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As UAE’s space sector grows in stature, SpaceTech fund and accelerator are natural next steps

SpaceTech companies are among the 16 startups chosen as part of the 2021 cohort of Hub71, Abu Dhabi’s global tech ecosystem

Alex Cresniov, Director of Deep Knowledge Analytics.


The UAE has been making concerted efforts to secure a front-row seat in the global Space Race. The nation has enhanced its strategic assets and position within the space sector, including space exploration, satellite communications, space technologies and their secondary applications here on Earth—from SpaceTechs supporting the SDGs and enabling connectivity, to those promoting responsible business and enhancing global security.


The UAE realises the strategic value of achieving a leadership position in remote sensing through satellites, which tackle many challenges and enable climate monitoring, natural resource mapping, land-use planning, among others.


A SpaceTech fund and accelerator are now seen as natural next steps with the potential to take innovation to new heights and empower the sector to rise above its challenges.


A look at some of the nation’s largest and most innovative initiatives provides a better understanding of the UAE’s current competitive standing and strategic goals in space and SpaceTech.

  • The UAE Space Law aims to create an effective regulatory environment for activities conducted within the UAE’s National Space Policy, stimulating new investments, encouraging private-sector participation and implementing environmental measures for space activities

  • The UAE National Space Programme is preparing Emirati cadres specialising in aerospace sciences to execute the country’s Space Programme and conduct activities closer to home, including overseeing the launch of the Arab Space Discovery Programme, a program designed to transfer knowledge and expertise in space sciences

  • The UAE Astronaut Programme is focusing on training and preparing UAE’s next astronauts

  • Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre has launched satellites DubaiSat 1, DubaiSat 2, and KhalifaSat—the UAE’s most technologically advanced remote-sensing observation satellite

  • Mars Mission continues to explore the Martian surface, making the UAE the first Arab and Islamic country to do so

  • Emirates Lunar Mission aims to study various aspects of the lunar surface

  • Yahsat is the UAE’s first nationally owned satellite operator and one of the top 10 satellite operators in the world by revenue. It has recently secured commitments for $1.2 billion to finance the Middle East’s first hybrid satellite communications system

Al Yah Satellite Communications Company (Yahsat), the Abu Dhabi-based global satellite operator wholly-owned by Mubadala.


Supplementing government efforts, the private sector is at the heart of the UAE’s space strategy. Corporate contribution to SpaceTech can help boost the country’s space economy. By tapping into the private sector to fund and support space exploration and technologies, the UAE is adopting the US space approach.


This approach is rapidly coming to fruition. SpaceTech companies are among the 16 startups chosen as part of the 2021 cohort of Hub71, Abu Dhabi’s global tech ecosystem. Last year, the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) also launched Space Ventures, an initiative to support and create an ecosystem of local start-ups to serve the UAE’s space ambitions. To increase domestic and foreign investment in the UAE space sector, the UAE Space Agency has also adopted a national plan for the promotion of space investment.


These efforts signal strong progression in the UAE’s space journey, and encourage private-sector participation toward achieving the nation’s large-scale space goals.

Fully embracing space exploration and establishing the UAE’s position as a SpaceTech leader requires more time, innovation and investment. Therefore, a focus on building and promoting a dedicated SpaceTech VC fund and accelerator will be fundamental to attract companies capable of supporting the UAE’s ambitions, both in space and on Earth.

A SpaceTech fund and accelerator can help in designing technologies that have the potential to remove barriers to understanding space, driving down costs and attracting new capital. The goal is to capitalise on advanced DeepTech smart technologies associated with SpaceTech, for both core industry and space-related industries such as AgriTech, FoodTech, Robotics and Transportation.


A SpaceTech fund and accelerator can also identify emerging SpaceTech investment opportunities that have the potential to drive global growth, address the VC funding gap in space commercialisation, develop dedicated teams with hands-on capabilities to find the best opportunities for investors, and build a SpaceTech community in the UAE.

A fund focused on UAE investors, with engagements from US, European and Asian investors, can also help attract SpaceTech digitally native startups that can provide technologies and algorithms with high quality data sets.



 

Alex Cresniov



The writer is Director at Deep Knowledge Analytics.


 


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