European Space Agency

Business, Innovation and Skills written question – answered on 8th May 2014.

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Photo of Greg Knight Greg Knight Conservative, East Yorkshire

To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills what funding the UK has given (a) directly and (b) indirectly to the European Space Agency in each of the last five years; what that funding was for; and what assessment he has made of the benefits arising from that funding to the UK.

Photo of David Willetts David Willetts Minister of State (Universities and Science)

Direct UK funding of the European Space Agency (ESA) has been as follows:

  £ million
2009/10 242.8
2010/11 231.1
2011/12 232.0
2012/13 207.6
2013/14 267.5

In addition, national expenditure averaging £20 million a year has been expended within the UK to build and operate scientific instruments carried on spacecraft of ESA. The funding to ESA has been used to contribute to missions and technology in the fields of space science and exploration, Earth observation for science and applications, telecommunications and broadband delivery, access to microgravity facilities for life and physical sciences, space weather, navigation technologies, human spaceflight and weather monitoring. As well as resulting expenditure in the UK due to the juste retour principle, wider benefits have accrued in new scientific knowledge; and improved delivery of public services.

ESA is the primary route for Government R&D space investment. Several economic analyses of investment impact have been undertaken, drawn together in BIS Economics Paper No. 31. The UK Space Agency (part of BIS) undertakes a biennial survey of the size and health of the UK space industry2 showing growth from £3.4 billion turnover in 1999/2000 to £9.5 billion in 2011, reflecting the results of sustained investment as well as the growth of the market.

The UK Space Agency monitors contracts that return back to UK industry from our ESA subscriptions and also monitors where R&D work has positioned UK industry for success in larger operational contracts.

A UK R&D investment of £15 million for the Astrium E3000 Spacecraft through the ESA telecoms programme (‘ARTES’) was more than matched by industry and resulted in the award of 41 spacecraft contracts worth over £600 million to UK industry, an un-discounted ROI of over 30. Analysis has shown that the return on investment from UK ARTES programmes ranges from 2 to 30 with an average of 6:1. The UK Space Agency also works with the OECD to pool analysis of benefits from space funding as reflected in the OECD Handbook on Measuring the Space Economy3.

The scientific programmes of ESA directly contribute to UK academic excellence. The ‘Wakeham Review of Physics’4 reported to government that in terms of impact (citations) in the space sciences, the UK “is second to the USA and well separated from the following pack”. Data from satellites such as ESA’s Cryosat 2 have directly informed the IPCC 5th Assessment on climate change5.

An example of a public service benefit space investment is the weather forecast. The Met Office (also part of BIS) has undertaken analysis showing that satellites have made the greatest impact in improving weather prediction among available observing techniques6 “accounting for 64% of short-range global forecast error reduction”. Of all the nine data sources used, the new European Metop satellite has made the largest single impact: “about 25% of the total impact on global forecast error reduction”.

1 http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/+/http://www.berr.gov. uk/files/file54519.PDF

2 http://www.bis.gov.uk/assets/ukspaceagency/docs/industry/size-and-health-report-oct-2012.pdf

3 http://www.oecd.org/futures/oecdhandbookonmeasuringthe spaceeconomy.htm

4 http://www.rcuk.ac.uk/RCUK-prod/assets/documents/reviews/physics/review.pdf

5 https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar5/wg1

6 http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/media/pdf/9/m/FRTR562.pdf

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