Press Release

Speech given by Lord Sainsbury to the European Interparliamentary Space Committee

By SpaceRef Editor
November 19, 2002
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13 November 2002

Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen, I am delighted to have the honour
of addressing the European Interparliamentary Space Conference. I hope
that those of you who were able to attend the reception in Lancaster
House last night had an enjoyable time. The British Government sets
very high store by its co-operation in the space field with our European
colleagues, so I am particularly pleased that you have chosen to come to
London and will have the chance to see a little of the UK’s capacity in
this sector.

Your meeting comes at a very timely moment both for the United
Kingdom’s Space Sector, and for the closer co-ordination of space
activities across Europe. Perhaps I can share with you my thoughts on
these two themes.

I think it is fair to say that British Governments, of both political
persuasions, have taken a distinctive approach to space. We ask a
number of questions: “What are the potential commercial
opportunities?”. “Where does Government need to step in and where can
this be left to the market?” “Is space the best means of delivery?” “What
are the most exciting and rewarding scientific opportunities?”. “How can
we tell the public about all that space can offer and excite them to learn
more?”. In other words, we look at the purpose to which space activities
can be put, whether commercial or scientific.

This has meant that the British Government has given priority to
communications satellites, astronomical, planetary and Earth science, and
Earth observation applications satellites and their exploitation, rather than
to manned space or the launcher programme.

We are about to re-evaluate these choices and produce a new set of
objectives within which UK space policy can be coordinated. These
objectives will be produced as a public document known as the UK Space

At the moment, the British National Space Centre, which co-ordinates
British space policy, has three core objectives, and I want to explore in
the development of the new UK Space Strategy how we can better deliver
them. The three objectives are to do world class space science, to
develop a strong commercial space industry including applications, and to
use space to collect environmental information to underpin our
environmental policies.

We propose to refine these by seeking to maintain and enhance the
UK as:

  • an internationally recognised centre for world-class space and environmental sciences and a sought after partner in international cooperation;
  • a leading user of space systems throughout the economy, to stimulate increased productivity in government, scientific communities and the market;
  • and a major developer of leading edge space-based systems allowing innovative enterprises to deliver sustainable improvements in quality of life.

In sum, our new Space Strategy must focus on delivering real benefits
to our citizens, both in terms of wealth creation and improvements in the
quality of our lives and in scientific endeavours.

It is important that our Strategy has the endorsement of the space
sector and public. So we will publish it shortly for comment, and will
hold a public seminar to discuss the draft.

You will detect a close relationship between the United Kingdom’s
proposals and the European Space Strategy. Both focus on space at the
service of the citizen, which was the theme for the meeting of ESA
Ministers which took place in Edinburgh last year. I believe that we must
now ensure that this message is central to all we do. While the United
Kingdom has always had a user focus – which has perhaps made us
distinct from some of our European colleagues – we now plan to make
sure it informs the whole programme.

An important factor in the refinement of our Strategy is the changes
in the way the Department of Trade and Industry, which is the host
partner of the British National Space Centre, operates. The British
National Space Centre is now part of the newly created Innovation
Group. This is right for BNSC, since the UK space sector is at the
forefront of scientific research and technology development, and as I
have said, one of the key objectives of the current Space Strategy is to
foster the development of innovative technology, its commercial
exploitation and its application to research.

I understand that you too are focusing on the central role of
innovation and I welcome this. In the global knowledge economy, we
can only compete on the basis of our knowledge, skills and creativity.
We have to compete on the basis of innovation. Innovation is also central
to the success of the space sector, and I look forward to hearing your own
conclusions on how Europe can meet this challenge.

I was delighted to inaugurate a few months ago a European Space
Agency research facility based in the United Kingdom at the Rutherford
Appleton Laboratory. This facility, Star Tiger, demonstrates a unique
and innovative approach to the solving of complex technical problems.
The idea behind it is to create a contained environment, in which young
scientists and researchers can concentrate on a particular problem, to
allow for rapid advances in technology development. In this first
instance, it was to develop the first Tera Hertz camera, the world’s first
compact sub millimetre wave imager. It is this kind of innovative,
international and groundbreaking activity that will push forward
capability in the space sector and open up opportunities both in space and
the downstream sectors, for the benefit of all parts of society.

This brings me to my second main theme. It is by innovation the UK
seeks to remain competitive on an international level. As you will know
well, this is especially important for space-related industries because the
space sector is truly international. In a real sense, the European Space
Agency is the United Kingdom’s national programme. About 60% of our
civil space budget is invested in the programmes and activities of the Agency. Much of the rest is invested in EUMETSAT or in national
programmes which prepare for or exploit European programmes. By
pooling resources, the United Kingdom and other European countries can
embark on ambitious programmes of research and exploration, which
would be beyond the reach of any single state. So ESA matters deeply to

The relationship between the European Space Agency and the UK
ensures a high level of participation for the UK space industry in cuttingedge
programmes. There are many highly innovative projects in which
the UK is participating, from Earth Observation, with the Envisat
satellite, to Satellite communications, with the co-funded ARTES
programmes, and the development of Galileo. And we look forward to
the launch of several pioneering missions in 2003.

Firstly, Rosetta will begin its eight year journey to Comet Wirtanen
where it will find out vital information about the nature of comets. Soon
after the launch of Rosetta, we can look forward to the launch of
SMART-1. For the first time ever, we will be able to determine the
composition of the lunar surface which could provide the answers to the
origin of the moon. The red planet is an object of fascination for
scientists and the public alike. ESA’s Mars Express mission is due to
reach its destination at the end of 2003. On- board will be the British
Beagle 2 Lander, which is going to explore the surface of the planet to
assess whether conditions for life on Mars exist or have existed.

As these missions demonstrate we are crucially concerned with the
development of closer links between ESA, the space technologists, and
the European Commission, the space user. I welcome their presence here
as observers, together with EUMETSAT, EUTELSAT, the Western
European Union, and others. The United Kingdom has always warmly
promoted the process of closer co-ordination between ESA and the
Commission. Most countries represented here are members of both.

The practicalities of developing this closer working will raise
challenging questions of protocol and of respective responsibilities. The
process has been one of surges followed by consolidation. There has
been some concern recently that the relationship between ESA and the
Commission has cooled, ironically due to the start of formal negotiations
on the Framework Agreement between the two bodies. I believe that this
Conference will give renewed impetus to forward movement in Europe.

I spoke last night of how the influence of space on our everyday
lives will continue to grow, through the application of satellite
technology, through safeguarding the future of our natural environment,
and through reaching a fuller understanding of fundamental questions
about its existence and our own. We must develop successful
applications of space technology, both for commercial benefit and to
retain control of downstream services. These are all excellent reasons
why we share a passion for space. But above all it is the excitement of
space, its exploration and technology, that have brought us here today,
and which I am sure will lead to an enjoyable and successful conference.

SpaceRef staff editor.