The COVID-19 global pandemic has brought into sharp relief the importance of high growth industries in helping rebuild the national economy, stimulating creation of new jobs and supporting business development. Space and spatial are critical sunrise industries in the digital world that offer great potential for Australia.
From a nascent ecosystem just three years ago Australia now has over 60 space start-ups. In order to grow into a large and sustainable ecosystem four key questions will need to be answered: How can we grow the funnel of the start-ups (per million people) in Australia? How can we increase the start-up success rate? How can we maximise the economic value-add to Australia? What impediments do we need to identify and address?
Consideration should be given to development of a formal national plan of action for space and spatial start-ups.
Whilst Australia has hundreds of SMEs in both the space and spatial industries, very few have grown to become billion-dollar multi-nationals. It is important that we understand the barriers to this growth and consider appropriate corporate incentives without resorting to inefficient subsidies. How might Australia respond to this challenge?
Governments, and particularly Defence Departments, are playing a key role around the world in fostering vibrant and large national space and spatial sectors. A coordinated national approach for defence and the civilian sectors would see investments made in companies as part of a strategic design that seeks to optimise an enduring space and spatial ecosystem with a vibrant private sector at its core.
Governments across Australia are increasingly recognising the value of a whole-of-government, whole-of- jurisdictional, enterprise-wide approach to procurement. Given the need to get this right across all of Australia’s tiers of government and across the defence and civilian divide, advice is sought on how best to develop a national approach to procurement of space and spatial services and capabilities that operates in the national interest.
Australia possesses many significant spatial data stores within government agencies and research organisations (eg GA’s DEA, the National Computational Infrastructure, jurisdictional agency systems, and NCRIS facilities to name a few) which have been created fit for a specific purpose. These have been or are in the process of being migrated to cloud environments, mostly owned and operated by multi-national private sector providers, some of which are located offshore. It is timely to examine the risks to these national spatial data stores, their infrastructure, systems and analytics, including the physical location of the systems on-shore and off-shore. Of the potential
to create and manage datastores on-board in space, which elements are considered high priority? How big an impediment to growth is the cost of data?
Consideration could be given to redefining and expanding the existing list of Foundation Spatial Data Framework (FSDF) themes and the systems that support their creation and use. These data need to be optimized for the three and four dimensional needs of a future sensor and information world powered by artificial intelligence. Another key task could be to map the needs of sectors and organisations that service Australia’s critical infrastructure and systems of national significance (as defined by the Department of Home Affairs) against what the FSDF can provide in its current and in future forms.
Spatial digital twins are an advanced spatially accurate digital representation of the real world and are emerging as a powerful tool to help people improve their understanding of our physical environment and make better-informed decisions. The use of digital twins should lead to improved outcomes and benefits, build predictive capability, and offer just-in-time analytics and products. Digital twins vastly improve the value of data through aggregation and shared access, leading to better decision making. Spatial digital twins are an essential component of the overall digital transformation agenda across government and industry and are advancing rapidly. It is essential that Australia collaborate with the local and global initiatives to develop the use of this technology. These organisations include Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC), International Standards Organisation (ISO), the US based Digital Twin Consortium and The Smart Cities Council. The Australia and New Zealand chapter of The Smart Cities Council is stewarding the development of a Digital Twin Strategy for Australia and New Zealand. Their goal is to create the conditions for a thriving digital twin marketplace in the region. OGC is working closely with ISO on standards development with active working groups. The Digital Twin Consortium even though still in its formational stage, has, given its membership, the potential to have a powerful influence on the way forward.
To capitalise on the rapidly growing demands for Position, Navigation and Timing (PNT) systems which are accessible, accurate and available for all Australian sectors, a major challenge will be developing an indigenous capability that provides assured access to PNT across the nation by improving its resilience, robustness, precision and trustworthiness over the long-term. Australia is ready to update its current GNSS Strategic Plan for Promoting Enhanced PNT Capabilities. The update could consider setting out strategic and industry-aligned incentive mechanisms to facilitate development of high-tech GNSS-related products, services and workforce by local companies and organisations, and making these new PNT capabilities available across the nation. In Australia, leadership of this strategy development will require disciplined coordination across government, Defence, industry and education.