Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Report From "Our Growing Canadian Commercial Space Sector"

Ask Arny Sokoloff, the President of the Canadian Space Commerce Association (CSCA) and he'll likely tell you in no uncertain terms that the CSCA is well positioned "at the intersection of space and business" with resources focused on legal, regulatory, financial and entrepreneurial issues of special concern to Canadian space focused firms.

This expertise was on display at the MaRS Development District in Toronto, Ontario at the 2010 CSCA conference and annual general meeting which wrapped up Tuesday, March 16th with presentations on a variety of topics including the need to embrace fixed pricing when bidding for Canadian, American or international contracts, making use of terrestrial markets as engines for ongoing growth, the uses and restrictions of intellectual property (IP) legislation when protecting stakeholders in space focused development projects and an overview of both the Canadian industrial and regional benefit (IRB) policy and scientific research experimental development (SH&ED) tax credits.

There was even some interesting back and forth discussion on how Canadian companies can benefit if the US fails to revoke the Strom Thurmond Defense Act. Suggestions were also made about creating a government-sponsored engineering firm with a mission to train young engineers and undertake public works projects.

Attendees and speakers included representatives from large firms like MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates (MDA), BMO Nesbitt Burns, law firm Blake, Cassels and Graydon LLP, smaller space focused companies such as Continuum Aerospace and Engineering Services Inc. (ESI), firms moving into space focused activities from other areas like Javelin Technologies and firms providing support services like SH&ED focused law firm StoneCracker Scientific and IRB experts WāVv Business Development.

Traditional media interest was also noted and I was interviewed on the conference for the final segment of the March 16th edition of the CBC Toronto radio program Here and Now.

As well, author David Pugliese in his March 22nd Ottawa Citizen article "$27M space program light on domestic benefits: critics" focused on inconsistencies in the application of the IRB credits in the Canadian Forces (CF) administered Joint Space Support Project.

The project, focused on developing remote sensing and space focused situational awareness capabilities for the CF, "seems designed to favour foreign companies over Canadian ones" according to Canadian Space Society (CSA) President Kevin Shortt who is quoted extensively for the article. Shortt (who also spoke on developing our future aerospace workforce at the March 16th CSCA conference) stated: of the problems with government programs like IRB is that federal politicians and government bureaucrats have little knowledge of the actual capabilities of the country's space industry.
CSCA President Sokoloff thinks that this type of advocacy is one of the areas where the CSCA can benefit members most. "We're certainly not the advocate for large, established branch plant companies in aerospace; especially not the “aero” segment of the aerospace market” states Sokoloff. “We focus on Canadian space companies, entrepreneurs and start-ups looking for the expertise needed to survive and grow in our present business environment”

Suggestions were also made to arrange for future presentations by experts on Industry Canada (IC), the Strategic Aerospace & Defence Initiative (SADI), the National Research Council (NRC) Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP) plus the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) Space Technology Development Program (STDP) and Earth Observation Applications Development Program (EOADP).

For those interested in learning more about the presentations, the next CSCA meeting is scheduled for Thursday, May 13th at 7:00 pm.

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