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SA well-placed to take advantage of national space agency: industry

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Michael Davis, the head of the space industry association and organiser of this week’s International Astronautical Congress in Adelaide, said the State Government’s space plan would help the state take advantage of the newly announced national space agency.

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“The South Australian government backed our bid [for the congress] right from the beginning, going back eight years,” he said.

“When we won the bid, they saw the opportunity. They didn’t wait till the congress took place, they formulated and implemented a strategy that has led directly to the announcement of the Space Industries Centre and the $4 million in funding.”

Last week Minister for Defence and Space Industries Martin Hamilton-Smith pledged $4 million over four years to boost the space industry in South Australia.

Hamilton-Smith expanded on the funding model ahead of the opening of the congress at the Adelaide Convention Centre today, saying that the government would fund scholarships of up to $20,000 per year as well as establish an incubator program for space startups and an international accelerator program for established space businesses.

“We have a strategy for space and have mapped our space capabilities,” Hamilton-Smith said.

“What we now need to do is map the supply chains of the various programs that are going on around the world and find the interconnections for Australian companies to tap in to.”

Today’s national space agency announcement by South Australian senator Simon Birmingham follows months of lobbying by the Space Industry Association of Australia and the South Australian Government.

Australia is one of the only OECD countries without a national space agency.

A Federal Government review into the long-term plan for the sector in Australia was announced in July but won’t be completed until March.

Today, the Government announced it was “committed” to establishing a national agency.

Birmingham said it was already clear that the case for a national agency was “compelling”.

“This agency will be the anchor for the domestic coordination and the front door for our international engagement for so many of you from across the world’s space industries,” he said.

“I am confident that with our unique geography, South Australia will naturally be at the forefront of an increased Australian engagement in space industries.

“Space is too large, too complex, too important for any one country to seek to do it alone and this congress presents yet another outstanding opportunity to share insights into the future of the global space industry.”

Birmingham said Acting Minister for Innovation and Science Senator Michaelia Cash would outline further details of the national at a congress lunch tomorrow.

“The global space sector was growing fast and Australia needed to be a part of it,” he said.

“We have listened to the industry and the overwhelming response to our review has been support for a space agency.”

More than 4200 delegates have registered for the congress, the world’s biggest space meeting of the year, making it the largest conference ever staged in South Australia and the first big workout for the $397 million Adelaide Convention Centre redevelopment.

Michael Davis said the SIAA was thrilled with the announcement and expected the agency would be a collaboration between government and industry.

“What a start to this congress,” he said.

“The aim is to deliver clear economic benefit to the Australian economy and of course, to re-enforce our status as a participant of long-standing in the development of outer space.

“We will soon take our place at the table of space agencies as major initiatives and cooperative projects are considered and developed.

“Australia has always played a significant role, but we have fallen behind the major nations, especially the European ones and now we can quickly play catch up in this $US330 billion industry.

“We have the capacity, the science, the skills, the research and development environment, the culture, the industry nous. Now we have the standing of the Australian Space Agency.”

South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill said the week presented an opportunity for South Australia to send a bold message to the world.

“We are ready to put ourselves in the service of this nation by becoming a key part of a national space agency,” he told the congress.

“We are also sending a clear message to the world that we want to work with you – as our state logo suggests – as an open door to opportunity.”

The SIAA launched a White Paper in March calling on the Australian Government to establish a national space agency.

Last month Weatherill and ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr signed a Memorandum of Understanding to work together towards the creation of a Canberra-based space agency with a prominent presence in Adelaide.

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