Florida looks to lure foreign aerospace business

Reuters News
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Posted: Apr 01, 2011 4:51 PM
Florida looks to lure foreign aerospace business

By Irene Klotz

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (Reuters) - Marrying British small satellite expertise with Florida's space launch industry should position both parties to capture a larger share of a global aerospace industry worth $250 billion a year, said UK trade delegates meeting in Florida this week.

Aerospace business and spin-off technologies have the potential to blossom to a $400 billion global enterprise over the next 30 years, with the United Kingdom jockeying to increase its current 6 percent share of the world market to 10 percent, which would add 100,000 new jobs, said Keith Mason, chief executive of the UK Space Agency.

"We've learned from experience that partnership pays off," Mason said.

"Our companies that are working with each other are growing at twice the rate of those that are not. By working together we can make the cake bigger and everybody gets a bigger slice."

Mason is part of a UK trade delegation visiting Colorado and Florida to find suitable partners to expand the country's aerospace business and related industries, particularly those that can spawn new applications of space technology, such as space-qualified lithium batteries and optical sensors.

The trade mission is part of an international outreach coordinated by Space Florida, a state-backed economic development agency that is working to diversify the NASA- and military-dominated aerospace industry clustered around the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Brevard County.

"Now that we're reaching the end of the shuttle program and the completion of the International Space Station, we're looking to position Florida to essentially be the ground node for support of low-Earth orbit and the space station," Space Florida President Frank DiBello said in an interview.

"That means offering capabilities to international companies and to sovereign nations that covet having a space program, or space activities and may not have all the wherewithal to do that," DiBello said.

"Countries like the UK, with a strong satellite capability and a strong research and science capability, they want to fly payloads. They can either fly as secondary on European launchers, or we can make Florida's assets available to them. That's what we're trying to open up. We're working to bring business to the U.S. and form clusters of industries that can help grow U.S. capability," he said.

In addition to marketing space launches, satellite processing and ground support services, Space Florida wants to expand the state's aerospace expertise into new fields, such as robotics, agriculture and food production, cyber security and communications, environmental monitoring, GPS applications, adventure tourism and clean energy.

Britain, among other countries, has companies that complement Florida's assets and can help achieve those goals, DiBello said.

"There is a lot of technology that is in the U.K., in Argentina, Brazi, countries you wouldn't think of because they're focused on a different set of ground rules. It's up to us to reach for it," DiBello said. "It's Match.com on the technology level," he added.

(Editing by Tom Brown)