Why space governance must go hand in hand with space innovation

Oxford Smart Space event series

Changes are needed to reap the benefits of collaboration and commerce in the space sector.

With new technologies, new funding streams, and new friendships forming between and across sectors, activity in the Smart Space area – where the ‘old space’ of national programmes and the commercial, private-sector ‘new space’ meet – is accelerating.

But as many previous Smart Space events have suggested, the innovation and potential of some of the newest entrants to the space sector can be held back by attitudes and governance structures belonging to the past.

In this event chaired by Lucas Kello, Associate Professor of International Relations, University of Oxford, Gabriele DeCanio, Transformation Officer, European Space Agency, Bosco Lai, Co-Founder, Little Place Labs, and Lynette Tan, Chief Executive, Singapore Space & Technology Ltd discuss the tensions arising from the collision of two different cultures and sets of drivers. 

Although the terms ‘old space’ and ‘new space’ tend to suggest that one will eventually replace the other, the speakers make the point that traditional space programmes will not disappear – and indeed will remain vital to the future space economy. However, with the growing interest of VCs and other private sector actors, national governments are no longer the sole – or even primary -- providers of funding. A market which did not exist before is now emerging – and calling for new governance paradigms.

And new attitudes too: the Department of Defense in the US and Ministry of Defence in the UK, which have historically functioned on the basis of tight security and confidentiality, are currently wrestling with how to open up communication with innovative young companies. National programmes are beginning to realise that they do not have to build everything themselves: they can buy solutions from specialist developers. And a range of organisations in sectors from agriculture to water are realising that space companies might have services that will help them on-earth.

What political and regulatory changes could make a difference and increase transparency and collaboration in this fascinating and fast-developing sector?

Space governance and space innovation