Return from Public Space Investments: An initial analysis of evidence – November 2015

Practice area: Downstream Terrestrial Applications | Exploration and Infrastructure | Space
Client: UK Space Agency
Published: 12 November, 2015
Keywords: impact assessment qualitative analysis quantitative analysis stakeholder surveys and consultations

To support the ongoing development of an evidence-based framework for evaluation and appraisal of their funding and activities, the UK Space Agency commissioned London Economics to conduct an assessment of the evidence on the returns to public investments in the space sector. This report presents the findings of this exercise.

Note: Some confidential information obtained from studies provided under a Non-Disclosure Agreement has been redacted from this published report.

The objective of the study was to provide an initial analysis of ‘space-specific evidence on the returns from public space investments’, including quantitative estimates for Rates of Return (i.e. the return per £1 of public investment), split into the direct commercial benefits stemming from investment and wider ‘spillover’ benefits to society. Looking at different types of space investments, the study also considered evidence on: the amount of private investment typically leveraged by public investment, the length of time before benefits are realised (lag), the duration of benefits, the extent to which the outcome would have occurred even without the intervention (deadweight), displacement, wider societal impacts and unintended consequences.

The study found strong evidence of high returns to public space investments, highlighting the substantial long-term benefits generated through technology transfer, spinoffs and innovation of existing technology.

Building off the existing generic science and innovation appraisal evidence, the project team undertook:

  • A review of UK, European and international (including US) literature on the return to public investment in space (57 studies were identified as relevant and reviewed in-depth, from an initial pool of over 500);
  • A range of 8 Case Studies, selected to cover the breadth of UK space activities, to provide worked examples of quantified and monetised returns to key UK public investments; and
  • A programme of 17 consultations to draw on the inherent knowledge and experience within the Agency and other organisations to provide experienced opinion and insight into the ‘softer’ elements of the impact parameters.

The assembled evidence was synthesised and assessed for strength in order to inform decisions on appropriate parameters to use when modelling the potential impact of space investments. While the UK Space Agency uses programme-specific information as much as possible, the inherent uncertainty around (for example) the value of new scientific data means that by adopting more tailored space-specific assumptions based on ‘average’ returns, the UK Space Agency can improve the robustness of assessments of the impact of its interventions.

The report finishes with recommendations for future research to improve our understanding of the identified issues associated with returns from public space investments.