Australia’s Space Industry Capability Briefing

The Future of Australia’s Space Industry

1 June 2018

Space Industry Capability briefing

At the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce’s Space Briefing on 1 June 2018, a panel of leading experts discussed key issues around the development of the Australian space industry. Moderated by Mike Kalms, Partner, KPMG, the speakers were Dr Megan Clark AC, Head, Australian Space Agency, Daniel Lipshut, Chief Executive, Israel Aerospace Industries Australia, Niki Scevak, Co-founder, Blackbird Ventures and Alex Grantt, CEO, Myriota. Event partners were KPMG and Celestino.

Discussion centred around how organisations, policymakers and politicians could most effectively stimulate a sustainable space industry in Australia and increase Australia’s share of the global space industry.

Summary of review of Australia’s space industry capability – Dr. Megan Clark

After listening to the ‘voice of the nation,’ Dr Megan Clark said the nation was clear about what it wanted. The nation wants an Australian space agency – a single voice and a single door for the industry; a national policy, strategy and infrastructure for the industry. The agency will have a single purpose – to transform and grow the Australian space industry, which will underpin the growth of the broader economy and inspire and improve the lives of all Australians.

Lessons from Israeli space industry

Daniel Lipshut spoke of the beginnings of Israel’s space industry 40 years ago – the Government decided to establish a space agency, funded innovation, SMEs emerged and industry amassed around it. Israel had to be innovative because of its geographic position, so it did range less telemetry into the Mediterranean and designed smaller satellites which used less power and had a greater life expectancy. Israel has many successful innovation stories to tell, and its thriving space industry is one of them. Israel launches a satellite every three years, there are not many countries who do this, impressive for such a small country.

An innovation perspective

Alex Grantt said innovation has opened the door for the industry. There are currently around 30 companies in Australia that are doing space related things, from pre-printing rockets to work similar to Myriota’s. Space start-ups have the ability to pull the smartest people from the whole world. It’s the vision and the passion of the people to make it happen. Niki Scevak gave the example of Gilmore Space, based in a suburb of the Gold Coast, which is building a hybrid rocket. The project came out of research from Taiwan and Utah, and people have moved to the Gold Coast to be a part of it. There isn’t a rival anywhere else in the world, it’s the only hybrid option. Alex Grantt spoke of Australia’s incredible technical capability and fantastic telecommunications research coming out of the University of South Australia; this can bleed over into space and attract investment.

Great talent

We have great, dynamic talent in this country. Space has a wonderful community of people and the competitive advantage is that people are prepared to move anywhere. Myriota counts the seconds between posting job ads and responses coming in. Niki Scevak said compared with other industries, there are great applications for every single job.

How can we use Australia’s geographic position to our advantage?

Dr. Clark said that Australia covers 12% of the earth’s rotation, which is a good place to put your connection to space. NASA already has critical spacecraft tracking and communication facilities in Australia. Other countries wouldn’t want to grow their ground station segment, but it makes sense for our geography. We can also use our geographic position to help the world manage space debris. Daniel Lipshut said that, like with many of its innovations, Israel tries to leverage the people rather than looking at its geographic limitations, funding university placement and investing in R&D.

What can the Government do to help?

Speakers agreed that Australia has a regulatory environment where the barrier is too high, and a reduced barrier to entry around space launch and satellites is needed. Niki Scevak stressed the importance of creating an environment which allows start-ups to engage with Government in a ‘user friendly’ way. Dr. Clark said that amendments to the Australian Space Act had just been introduced into Parliament, so the Government is aware of the need to ensure formal regulations keep up with what’s happening in the industry.

Widespread political support

Dr. Clark said that the agency has bi-partisan support. The nation is very aligned, consistent and coherent. The only area of contention was launch, but every other area was aligned. This gave the group confidence to go back to government and say the nation is clear, it’s united.