How a nascent market is created and its relevance to innovation

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Gleaning insights on innovation at oxford

Arriving in Oxford for Module 2, after an engaging Module 1, I was brimming with anticipation. Early mornings found me poring over readings on practical, work-related topics. To channel my excitement and clear my mind, I went out for a 15 km run at dawn. Module 2 explored market creation and evolution, exemplified by the Astroscale case study, which illustrated the journey from an emerging to a mature market. It was a great example of how innovative products can create new niches and sustain financial viability, epitomizing the power of disruptive innovation to transform markets and open new commercial avenues.

Astroscale's pioneering mission to de-clutter space

Mitsunobu 'Nobu' Okada, founder of Astroscale, recognized the critical problem of space debris during a space conference and established Astroscale in Singapore in 2013 to address this issue. The company quickly gained traction, securing $7.7 million by 2015 for its Tokyo operations and raising a total of $60 million by 2017. Astroscale's mission is to tackle the growing threat of space debris, which endangers operational spacecraft and the future of space exploration. As humanity expands its presence in space, Astroscale stands at the forefront, committed to cleaning orbital paths and ensuring the safety and sustainability of space activities. This pioneering venture highlights the importance of identifying and solving the right problems for long-term business sustainability and the collective benefit of space exploration.

Competitive landscape and ecosystem strategy

In the space sustainability sector, Astroscale shares the spotlight with companies like ClearSpace SA and Northrop Grumman. Each is striving to address the issue of space debris, often competing and sometimes collaborating to develop effective solutions. Given that no single entity currently dominates this emerging market, it remains in its infancy. In such a nascent industry, even competitors can play a role in driving market maturity. This is why it makes perfect sense for Astrospace to adopt the ecosystem strategy through strategic alliances. Astroscale's mission gained momentum through a significant alliance with Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL) in 2017, which enhanced its capability to pursue active debris removal. The subsequent establishment of key facilities in Yokohama and the UK, backed by a £4 million grant, signaled Astroscale's readiness to initiate its operations.

Global expansion and influence

In Module 1 of the DipSI Programme, we discussed strategies to mitigate the risks of global expansion. These strategies include exporting, licensing, forming a joint venture with a local player, or adopting a greenfield strategy, where Astroscale could independently enter the market by establishing a local entity. Astroscale's commitment to long-term global operations was evident when they opened their U.S. office in Denver in 2020, supported by an additional $30 million in funding. This strategic move not only broadened Astroscale's influence but also integrated the company into the American space policy and technology arena.

Pioneering a sustainable and circular space economy through strategic business innovation

Astroscale is at the forefront of establishing a circular space economy, turning this concept into a tangible reality. By promoting regulatory advancements, managing risks, and forging strategic partnerships, they are building a sustainable orbital infrastructure. Their business model, offering satellite servicing, debris removal, and end-of-life management, is not just solving current problems but also investing in the future of space sustainability. This vision has garnered substantial support, including an $80 million commitment from the Japanese government, reinforcing their industry credibility. Astroscale's phased growth strategy involves expanding services, collaborating with space agencies for regulatory support, and innovating in sectors like space debris insurance and recycling. This comprehensive approach, blending technology and market strategies, positions Astroscale as a pioneer in space sustainability, reshaping the space industry's economic landscape for the greater good of humanity.

Prospects and aspirations

Astroscale stands on the precipice of a new era in space operations, with its innovative solutions, strategic partnerships, and investment in sustainable practices. Recognizing the urgency of responsible space utilization, Astroscale is positioned as a pivotal player, essential to the preservation of space as a safe and accessible domain for all. Commitment, collaboration, and innovation drive Astroscale's pursuit to envision and manifest a cosmos where satellite missions culminate responsibly, leaving behind a clear path for future journeys into the vast unknown.

Lessons in strategic innovation

The critical challenge of translating theoretical knowledge into practical action is well addressed at Saïd Business School. The curriculum, emphasizing immediate workplace application, allows for today's learning to be tomorrow's practice. This approach proves especially beneficial in my work with startups entering emerging markets, where Astroscale's case provides a blueprint for spotting opportunities, innovative solutions, successful fundraising, and strategies for international market entry. Similarly, conglomerates launching new products in nascent markets face hurdles, where understanding market evolution is key to confident leadership. Completing Module 2 at Oxford has enriched my understanding and strategic acumen, thanks to diverse perspectives and engaging debates. The experience has not only sharpened my skills but also highlighted the importance of maintaining an open mindset, crucial for recognizing transformative insights and transcending experience-driven biases. This exceptional educational journey has been transformative for my professional development, reinforcing the value of my investment in time and learning.

Oxford Executive Diploma in Strategy and Innovation