Experts' Meeting on the Commercialisation of Space (23 September 2002)


Experts'Meeting on the Commercialisation of Space (23 September 2002)

Venue and participation
The meeting was held at OECD Headquarters on 23 September, 2002. It brought together more than sixty representatives from major public and private space actors as well as other space experts in the OECD area. The group was welcomed by Mr. Don Johnston, Secretary General of the OECD, and the meeting was chaired by Mr. Michael Oborne, Director of the Advisory Unit to the Secretary General (the Advisory Unit).

Main items on the agenda
Two main items were on the agenda:
(a) a round table discussion on the future prospects of the space sector;
(b) a discussion of the main orientation to be given to the proposed Project, in light of the issues discussed in the round table discussion.

Welcome by the Secretary General
In his welcoming remarks, Mr. Johnston stressed, first of all, the growing importance of the space sector for OECD countries and the need to ensure that "mainstream" policy makers be fully aware of the challenges and opportunities that may result from the future development of space applications, notably commercial applications. He further argued that the OECD was well placed to conduct a policy-oriented Project on the sector as most of the key players in the sector were in the OECD area, and since space applications extend to an increasingly broad range of activities where OECD Governments have a major responsibility. He also noted that many of the issues raised by the future development of the space sector (e.g. competition, science policy, public/private interface, trade) clearly fall within the field of competence of the Organisation. Mr. Johnston concluded his remarks by pointing out that, within the OECD, the Advisory Unit headed by Michael Oborne who reports directly to the office of the Secretary General, is well equipped to carry out this Project because of its expertise in conducting long-term policy analysis on complex emerging issues and also because of its demonstrated ability to establish a fruitful dialogue between public and private actors.

Round Table Discussion
After a short introduction by Mr. Oborne, the discussion focused on some of the main issues facing the space sector. Notably, particular attention was given to (a) the need to get a better fix on the sector's long term prospects; (b) the challenges of identifying promising applications; (c) the need to look at space applications as an integral part of an overall service delivery system; (d) the need to review the evolving role of public and private actors in space; (e) the need to involve the whole "value chain"; (f) the need to promote both competition and co-operation in the development of space applications; (g) mounting tension between economic and strategic considerations.

Main orientation of the Project
: It was agreed that the Project should not be limited to commercial applications but should also take into consideration civilian applications of a public nature. There was also general agreement that both the upstream and downstream segments of the value chain should be considered..
Analytical time frame: There was a strong feeling among participants that the Project should not be limited to future applications, but should also consider the prospects for existing ones. Moreover, it was felt that applications coming to fruition in the short and medium term should also be considered.
Non-OECD area participation: One speaker at the meeting proposed that participation in the Project should extend beyond the OECD area and include space faring countries such as Russia, China, India and Brazil, and also user countries such as South Africa. This question will be discussed further at a later stage (see next steps below).
Management of the Project: In answer to a question on this topic, the Chairman pointed out that:
- The Project is to be managed by a Project Team set up within the Advisory Unit.
- The reports to be prepared in the context of the Project will be issued under the responsibility of the Secretary General.
- A Steering Group composed of representatives from public and private entities that contribute financially to the Project will provide input to work carried out and will give advice to the Project Team. The Chairman noted that, on the basis of past experiences, the optimum size of the Steering Group is between 30-40 participants.
- Working groups could be set up to focus on particular issues or clusters of applications, if the Steering Group decides that this would be desirable.
Financing: It was noted that the Project will be carried out thanks to voluntary contributions by Government ministries and agencies as well as grants by private sector firms. Such financing has to be sufficient to cover inter alia the staff costs, the cost of commissioning external consultant papers, the cost of organising 4-5 meetings of the Steering Group, the cost of producing and distributing the final report, the cost of Project-related travel, and perhaps support for non-OECD participants.
Main contribution of the Project: In answer to a question on the nature of the work to be carried out, it was pointed out that although the Project will draw, in part, on existing work it will not be a mere synthesis of what has already been done. The main contribution of the Project will be
(a) to provide an original forward-looking and policy-oriented assessment of the issues facing the sector;
(b) to achieve a better understanding of the approaches that could be adopted for the development of promising space applications;
(c) to raise awareness among "main stream" policy makers of the opportunities offered by space and the challenges facing the space sector;
(d) to contribute to the formulation of possible solutions that governments may find useful in addressing some of the main problems facing the sector;
(e) to foster international co-operation between the governments of space-faring nations so as to reduce wasteful rivalry and promote a more favourable business climate at the international level.