Will Public Support Help the UK Win the EU Space Market?
While it’s no secret that both the European Union and the United Kingdom suffered great losses during the post-Brexit period, UK citizens remain optimistic about their country’s ability to maintain stability and develop the UK space industry. There has been a significant surge in public interest in the space sector in recent years, with notable celebrities such as Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos speaking openly about the space future.
In its turn, the UK has expressed a strong desire to become the first European country with fully commercial spaceports operated in-house. In-house refers to the ability to construct and launch rockets, satellites, and other maintenance parts from home soil. This is quite an ambitious project, given that the British economy is yet to see the full extent of Brexit. Perhaps, the public support for space activities is not so surprising. But is such support enough to ensure UK space industry development?
UK and Germany Post-Brexit Space Competition
Britain’s decision to leave the EU and forge a future as a sovereign country had been met with apprehension and tension. Many financial analysts predicted that leaving the EU would destabilize an already unstable ecosystem. Some of the more influential fears were that Britain has always been a top EU spender on military defence, with quarterly averages reaching up to 20 million pounds.
Despite slightly grim speculations over the stability of the United Kingdom post-Brexit, the British government has expressed the desire to be among the top space industry leaders. Germany remains one of the leaders in aeronautics, transport, and digitalization. Their space research centre, DLR, is governmentally funded and backed by private investors. The DLR Space Administration is in charge of implementing the national space program and carries full sanction from the federal government.
Now, it’s no secret that both the UK and Germany have a long history of political and economic struggle. The period directly after the Second World War saw a revitalization of this rivalry as the unification of Germany led to the creation of several organizations in cooperation with the UK. In 2021, both countries have established amicable terms and now share a common goal for their people’s prosperous future. However, a deeply seeded feeling of competition could be sensed by anyone who peers a little closer.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed her concerns about the UK and EU relations during the pre-Brexit period. She advised the then active Prime Minister of Britain to work together with the European Union to consolidate a deal that would ensure a stable environment for the exit. She stated that Britain and the EU share common values, and failing to reach an agreement would send a wrong signal.
UK vs Germany’s Public Support of Local Space Industry Development
A recent poll in several European countries regarding the public opinion on the space industry concluded that Brits are among the most interested and most informed. 41% of polled British citizens claimed to be well informed regarding the UK’s space industry prospects. 59% of surveyed individuals claimed that they didn’t have enough information but still expressed interest in the projects.
In contrast, 57% of Germans are not informed about Germany’s space program projects. Overall, it would seem that Brits express more genuine interest in the UK space industry than Germans in their own one. More public support can only do good for the future of the British space industry. If the government can harness this interest and keep the momentum going long enough, they could attract private investors. Unlike governmental subsidiaries, private investors come from the public and are bound to be swayed by public opinions.
For the UK to harness the full extent of support available to it, the authorities need to make their plans for building spacecraft and spaceports available to the general public. After all, you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar; the same can be applied to the public interest. For Brits to support the UK space industry, the government needs to invest in educating the masses. Having native spaceports built and maintained by British workers will bring a breath of trust in the legitimacy of the UK’s goal to be number one in the space race.
Unlike Germany, whose citizens show a slight passivity regarding the space industry, British citizens already have an advantage. Germany has shown in the past that they could cooperate with foreign entities on building and maintaining a spaceport. However, unlike the UK, Germans seem afraid of committing to the idea. Besides, Germany appears to be more interested in exploring space tech healthcare benefits rather than engaging in full space exploration. German space drive comes from intrigue and receiving profit from larger investments, where representatives of the UK are financing several smaller projects: from satellite manufacturing to space tourism.
Can Public Support Result in Actual Money Investment?
The post-Brexit period will bring a time of uncertainty for the UK space industry. Financial analysts have determined that the UK economy will continue to decline for the next 15 years, reaching a 6.7% loss in overall revenue. It is still unclear whether this instability will get in the way of the UK’s goal to construct native spaceports. On the one hand, we have seen that despite the pre-Brexit tribulations and the current shaky economic climate, British citizens truly believe in their country’s ability to cement its position. This could be the result of the government’s funding of upcoming Scottish spaceports.
Regular funding means that the government isn’t seeing space-related projects as a gamble but as an investment. On the other hand, Germany, France, the USA, and China are all gunning for the same position to become the dominating forces behind space engineering. While public interest in the UK space industry is high, the government needs to secure outside financing to avoid a potential financial sinkhole. So, only time will tell whether the UK space industry will triumph over its competitors.