Sky’s the limit for SA as Space Industry Centre sets eyes on future

Sky’s the limit for SA as Space Industry Centre sets eyes on future

Stephen Kuper

South Australia has been quick off the mark to establish itself as not only the defence state, but now as the space state, with the introduction of the South Australian Space Industry Centre (SASIC) and some of its ambitious objectives to transform Australia’s space economy. 

South Australia has a long history of engagement with both the local and global space ecosystem, from the earliest days of testing at Woomera through to the recent influx of global primes and SME companies establishing research, operations and manufacturing bases in the state. 

SASIC aims to create a 'space-enabled' economy where the space technology in South Australia provides technological advances that lead to growth, new jobs and an increased market share in areas that might not be traditionally linked to space, but will benefit from the unique capabilities developed as a result of industry collaboration and development. 

Working in collaboration with the SAIC, the SA government is responsible for developing and implementing the Space Innovation and Growth Strategy (South Australia) Action Plan 2016-2020, which focuses on three central pillars: 

  • Growing the economy through space activity; 
  • Invigorating SA's space innovation ecosystem; and 
  • Engaging international co-operation with leading space-faring companies. 

This state-based focus is not without a broader national collaboration effort, as Richard Price, chief executive of SASIC, explained in October following the launch of the Australian Space Agency (ASA): "We are committed to working collaboratively at a national level to grow Australia’s space economy and support the Australian Space Agency in its endeavours to build international collaboration." 

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Immediate goals 

SASIC seeks to expand its immediate future goals to focus on national collaboration, both with other states and territories and the national space agency. SA intends to position itself as a major contributor to the broader objectives of the national space program in order to enhance the state's existing space economy and the opportunities being developed through initiatives like the recent launch of the Defence, Aerospace and Technology Innovation Hub at Lot 14 in Adelaide. 

 

Price has welcomed the development and rapid uptake of tenancies at Lot 14 following announcements made by Australia-based IoT satellite company Myriota and global aerospace and technology prime Lockheed Martin.

"Lot 14 will be the perfect place where highly skilled talent and agile start-ups and companies, like Myriota, can thrive and grow. It’s fantastic to see such a deep level of interest from start-ups and companies working in high-growth industries, like space and defence, wanting to be part of this innovation neighbourhood that will nurture talent, support new ventures and create jobs," Price said.

"Creating an environment that supports entrepreneurship, innovation and research capabilities in South Australia is important to our growth and success in these key industries."

Near-term goals

Creating awareness and broader public support for the developing space ecosystem is one of the key objectives for SASIC. This priority has a number of key focuses bringing together industry, government and academic institutions to ensure that South Australia's local space industry is competitive domestically, and world leading. 

This is being achieved through a number of initiatives, including: 

  • The Biannual South Australian Space Forum: Attracts high calibre speakers, both international and national, and has tripled in size since the first one was held May 2016 with 110 people registered, to over 300 in April 2018. The sixth SA Space Forum will be held on the 5 December 2018 and, for the first time, will include exhibitors.
  • International missions/co-operative arrangements: Currently, SA has memorandums of understanding with the Northern Territory and ACT. Internationally, co-operative arrangements are in place with the Italian Space Agency (ASI), German company DLR, the city of Bremen and the UAE Space Agency.
  • SA Space Capability Directory: Provides a current picture of the state’s capability and acts as a useful tool for helping to connect local industry, comprised of more than 70 entities.
  • Space Innovation Fund: Provides $4 million over four years and includes a Space Incubator Program and a Space Accelerator Program to cultivate new ideas and provide a pathway for entrepreneurs to join the local space economy, and connect local innovators with international mentors and potential global investors.
  • SA Space Council: Comprised of representatives from industry, government and academia – provides an overarching body to guide future direction and identify potential opportunities in the space sector in South Australia.

Each of these initiatives serves as part of a broader strategy to help stimulate co-operation between local stakeholders and international partners, and identify research and development opportunities aligned with the national charter and ASA priorities in order to co-invest or provide other support in these areas. 

"Promoting and facilitating local and international collaboration, investing in infrastructure benefiting the whole ecosystem and supporting start-up and scale-up businesses is key to growing a sustainable space industry," Price explained. 

Additionally, this is about developing a culture of innovation among industry participants in SA, while also engaging with the community, STEM education and training institutions, and young people to promote the employment opportunities provided by space into the future. 

Upcoming initiatives

SASIC is firmly focused on the future and is committed to enhancing South Australia's position as the space state. This is being driven by two key initiatives aimed at growing SA's space sector, including: 

  • SmartSat CRC: A Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) connecting industry, government and academic institutions to tackle R&D challenges facing the space industry. The bid has passed the first round of the selection process and a full business case/stage two application is due by the end of November.
  • Space Cluster: An inspiring entrepreneurial hub (Lot 14) for Australian space stakeholders (companies, researchers and academic institutions) where they can work hand-in-hand, facilitating collaboration and information 

Price elaborated on the role these upcoming initiatives would play in South Australia, saying "Building a culture of entrepreneurship and strengthening collaboration between South Australian industry, research organisations, and key national and international players, is a priority of the South Australian Space Industry Centre to drive innovation and bring Australian space technology into the broader economy."

SASIC is also in active collaboration with NASA, France's National Centre for Space Studies (CNES) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

"The opportunity for Australia’s space sector is unprecedented. With so much talent, knowledge and passion, our state and the nation can be prominent players in the global space industry, but it starts with success at home. Capturing the opportunities of space technology will transform our economy and create an industry that is an inspiration for all Australians, young and old," Price said. 

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