Space Advisory Board (SAB) roundtable on Canada’s future in space

May 12, 2017 – Vancouver

SAB Hosts: Mac Evans, Michelle Mendes, and Afzal Suleman

Areas of Focus

  1. Grow Canada's Space Sector;
  2. Innovate and Explore Space;
  3. Strengthen Long-Term International Partnerships;
  4. Inspire the Next Generation;
  5. Contribute to our Understanding of the Earth;
  6. Improve Quality of Life for Canadians; and,
  7. Ensure a Safe and Secure Nation.

Highlights

To support space firms and start-ups and attract investments in Canada, Canada needs to provide a more favorable business environment including modernizing regulatory frameworks for space-related activities.  The independent five-year review recently tabled in Parliament notes that the Remote Sensing Space Systems Act is outdated, and some stakeholders consider it an impediment to innovation and growth in Canada.

As part of the objective to grow Canada's space sector, there is an opportunity to enhance support for the space sciences. Space science in Canada has been in decline, impacting both academia and industry from a technology development perspective. There is an opportunity to leverage space science and technologies to create jobs, and to attract and maintain world-class scientists and engineers in Canada. The Canadian space program needs to be agile and nimble to respond to international opportunities. 

The Canadian space program requires a whole-of-government effort, including the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and other key departments and agencies with roles and responsibilities for space. Better interdepartmental cooperation would enable effective collaboration and pooling of resources, as would increased collaboration with provincial and territorial partners to support innovation and economic development opportunities. 

To inspire, the space sector and government collectively need to improve promotion of Canadian achievements in space beyond the astronaut program and the International Space Station. The CSA should also have a stronger role in education and public outreach. Giving students opportunities to participate in competitions and challenges is important. The Canadian Satellite Design Challenge (CSDC) was highlighted as an initiative that provides students across Canada from different post-secondary institutions a challenge and opportunity to design and build a cubesat. With the guidance and support of industry, academia, and the CSA, competitions like the CSDC are a great way to get students involved in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Student competitions should be pursued to inspire the next generation.

Key Implementation Considerations/Challenges

Working together effectively: Collaboration and coordination across federal funding agencies (e.g., the CSA and the Granting Councils, such as Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council) and across industry and academia is necessary to grow the space sector. Growing the sector is not just about industrial activity. Academia and industry need to collaborate effectively—strategies by the government to integrate academia and industrial research communities should be considered.

Federal-Provincial relationships: Canada can increase collaboration with provincial and territorial ministries on space, and engage on how space-related activities can help to drive innovation and growth (e.g., fostering investment opportunities, exports and international trade). Additionally, consideration should be given to more local representation from the Canadian Space Agency which can leverage organizations and associations to undertake engagement and outreach activities.

Partnerships with industry: The federal government should pursue partnership opportunities with international industry players, to grow local SMEs, local knowledge and capability. MITACS and Consortium for Aerospace Research and Innovation in Canada (CARIC) were cited as  great programmes that bring multinational companies to invest R&D projects that are tied to local SMEs/universities.

Program design: Stakeholders caution against innovation programming that would create competition between industry and government (like the UK Catapult initiative). It was suggested that stacking levels for space-related programs could be increased. 

Tax credits: The federal government should consider offering additional tax credits to industry to support commercial activities and investment in Canada.

Investing in the downstream sector: The Government may wish to transition toward more of a downstream service supplier service model by becoming an anchor client. It was suggested that there are well-supported upstream programs (such as the Strategic Aerospace and Defence Initiative (SADI)), and that similar downstream programming should be considered.  Canada's RADARSAT Program and related data policies have helped to create a value-added supplier base in Canada. RADARSAT Constellation Mission (RCM) data policy is significant for the entire industry, and there are concerns that it will not benefit industry if it does not allow industry to task the satellites.

Emerging spacefaring nations: Canada can look to partner with other countries in emerging areas, such as Luxembourg on space mining investment opportunities. It was noted that Canada is a leader in natural resources and mining, and that this expertise should be leveraged for space mining and exploration. Canada should also consider fostering more partnerships with countries in Asia. There may be an opportunity to leverage federal and provincial Trade Commissioners to increase opportunities for international partnerships. To raise the profile for space, the CSA may wish to consider allocating human resources to work within/with the Trade Commissioners.

Trade agreements: Government should ensure a level playing fields with international trade agreements that have been negotiated (e.g., Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA)), including equal access to markets. There may also be a need to ensure that Canadian industry is aware of relevant trade provisions and new opportunities.  

