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UK Space Agency

Volume 508: debated on Tuesday 23 March 2010

My noble Friend the Minister for Science and Innovation, Lord Drayson, has today made the following statement:

I am pleased to announce that it is intended to establish the UK Space Agency as an executive agency of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

From 1 April 2010, it is intended that the UK Space Agency will operate as a shadow executive agency prior to being established as a full executive agency.

The new agency is being created following the space innovation growth team report sponsored by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, and a public consultation, which ran from July to October 2009, on how to fund and organise the civil space sector so that it can meet the challenges of the future and deliver the greatest benefits to the country. The agency will replace the British National Space Centre and bring together for the first time a range of UK space activities under one single management to enhance efficiencies and improve strategic decision making.

The agency’s responsibilities will include scoping and delivering UK Government’s space requirements, strengthening the UK’s relationship with the European Space Agency; agreeing with UK industry how to maximise the benefits of space technologies; and working with the scientific community to provide a clear voice on decisions that affect the sector.

During the transition to a full executive agency, the shadow agency will begin to take over responsibility for BIS policy and key Government budgets for space. This will start with the ESA subscriptions currently funded by Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) and Technology Strategy Board (TSB) and subsequently managing UK interests in EU projects including the space component of GMES, and Galileo. These are currently the responsibility of DEFRA and DFT respectively. Further policy transfers may be agreed. It has also been agreed in principle that the agency will manage the UK’s financial interest in the EU Satellite Centre, which is currently the responsibility of the MOD; subject to further work. The shadow agency will also begin to take responsibility for space funding for technology and instruments currently carried out by the Research Councils and TSB. It will also negotiate on the UK’s behalf on international bodies. The exact date for the creation of the full executive agency and the timescales for the shadow agency’s assumption of the above responsibilities will be confirmed over the coming months.

The new agency will allow the UK to exploit fully its competitive advantage in satellites, robotics and related technologies and to take full advantage of the opportunities offered by a world increasingly dependent on advances in space innovations and science.