Australia's space industry crosses $5 billion revenue mark

17 February 2020 3 min. read
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Australia’s space economy has picked up considerable momentum in recent years, with the sector achieiving more than 5% of revenue growth in the past two years. This is according to Big Four accounting and advisory firm KPMG, in a new report which provides a comprehensive overview of the sector.

The firm describes how the space economy in Australia began in the 1950s and 1960s, when Australian experts were involved in tracking the Apollo spacecrafts. The country was also among the first to send out a sovereign satellite at the time, joining an elite club of leaders in the global space sector.

However, momentum slowed after this vibrant period, leaving the sector in limbo of sorts for a few decades. The authors attribute this stagnation to a lack of coordination between the federal government and international allies, leading the former to be reliant on the latter for research and intelligence.

Revenue and value added in Australia’s space industry

The country’s resurgence as a leader in the space market builds on a number of factors conducive to a budding space programme, including a thriving education sector, geographical advantages, and a well-funded research environment. In recent years, these factors have more than ever come to fruition.

The Australian Space Agency was established in July 2018, and has gone from strength to strength ever since. “Now, over 1,5 year into operations, funding has been allocated, a ten-year strategy defined and a series of commercial and inter-agency agreements signed, with the ambition of tripling the sector’s revenue and employee numbers in the coming decade,” states the KPMG report.

The Big Four accounting and advisory firm reports that part of this impetus is because of a vibrant startup ecosystem, which is involved in space research and development. Start-up companies make up 87% of the Australian Space Market, while global companies including Airbus, Boeing, Northrop Grumman and ViaSat also make significant contributions to the local space economy.

Employment and business numbers

Last year, Deloitte highlighted that the Queensland’s space sector, in particular, is experiencing a boom and is expected to reach an economic value added of $2.5 billion by 2035.

KPMG now reports that also Adelaide in South Australia is home to a thriving space startup ecosystem, through the Lot Fourteen development and a number of local space focused companies are emerging as globally recognised brands.

Indicative of the (international) attention that the region is receiving, global retail behemoth Amazon and Deloitte teamed up to organise a space technology challenge in Adelaide last year, hoping to encourage innovation in the space sector, as the country celebrated Space Week.

According to KPMG, Australia’s space economy reached revenues of more than $5 billion between 2018 and 2019, which is a significant increase from the $1.4 billion between 2009 and 2010. Meanwhile, it is estimated that industry value added in 2018-19 was around $3.4 billion, with this value added expected to continue to grow strongly – estimated at an average of 8.6 per cent per annum through to 2023.

Products and services breakdown

Similarly, business and employment numbers in the sector also continued to rise, reaching an estimated 14,000 employees and 770 businesses in 2018-19. This represents a solid 3.4 per cent per annum average growth in business numbers and a significant 10.9 per cent per annum average growth in employment in the sector over the past five years.

Looking ahead, there remain a number of challenges to overcome for further growth. One task is to facilitate better coordination among various stakeholders in the space sector, from market forces to researchers. Other include equipping the workforce with skills to work with space technology, continue the funding to government space programmes, collaborating with potential partners in the Asia-Pacific region, and applying advances in space technology to improve other sectors in the Australian economy.