Britain’s laws are harming businesses in space

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Hi-tech companies who want to operate in space are being harmed by Britain’s laws and the government’s failure to offer support for these businesses.

According to new research, the failure to build support for businesses within current legislation makes it difficult for companies to remain in the UK, influencing them to move abroad. The study says that UK laws are too risk-averse to allow companies to work easily in a unique and multi-national industry, especially with extraplanetary commercial activities being proposed.

The new report, by academics at the University of Exeter Law School, urges the UK government to review laws so they can account the realities of a modern space industry. The study says that UK legislation has an outdated view of space activity and must be reformed.

The report also suggests that the UK government should start exploratory studies to finds ways of legally protecting the interests of British companies operating in space.

Dr Naomi Hawkins, from the University of Exeter Law School, who led the research, said: “Updating Britain’s laws regarding space could help the space industry prosper. If this work doesn’t take place we may sleepwalk into a situation where our legislation very quickly becomes completely unsuitable.

“The space industry is very competitive, but it also offers opportunities for the UK’s technology companies. Britain could be at the forefront of cutting edge space technology research. It is important that the UK gets the balance right between the protection of the public interest and encouraging innovation in this important field.”

The UK’s Outer Space Act 1986 and the Space Industry Act 2018 regulate commercial space activities carried out in the UK or by UK nationals. Designed to protect national and public interest, theses acts disregard the commercial interests of space travel and innovations. The acts do not provide clarity of whether intellectual property rights apply to inventions or creations in outer space.

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