My colleague, Mark Whiting, and I splashed down for an information-gathering trip to Space-Comm yesterday. All in all enormously interesting. Here’s what struck me:

  1. The gender balance was amazing. I don’t think it was quite 50/50, but it didn’t feel that far off. It felt really positive.
  2. There was an interesting selection of SMEs birthed from Prime motherships. An interesting and understandable strategy to stand-up a sector-focused brand within which they can be more agile and responsive to market forces than perhaps the mothership can be.
  3. Cables are cool. Had a few fascinating conversations about space cables. Well, cables that are used in space. And connectors. The complexity of the challenge of getting to and operating in space is unfathomable – the cold, the heat, the radiation, the speed, the distances. The innovation – in cables and so much more – is mind-boggling. All power to you, space engineers!
  4. Space needs to catch up on its cyber protection. There were quite a few cyber specialists in attendance. Each had a similar tale to tell – that so far, these £multi-gazzillion mega-computers that we are wrapping in tin foil and blasting to the heavens, are hitting orbit without so much as Macafee Student Edition onboard. A simplification of course, but this is a hugely competitive environment on the geopolitical stage, let alone commercial. Underestimate cyber threats at your peril people.
  5. Show me the money. We heard from a number of people that there are lots of great ideas for the space ‘domain’, but very few had heard good commercial strategies for making it pay. Yet.
  6. Clogged orbit. The vast majority of great ideas, companies and products on show yesterday were about sending metal stuff up, and getting data back. It is estimated that by 2030, we’ll have more than 60,000 satellites in orbit. That, in addition to all the other bits of flotsam and jetsam we’ve already got flying around at 20,000mph up there. It feels like we’re adding ever more expensive layers of wallpaper on walls that are already feet deep in the crust of ventures past. Solutions for cleaning that lot up were sadly few and far between. Partly because I doubt there’s a great deal of money in running a hoover round in orbit. Until it becomes absolutely necessary that is.
  7. Lack of brand sophistication. The sector is on the cusp of huge change. Business will not ‘continue as usual’. The competitive spacescape will become more charged. For legacy businesses that have been chugging along nicely thank-you-very-much, they are going to have to get way more brand savvy. Remember, the competition is not just for business but for talent as well. Brand is critical to success in a graduates’ market. There will inevitably be consolidation in the sector at some point too, with the big fish buying up the small fish. Without a strong brand, you will not be able to continue obstinately swimming in your own circles.
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