The Evening Standard carried a headline yesterday of “Mayor in Â£12 million space mission” along with the obligatory picture of an Ariane launcher blasting off. I couldn’t understand why the London Development Agency thought it was appropriate to commit to a Â£12 million punt on a new generation of geostationary comms/global positioning satellites. Apparently two other DTI-funded regional development agencies, South Eastern and East of England, are also putting up Â£12 million each. I went off to all three website this afternoon to get some explanation of what they were doing – none.
Between the three of them these unaccountable quangos spent almost Â£800 million last year. They get most of this in grants from the DTI. Apparently this scheme is a bid being made by Inmarsat, which is essentially a commercial telecomms operator based in the UK, to the European Space Agency. To qualify you need Â£34 million of state funding. The DTI itself turned down Inmarsat but the development agencies think they should be playing in this space in place of our government. Sounds like choosing winners to me which is not the place of regional bureaucrats.
The FT has more detail but I have not been able to find out what the programme is called and what it hopes to achieve. Any insight anyone?