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OECD Space Forum

Space is no longer the remit of a few select countries. In our interconnected world, more than 80 countries have registered satellites into orbit.

Satellite signals and data play an increasingly pivotal role in the efficient functioning of societies and their economic development, with investments in space programmes often contributing to drive scientific exploration and knowledge.

The number of public and private actors engaging in space activities internationally has grown exponentially in the past decade, with global value chains forming and innovations in space systems (e.g. small satellites), products and services (e.g. satellite broadband, imagery) making space ever more relevant for tackling everyday challenges on Earth.

The OECD Space Forum contributes expertise and evidence-based information. Its unique convening power brings together different stakeholders in the international space community and beyond to debate crucial economic issues, and makes it an ideal forum for research and discussion.

What's new?

The Space Economy in Figures: How Space Contributes to the Global Economy
Published July 2019

The space economy is expanding and becoming increasingly global, with public budgets related to space reaching USD 75 billion in 2017, the highest since the 1960s. This report describes emerging trends using new and internationally comparable data and indicators. It also provides recommendations to countries building up their statistical evidence on space actors and activities.

The OECD Space Forum: A unique international platform

Within the OECD Directorate for Science, Technology and Innovation, the OECD Space Forum is a unique international group whose mission is to investigate the economic and innovation dimensions of the space sector within the larger economy and society. The OECD is an economic international organisation, focused on statistical excellence, economic analysis and policy review in many different government domains. Co-operating with the space community and different OECD bodies, the Space Forum undertakes two main types of activities:

  • Dedicated work on statistics and economic indicators, so as to contribute with other actors to the emergence of international comparative data on the space sector and its contribution to economic activity more broadly, including its role for innovation;

  • Research on evaluation and impact assessment of space-related investments, exploring the broad economic and social dimensions of space applications, contributing to expert communities (e.g. through international workshops on methodologies and specific applications).


As part of its activities, the Space Forum contributes to broader priorities of the OECD Committee for Scientific and Technological Policy (CSTP), such as ongoing work on the digitalisation of science, technology and innovation, and the role of emerging technologies for addressing grand challenges.

What are the conditions for an innovative space sector?

Actors in space innovation

Although national situations differ, a variety of actors are involved in the creation and diffusion of knowledge in the space sector. Investment in science and basic research play a key role in innovation systems by providing new knowledge and pushing the knowledge frontier. Public institutions still provide the foundations for a large share of ongoing space activities and future space innovation in a majority of countries, and they rely on sustained institutional support. Business enterprises play a significant role in space programmes in many countries. Start-ups are particularly active in downstream space applications and are often quite detached from the traditional space industry. And the higher education system is also a crucial actor in basic research, undertaking three-quarters of total basic research in OECD economies.

Financing space innovation

Governments are the main funders of science and long-term R&D, as well as the leading customers for many space-related products and services. Governmental support therefore forms the bulk of funding for space innovation, with a diversity of policy instruments available, such as grants, procurement, loans and tax incentives. Private sources of investment (seed funding, venture capital, private equity) for some innovative space ventures have been growing, although the amounts still pale as compared to public funding. Crowdfunding is also a new financing mechanism that is growing rapidly. Although seldom used in the space sector until recently, some students now raise funds online to develop their own very small satellite projects.

Infrastructures and platforms enabling knowledge flows

These have become essential instruments to spur space innovation. Clusters, incubators and other platforms of co-operation play an important role in fostering interactions between very diverse actors, and are accelerating the growth and success of entrepreneurial companies. In this context, the uses of public testing services and facilities by diverse governmental, academic and commercial actors often remain key for technology prototype development and flight qualification.

Challenges and prizes

Used in many sectors, challenges and prizes are a relatively recent set of tools to stimulate innovation and entrepreneurship in the space sector. These prizes are multiplying around the world, and are funded by governmental agencies or private organisations, or jointly. They not only attract entrepreneurs and media attention, but are also motivating the established industry.

What are the drivers of space innovation?

Three overarching thrusts are driving innovation in the space sector and will probably continue to do so over the next decade:

  • the persistence of national security and science objectives (with more and more countries investing in space programmes);
  • the expansion of downstream space applications; and
  • the pursuit of human space exploration. Under these broad overarching objectives, recent innovations in the space sector are driven by evolutions in industrial processes (advanced manufacturing, new digitisation processes, miniaturisation), often hard-pressed by new commercial entrants, and new technological developments (space propulsion, composite materials).


The space sector appears to be on the verge of a new cycle in its development. This cycle could be characterised by the ever-growing uses of satellite infrastructure outputs (signals, data) to meet societal challenges, like helping bridge the digital divide and contributing to mitigate climate change with global satellite monitoring.

But in parallel, innovative mass-market products using satellite capacities could be on the horizon, building on advances in machine to machine networking, and real-time and adaptive systems. New generations of smart-satellites and orbital space stations are expected, while a number of commercial space activities could be coming of age (e.g. new human-rated space launchers, in-orbit servicing). A more extensive mapping of our solar system and beyond is also already anticipated thanks to new telescopes and robotic missions in development and planned for the next decade.

