Opinion article

The space industry - a new frontier for the Australian economy

Head of the Australia Space Agency, Dr Megan Clark AC, discusses the importance of the Australian Civil Space Strategy and the role of the space sector in the future of the Australian economy.

Technology in the space field is rapidly developing in ways that will affect the future of business and society.

In April, the Government announced Advancing Space: Australian Civil Space Strategy 2019–28, setting the course for the domestic space sector over the next ten years. The Strategy is built on four Strategic Space Pillars – open the door internationally; develop national capability in areas of competitive advantage; ensure safety and national interest are addressed; and inspire and improve the lives of all Australians. It also makes clear that meeting Australia’s international obligations and supporting a rules-based order are central to achieving this vision.

The pillars are underpinned by seven National Civil Space Priority Areas in the areas of position navigation and timing, earth observation, advanced communication, leap-frog R&D, space situational awareness, automation and robotics and access to space.

As a key initiative under the Strategy, the 2019 Budget announced the new $19.5 million Space Infrastructure Fund. The Fund supports space projects across Australian states and territories over the next 3 years that will enable the nation to compete in the global space economy.

Filling gaps in Australia’s space infrastructure allows businesses and researchers to focus on growing and developing their day-to-day operations. The expansion of the space sector will provide space-related solutions to drive economic benefit across the whole economy – providing new tools for farmers, supporting emergency services and helping manage drought. It also provides the tools businesses need to access international opportunities – opening doors for Australia internationally.

The projects form an important element of the Australian Civil Space Strategy, primarily addressing the ‘National’ pillar to increase capability in the sector. They will be developed in locations across Australia, providing investment in multiple states and territories, and building upon Australia’s National Civil Space Priorities and strengths.

Benefits of investing in space infrastructure flow on to the Australian community. Space-based technologies such as satellites enable many services we use in modern life, from GPS, weather and environmental monitoring, to telecommunications and precision agriculture. These benefits will only increase as cheaper launch technologies, the increasing capabilities of digital technologies and the ongoing miniaturisation of technology all lower economic barriers to the space industry.

All Australian market sectors get direct or spill-over benefits from space‑enabled services and the practical applications of space capabilities, particularly the finance, agriculture, mining, health, tourism, and manufacturing industries. In short, investing in space companies creates jobs across the Australian economy.

Australia has a strong and dynamic space sector, with high ambitions, great potential characterised by creativity, entrepreneurship, and a sense of discovery. This Strategy provides the certainty of a long-term framework around which the sector can plan its activities towards the long-term transformation and growth of the industry.

Australia is already showing the world our ideas. We are demonstrating that we can be on the frontline of technological innovation. 

About the authors

Megan Clark

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Dr Clark is Head of the Australian Space Agency and a director of Rio Tinto, CSL Limited and CARE Australia. She is a member of the Australian advisory board of the Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Dr Clark recently chaired the Expert Working Group into the Review of Australia’s Space Industry Capability. She was Chief Executive of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) from 2009 to 2014. 

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