I was invited to a corporate event on Wednesday, and along I went. Much like the many I attend during the course of a year, it was a bit of a venture fund, private equity, and UK-quoted mash-up of presentations, some pretty interesting, others a bit less so. One caught my eye, given by Mark Boggett, a managing partner at Seraphim Capital, an early stage investors in all sorts of tech start-ups.
He's now firmly focused on space, UK space enterprises in particular, and is trying to get his £83 million Seraphim Space Fund off the ground. If you're a a particularly minted retail investor and have a spare £100,000 minimum, the offer is open to you. This is a fascinating, if under the radar, part of the UK economy, we still largely think of Space in terms of NASA exploration, yet there is plenty of nuts and bolts stuff going on up there in orbit that makes our modern, digital lives what they are.
Try making a mobile phone call without an orbiting satellite, or getting a decent weather forecast.
The UK space industry is today worth an estimated £12 billion annually, and some forecasters see three-fold growth in the 15 years to 2030, just a bit longer than the time it took the New Horizons spacecraft to get from Earth to Pluto. Companies working in the UK space race include a trio of satellites businesses – Inmarsat (ISAT), Avanti Communications (AVN:AIM), Satellite Solutions Worldwide (SAT:AIM) – plus high-tech kit supplied by relative minnows, Essex-based E2V (E2V) and SciSys (SSY:AIM). There are plenty others.
Factors at play behind this sort of growth include a 90% cut in the cost of getting stuff into space in the first place, since 2000, one of the biggest cost barriers to any space project. According to Seraphim's Boggett, with whom I chatted briefly, this means that instead of costing around $10,000 per pound at the turn of the millennium, the price is now about $1,000. And the cost is expected to keep on falling, Boggett reckons that there are estimates predicting it could be as low as $100 per pound by 2025.
Such dynamics and the opening up of government control to the commercial sector are sprouting all sorts of opportunities. Elon Musk's SpaceX business now runs the launch controls of all Nasa missions. It used to be paid for by US tax payers. Oh, and Musk is also the man determined to live out his final years on Mars, a true explorer's spirit. So I hope Boggett and his Seraphim team gets the fund launched, it could help build a bit of momentum behind this fascinating part of the UK technology scene.