarly been more risk-averse. However, as we enter a new decade, we have greater clarity on the UK-EU relationship and political landscape for the country (although still with a long way to go). Along with a greater awareness of the value of space (and its role in almost every aspect of life) private investment is not going away anytime soon.
Sustainability in Space
I haven’t seen this referenced as part of the space landscape in 2020 by anyone yet. However, by the latter part of 2019, every conference and every client discussion we had in some way touched on sustainability in space. From robotics for in-orbit servicing to satellite tracking and surveillance.
Back in November MULTIPLY was at the launch of the Global Network on Sustainability in Space (GNOSIS) to focus on the problem of space debris. Along with other groups like Fair-Space founded in 2017 focusing on robotics in space. There are a lot of grass-roots movements to address a market need that requires attention today and ongoing.
The UK Space Conference in 2019 saw one of the largest conferences for the UK Space industry so far with a fantastic presence across start-ups, government, corporates and defence. One of the key terms repeated throughout the conference was collaboration. The complexity of the technology and the operations combined with the speed of growth in the space industry demands collaboration throughout the supply chain and this can sometimes mean looking beyond our own industry.
Our work at MULTIPLY is to identify those new markets and applications to scale, de-risk and build existing and new businesses through technology transfer. To date, this has been focused on space capability into non-space applications. However, the second half of 2019 saw a significant increase in clients from non-space industries bringing capabilities into space and defence sectors.
Ongoing government support and a tight-knit community will see a continued increase in collaboration throughout the industry and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the start of collaboration broadening; tapping into skills, technology and capabilities from non-space domains.