Almost £200m of public investment has recently been announced in launcher, satellite, software and other UK space companies, and the government has set a target to ride the wave of this growing industry by capturing 10% of the global market by 2030. For example, £60m is to be invested in the SABRE engine for Reaction Engines’ Skylon space plane.
Coupled with Patent Box, which provides tax benefits for patent holding UK-based companies, the government is sending a clear message that this is a key area of growth for the UK economy. The 10% by 2030 target gives us 17.5 years to implement some ambitious plans and the hard work is going to fall on the shoulders of spin-out companies and SMEs.
This daunting task is made less daunting by support organisations such as the Satellite Applications Catapult supported by the UK government and the ESA’s business incubator, both at a site in Harwell in Oxfordshire where a UK space industry hub is being established. However, as hinted at by Catapult, protecting your intellectual property is sometimes not at the forefront of SME and spin-outs’ minds, and at worst can be seen as a scary, time-consuming, general all-round expensive headache. But for many small technology companies with significant plans for growth, it is essential to get one’s house in order and find a level of protection that is appropriate for commercial objectives, the nature of the competition, conditions for funding, product disclosure and launch timescales, and of course budget. For those SME and spin-out readers among you, it would be well worth having a chat with your patent attorney about protecting your home-grown and home-developed technology.
It’s going to be an exciting time as the UK space industry grows over the next several years, and it will provide a real boost for the wider UK economy if we can meet the 10% in 17.5 years challenge. As MP David Willetts declared at the Conference on Tuesday, “confidence breeds confidence” for the British space race!