Sunday, July 19, 2009

Canadian Space Agency Provides "No Dedicated Programs" to Support Small Aerospace Firms

It's interesting that there seems to have been no comments relating to the publication by investment bank Near Earth LLC of its recent white paper on Small Aerospace Companies: Space Activities in North America and Europe, which categorizes small aerospace firms as "vibrant and important sources of industry innovation and value creation."

Small aerospace focused firms are also defined as being "recession resistant" with "high credit quality customers" plus "committed management and employees."

Unfortunately for Canadians, the report also states that, when compared to organizations like the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the European Space Agency (ESA) and others, the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) has "no dedicated programs for small business."

A listing of active programs include the following:

These programs are separate from others developed and administered at the federal or provincial/ state level such as the variety of US government programs (various small business set-asides, the Section 8(a) Business Development Program, SBIR / STTR grants and the multple HUBZONE programs) or the Canadian SR&ED programs, the IRB tax credits or the multiple National Research Council (NRC) and National Sciences and Engineering Research Counsel (NSERC) grants that can be taken advantage of by small aerospace firms but are not designed specifically for them.

But taken together, this listing of space activities and small business programs (available on page ten of the report) provides a useful list of avenues of improvement for the CSA to explore as it moves forward with its (evidently ongoing) update of Canadian Space Policy.

To its credit, the CSA is sited for its microsatellite missions (such as NEOSAT) and "opportunities for small science platforms" which can be contracted to small aerospace businesses to provide a revenue source.

The report makes it clear that small aerospace companies cannot be ignored and states that, "although the aerospace industry is dominated by a small group of large companies, there is a sizeable and diverse universe of small aerospace companies engaged in space activities. These smaller aerospace companies are engaged in all elements of the value chain and provide critical and innovative components, subsystems and mission services to large prime contractors as well as to end user operators."

Someone in the CSA should either respond to this report or use it as a template for improvements.

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