Government aims to drive space sector growth with new infrastructure and investment programs

Max Blenkin

The Industry Department has launched the government’s two new space sector programs from this year’s budget, the Space Infrastructure Fund (SIF) and the International Space Investment (ISI) initiative.

Government aims to drive space sector growth with new infrastructure and investment programs
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That followed a consultation process in which stakeholders, including industry, associations, state governments and academia, were canvassed for their thoughts.

The general view appears to have been that the government is on the right track, although funding is modest and timelines constrained, given the ambition to triple the size of the Australian space sector from $3.9 billion to $12 billion and double the size of the Australian space workforce from 10,000 to 20,000 jobs by 2030.

For instance, the Space Industry Association of Australia said extremely modest funding levels had to be spread across twin goals of opening doors to international space agencies for Australian firms and providing tangible support to expand the capability and capacity of Australian space organisations.

“The design is further constrained by the funding profile over the next three years set by the Australian federal budget and the need to get companies under contract as quickly as possible to enable them to meaningfully spend the $3 million allocated for the 2019-2020 financial year,” the association said.

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“The SIAA is concerned that these constraints will drive a suboptimal program design that will in effect become a template for possible future programs.”

The South Australian government said within the approved funding envelope, the Australian Space Agency would likely only be able to support a few high quality proposals.

“While we understand the need to launch this funding as soon as possible to ensure the success of this initiative, we are concerned that the proposed timeline for the process of submitting applications will not be sufficient,” it said.

The SIF is a $19.5 million investment in seven infrastructure projects to drive the growth of Australia’s space sector, filling infrastructure gaps to support businesses and researchers to participate in the global space economy.

Projects under the SIF include a mission control in South Australia, a robotics command and control centre in Western Australia to support the use of robotics and automation in space, future space manufacturing capability at the Western Sydney Aerotropolis and supporting facilities in Tasmania to track space objects.

The ISI initiative provides $15 million over three years and aims to support supporting projects enabling Australia to participate in the activities of international space agencies.

The ISI initiative will open later this year to help unlock international space opportunities for Australia and to expand the capability and capacity of the space sector.

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