Why the satellite industry is booming

29 March 2016

Interview with

Catherine Mealing-Jones, Director of Growth at the UK Space Agency

Why, during the economic downturn has space been doing so well finacially? It'ssatellite possibly one of the most expensive ventures around! Catherine Mealing-Jones told Graihagh Jackson why is't been such a success story...

Catherine - Well I think it's almost impossible for anyone to have a day of life without using satellites in some way.  So, if you switch on the weather forecast, most of the long range forecasting has come from satellites.  If you're driving anywhere in your car you're probably use satellite navigation to get where you're going.  There's all sorts of things that are monitoring our planet so really it's an absolutely integral part of our life - satellite technology - although most don't really think about it.  Whether it's TV, telephones, all of these things can be delivered via satellite.

Graihagh - I guess it's just kind of invisible.  It's there, it's omnipotent but not really that clear.

Catherine - No I think that's right.  In a way that's what good technology should be.  You should have a focus on good technology that you're using without necessarily thinking about how it's delivered. So yes, that's absolutely true with the satellite sector.

Graihagh - But the real stand out thing for me at this conference is that the satellite industry is BOOMING. Why, when the rest of us have been sat in an economic downturn has space - possibly one of the most expensive ventures around - been living the dream?

Catherine - Yes, it's been a spectacular success story.  The sector continues to grow at about 8.5% over the last few years which has really bucked the trend of the economic downturn, which has been fantastic.  Turnover annually is just under 12 billion a year here in the UK.  All in all it's a really good success story and something that should really attract people to work in the sector and be part of the sector because I think it's set to continue - that trend of growth.

Graihagh - Why do you think has been so successful?  What makes it different from all the other industries?

Catherine - We were talking earlier about its applicability to daily life and I think there's something in there.  I think there's been some huge investment, for example, for us here in the UK.  At European level we've got the Galileo satellite navigation programme and the Copernicus observation programme, so there's going to be a real wealth of new data and new technology available.  And then the other thing, here in the UK, we've just got a lot of people who've got the innovation and the knowhow to be able to exploit the technology.  So, I think it's partly, as well that we've had a very intensive long term strategy between government, industry, and academia who've come together to put together the actions that we need to really capture the growth in the sector.  So the whole ecosystem around space and space infrastructure is really strong here in the UK and I think that sets us fair for growth for the foreseeable future really.

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