UK Space Agency Launch
Minister for Science and Innovation
23 Mar 2010, QEII Centre, London
Good morning, everyone.
Earlier this month, I got to meet three space legends: Jim Lovell, Gene Cernan and Neil Armstrong.
When I was roughly the age of the pupils here from Stewards School and Alexandra Park School – both in the Leading Space Schools programme – I watched the lift-off on TV of the Apollo missions which took these men to the moon. They were my heroes – still are.
Well, the young people here today will have a chance later to talk to someone with the prospect of walking in the footsteps of Armstrong and co – Major Tim Peake, the UK's first official astronaut.
Tim's selection last year for the European astronaut programme was fantastic news – and, as science minister, I'm determined that we experience our own "Apollo effect" in this country: more young people sticking with science and engineering, pursuing it at university and going on to great jobs in the space industry or in space research.
In that regard, I want to thank Tim for agreeing to work with us as an ambassador for space careers – and his first task will be to unveil the logo of the new UK Space Agency in a few minutes' time.
Let me say a few words about what the Agency will do and why we've established it now.
The UK space sector has undeniable strengths, as Peter [Mandelson] has already pointed out. But taking it to the next level – to realize that Apollo effect – requires more than inspiration alone.
We're acting now, because this is a critical moment in the economic cycle – a point where existing markets are set to grow and new markets set to emerge. This is the time to go for growth.
The idea for the Agency came out of a public consultation which preceded the work of the Innovation and Growth Team, whose report we are also formally responding to this morning.
The consultation found that existing structures for the management of space activities in the UK were not as effective as they could be. We recognised that, without a single decision-making process and a single budget, it was not possible to pursue a coherent programme – that opportunities, both commercial and scientific, could be lost.
The Agency's purpose, therefore, is to bring together all UK civil space activity under one body, including the public money that supports it. So the funding previously allocated to the research councils and the Technology Strategy Board – along with the responsibilities previously handled by the departments of environment, transport and defence – will come under the Agency's control.
This does not mean that funding for research will be redistributed. The creation of the Agency does not affect the ring-fenced science budget.
This is about improving coordination of UK efforts in fields such as Earth science, telecoms and space exploration. The Agency will be the focal point for related industries like security and defence, and it will be the organisation that interacts and works with our European partners and others.
The Agency will also be responsible for the strategic direction of our space sector – so we build on our expertise in satellites and systems integration, in astronomy and planetary science.
For the first time, we have a body with a firm grip on the future. The UK Space Agency will have the muscle to negotiate strongly on the UK's behalf, and to command the respect of both academia and industry.
That brings me on to the work of the Innovation and Growth Team under the leadership of Andy Green.
You'll see from the Government's response to the IGT report that we're serious about seizing the growth opportunities in this industry.
That's true in terms of spending. Peter has just announced another 40-million-pound, public-private investment that will further boost Harwell's status as a world-leading centre for space research.
And it's true in terms of our supporting the great majority of the IGT's recommendations.
The new Space Leadership Council, for example, which will be jointly chaired by Andy Green and myself, has its first meeting this Friday – with all the main players present from industry, academia and government.
So these are very promising times.
We have the Agency. We have a sound plan to exploit our competitive advantages in space and deliver jobs.
But, first, it's time to reveal the logo – the brand that will stand for the UK Space Agency's efforts across the world, for the quality of UK companies and UK research.
I'd like to invite Tim to join me now…I have a button for Tim to press. It's the green one!