About our work

The OECD Space Forum conducts original economic research, develops indicators and studies on measurement and impact assessment. Most recently, our work has concentrated on space technology transfers (definitions, indicators, evaluation) and research on the low-Earth orbit (LEO) economy, examining the economic rationales and policies that can support -or not- the development of the LEO economy. The Space Forum also supports its members on a bilateral basis and contributes substance to OECD-wide activities (e.g. the Going Digital Project).

Events

Most of the OECD Space Forum events are by invitation only. Please contact the Secretariat for more information.

  • 3 October 2019 (OECD, Paris): Annual meeting of the OECD Space Forum Steering Group
  • 2 October 2019 (OECD, Paris): OECD Space Forum workshop on linking policies and indicators
  • 19-20 June 2019 (CSA, Montreal): OECD Space Forum Workshop on the economics of space debris, hosted by the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), co-organised by CSA and NASA, followed by expert seminar for Space Forum members
  • 26 October 2018 (OECD, Paris): Annual meeting of the Space Forum Steering Group
  • 25 October 2018 (OECD, Paris): OECD Space Forum Workshop on Economic Models for the Low-Earth Orbit and Beyond, followed by expert seminar for Space Forum members


Steering group

Members are comprised of national and international space agencies:

  • ASI (Italy)
  • CNES (France)
  • CSA (Canada)
  • DLR (Germany)
  • KARI (Korea)
  • NASA (United States)
  • NSC (Norway)
  • NSO (The Netherlands)
  • SSO (Switzerland)
  • UKSA (United Kingdom)
  • European Space Agency (ESA)

Our publications

The Space Economy in Figures: How Space Contributes to the Global Economy (June 2019)

The space economy is expanding and becoming increasingly global, driven by the development of ever-more governmental space programmes around the world, the multiplication of commercial actors in value chains, durable digitalisation trends, and new space systems coming of age. This report describes these emerging trends using new and internationally comparable data and indicators.

It highlights the growing importance of space activities for the economy, for developing country strategies (based on original official development assistance statistics), for the pursuit of knowledge and scientific discoveries, and for society in general. To get the most out of space investments and promote sustained socio-economic growth, this report provides some recommendations to countries in building up their statistical evidence on space actors and activities.


Space and Innovation
(October 2016)

After decades of innovation, satellites now play a discrete but pivotal role in the efficient functioning of modern societies and their economic development. This publication provides the findings from an OECD Space Forum project on the state of innovation in the space sector, with a view to examine how space innovation may impact the larger economy. New analysis and indicators contribute to answering some of the following questions: is the space sector still a driver for innovation in the 21st century? What are the determinants for an innovative space sector? And what are the policy responses to encourage and harness better space-related innovation?

The Space Economy at a Glance (2014)

Countries with long-established space programmes face growing challenges as lower costs and technological advances draw more countries and companies into the sector and give rise to a burgeoning commercial space industry. This report shows that while space budgets in OECD countries totalled USD 50.8 billion in 2013, down from USD 52.3 billion in 2008, the combined space budget of the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India and China) swelled to USD 24.0 billion from USD 16.5 billion over the same period. Supply chains for spacecraft, launchers and parts are increasingly globalised, IT companies are becoming satellite operators and rapid growth in small satellite launches will mean more commercialisation of earth observation data. This will increase the opportunities for start-ups and emerging economies to get into the space sector, but it means governments should keep up their spending on space R&D.

OECD Handbook on Measuring the Space Economy (2012)

This publication provides a summary of the key methodological issues surrounding indicators and statistics on the space sector and the larger space economy.

The first part examines methodological issues including definitions and industrial classification, principal actors in the space economy and data sources. The handbook then looks at specific types of indicators including inputs into the space economy such as government budgets for space activities and human resources; intensity indicators showing, for example, outputs of the space manufacturing industry and space-based applications and derived services; and indicators measuring socio-economic impacts.

Space 2030: Exploring the Future of Space Applications (2004)

Since the launch of Sputnik in 1957, media attention has focused almost exclusively on spectacular space missions. However, space actors have also faced their share of setbacks: the Columbia tragedy, extravagant cost overruns and painful reductions in public support to space ventures. Over the years, advances in space technologies have led to the development of increasingly sophisticated military and civil space assets.

Where is the space sector heading now? What are the obstacles to its further development? What are its future prospects? What are the applications that are likely to be successful in the future? To answer these questions, this report adopted a scenario-based approach to explore the future evolution of major components of the space sector (military space, civil space, commercial space) over the next 30 years. It covers four major factors of change: geopolitical developments, socio-economic developments, energy and the environment, technology.

"Outstanding review, especially useful for the three sophisticated scenarios, useful to many futurists." Future Survey, August 2004.

  • See also Space 2030: Tackling Society's Challenges (2005), an assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the institutional, legal and regulatory frameworks governing space activities in the OECD area and beyond.