Business process innovation among space ventures

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Watch the third Oxford Smart Space event: Business process innovation among space ventures

There has been a massive acceleration in the amount of venture funding pouring into the space sector. 10 years ago less than $100 million a year was being invested in space start-ups: now funding is measured in $billions. And with six space companies announcing deals with SPACs (special-purpose acquisition corporations) in the last six months, an exit has become a reality for investors, making the sector ‘professional and credible’ according to Hélène Huby, Chairman of The Karman Project and Co-Founder and Partner of Global Space Ventures.

Huby was speaking at the third in Oxford Saïd’s Smart Space series, focusing on funding solutions and other issues involving the venture ‘infrastructure’ in the new space ecosystem. The event was hosted by Marc Ventresca, Associate Professor of Strategic Management, University of Oxford, and also featured Nick Appleyard, Head of Downstream Business Application, ESA, and Chris Blackerby, Group COO and Director, Japan, Astroscale. The panellists discussed trends that were ‘interesting’ or ‘worrisome’ and identified challenges for the future. A number of themes emerged.

The rise of services

The space sector has moved beyond a ‘throwaway culture of we launch and we get rid of’. There is a large business opportunity associated with servicing, including debris removal, refuelling, and life-extension; and a range of different types of businesses of different sizes may capitalise on that potential.

The importance of collaboration

There has traditionally been a separation between activities funded by the space agencies (such as key technologies) and those where the private sector is better able to innovate and disrupt the market. However, rich and diverse collaborations are key to innovation. Opportunities could be missed because of legacy understandings of what the private sector can do and what space agencies can do.

The demand for governance and regulation

Space is a commons area – natural resources that are available to everyone – and governance needs to be established to ensure that it is sustainable. The sector is evolving quickly, and with it the requirement to agree meaningful ‘rules of the game’ so that it is possible to preserve and steward the environment for the long-term.