After the holydays season, the SGAC Commercial Space Project Group blog restarts the publication of industry analysis with the second chapter in the series of posts summarizing the SGC2013 Industry Group gathering. In this session, the discussions on how to foster entrepreneurship within the Space industry are presented.
There are various intrinsic factors of the space industry that hinder innovation and entrepreneurship. The industry structure inherited from the times of government programs dominating the industry certainly poses a challenge for innovation.
Typically, space projects need big initial investments and long development times. These long development times translate into long time to market increasing the risk and the cost of capital. These are undesirable characteristics for an entrepreneurial industry.
The huge level of complexity with multidisciplinary projects requiring big teams and investments, and the preference for proven technologies to avoid the risk of malfunctions during the operation of the mission are as well features hampering innovation.
Across the global Space industry, entrepreneurship faces many barriers that hinder innovation, flexibility, and growth industry-wide
Explore and integrate, where appropriate, best practices from adjacent high-tech industries to foster innovation
a) Where feasible, allow employees to dedicate resources to their initiatives in independent projects
b) Invest in tools and processes to connect space professionals with experts addressing similar challenges in other industries.
Support the exposure of entrepreneurial thinking and practices to technical students and professionals through training, education, and external speakers
In order to overcome these problems, the SGC 2013 Industry Group recommends looking into other industries’ best practices and incorporating them to foster innovation. Space industry should make full use of Open Innovation tools to improve how the industry gets new ideas from other high-tech industries solving similar problems (inward technology transfer) or how technologies developed for aerospace can serve other markets (spin-off).
It would also be beneficial, for increasing innovation in the industry, that organizations commit themselves to support new projects started by employees. This may include allowing them to use the laboratories and workshops in non-working hours, build complementary teams with managerial and engineering knowledge, dedicate part of the working hours to personal initiatives or even give financial support to these projects.
All these measures could be implemented in a faster way and in a greater degree if students and professionals throughout the space sector are trained, educated, and exposed to more entrepreneurial and innovative thinking.
The nascent NewSpace industry provides some examples of good practices for fostering innovation and entrepreneurship. The emerging microsatellite segment is a good example of that. Leveraging on new commercial off the shelf technologies with lower costs, they can apply lean development techniques shortening the time to market and reducing the risk and the level of investment required. NewSpace players are as well opening their operations to new markets like Media and Outreach like in the RedBull Stratos experience. NewSpace companies also have a new way to approach product development engaging in rapid prototyping leading to shorter build-test-learn cycles like in the case of Rocket Lab. This new entrepreneurial culture is creating a good number of distributed innovation opportunities with great potential for scalability and market disruption.
Reporting: Lluc Palerm. Subject Matter Experts: Paul Guthrie, Alanna Krolikowski. Moderator: Sandra González Díaz. Delegates: Nicole Tchorowski, Emma Braegen, Cynthia Chen, Zorana Dancuo, Thomas Hobbs, Chung Sheng Huang, Jakob Huesing, Abhijet Kumar, Philipp Maier, Daichi Nakamura, Pavel Paces, Daniel Sagath, Olga Stelmakh, Jan Svoboda, Prater Tracie, Saqib Mehmood, Phillippa Blaber, Luís Ferreira, Felipe Arevalo, Zihua Zhu