Cross-sectoral linkages: There may be a role for the federal government to foster discussions between the space sector and other industries where space technologies and services could be used.

Inclusiveness: Canada needs to ensure an inclusive approach to space that is accessible and that considers the roles of teachers, students, legal experts – STEM is not limited to science and technology. Early and sustained STEM outreach engagement is necessary (inspiring children to pursue studies in STEM begins with sparking interest at a young age and it ends with a job in their respective field).

Top Ideas / Outcomes

Regulatory Reforms: Canada's regulatory frameworks should be modernized, and specific changes to Canada's remote sensing licensing regulations were identified as a low-cost, priority area for action. What is required is political will. Similar to the US where similar licensing responsibilities fall under the Department of Commerce, consideration could be given to making Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada responsible for overall coordination of space-related legislation and licensing frameworks as this would allow for a better  balance between national security and commercial interests. (Global Affairs Canada currently administers the Act).  

Balanced space program: Government should look at having a balanced program (i.e., a suite of small and large programs). Flagship missions enable international collaboration and opportunities for Canada to make significant contributions and it fuels activity within the space sector so ensuring trickle down to SMEs is key. Support for a sufficient cadence of missions would ensure that Canada's space program is able to address key priorities.

Continuity and process for decision-making: There is a need for continuity in the government's space program to allow industry and academia to plan their activities and obtain financing in a more stable manner.  Stakeholders would like to better understand the process used for making investment and funding decisions on space missions, and how to unlock funding for specific initiatives. There is a desire for Canada's space program to have a nimble and agile funding structure that will enable the space community to pursue mission opportunities as they arise.   

Coordination and alignment: The space sector needs a Strategy that will affect real change, and that provides an opportunity for stakeholders across the sector to be involved in its implementation. Federal funding and support for space science and innovation needs to be coordinated.  A space Strategy can support a whole-of-government approach to create clusters of different government departments working together and pooling resources. 

Hands-on learning: Competitions and challenges, like the CSDC or Space Apps Challenge, are an effective way to develop skills, provide mentorship opportunities, and to integrate space with other sectors (e.g., advanced computing and computer sciences). By way of results and outcomes, experiential learning opportunities help students to build their resumes; and, it was suggested that students engaged in SmallSat programs are successful in starting their own companies, or obtaining employment in established firms.

Outreach and engagement: It was suggested that the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) should have a strengthened role in education and public outreach, and that efforts should be enhanced to get kids more interested in space. In consideration of proposed objective to ‘inspire the next generation', it was highlighted that the CSA does not have an outreach program and that this presents a challenge. The Government needs to focus its efforts to build a strong Canadian brand . The space sector also needs to do a better job of showcasing Canada's achievements in space.

Bold vision: Canada needs a bold vision (like NASA's Journey to Mars) to get people interested in space. If you ask kids what their vision for the space sector is, they will not say that it is to grow the space sector, but they might say that it is to send the first Canadian to Mars. Through the International Space Station partnership, Canada has an opportunity to invest in new technologies for the next destination (Moon or Mars). 

Participants

  • Adrian McCardle–3v Geomatics Inc.
  • Adnan Khan–Ostara Nutrient Recovery Technologies
  • Adrian Bohane–Tre Altamira
  • Bernhard Rabus–Simon Fraser University, School of Engineering Science
  • Cecile Lacombe–British Columbia Government, Ministry of Technology, Innovation & Citizens Services
  • Derek Chen–Archiact VR
  • Donald F. Osborne–MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates
  • Doug Johnstone–University of Victoria, Department of Physics and Astronomy
  • Elena Ismail–Archiact VR
  • Eric Hine–Archiact VR
  • George Tyc–UrtheCast
  • Ian McEachern –Orbital Research Ltd.
  • Ilaria Caiazzo–University of British Columbia, Department of Physics and Astronomy
  • Javed Haque–British Columbia Government, Ministry of International Trade
  • Jaymie Matthews–University of British Columbia, Department of Physics and Astronomy
  • Jeremy Heyl–University of British Columbia, Department of Physics and Astronomy
  • John Hutchings–University of Victoria, Department of Physics and Astronomy
  • Larry Reeves–Canadian Satellite Design Challenge Management Society
  • Matt Killick–International Space University Alumni
  • Mike Safyan–Planet Labs
  • Norman Hannaford–MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. (MDA)
  • Robert Grace–Mitacs Inc.
  • Taylor Briggs–Aerospace Industries Association of Canada
  • Warren Wall–D-Wave System Inc.
  • Ye Zhou–Dynamic Structures
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