Space Advisory Board (SAB) Roundtable on Canada's Future in Space

Hosted by:  Marie Lucy Stojak, William MacDonald ‘Mac' Evans, and Michael Pley

Areas of focus

  1. Grow Canada's Space Sector;
  2. Innovate and Explore Space;
  3. Strengthen Long-Term International Partnerships;
  4. Inspire the Next Generation;
  5. Contribute to our Understanding of the Earth;
  6. Improve Quality of Life for Canadians; and,
  7. Ensure a Safe and Secure Nation.


The objective to grow Canada s space sector and to move the yard stick is a relevant objective. Canada has a proud history in space with world-class capabilities and science, but there is urgent call for action to re-invigorate the Canadian space sector, particularly amongst industry players, who are experiencing rapidly and dynamically changing markets. It was suggested that the state of the Canadian space sector should be examined more closely and that a range of interventions by both government and stakeholders should be taken to help to fuel growth and maintain competitiveness.  It was recognized that there is an opportunity for Canada to advance bold ideas which will help to maintain capabilities and creating new ones (e.g., in areas of robotics, biomedics, and telecommunications). 

Government policies and regulatory frameworks are pivotal to growth as are having the necessary investments, funding, programs and services for businesses and other stakeholders to implement and achieve enormous economic gains (UK and Luxembourg noted as model examples).

Government, the private sector, and other space-related stakeholders need to collaborate—to build networks, to strengthen supply chains, and to inform the public. In a world that is increasingly reliant on space and space infrastructure, Canadians and the general public need to be more aware of the importance of space in various aspects of their lives, including for economic well-being and national security.

Some areas of focus could be adjusted or expanded, such as: inspiring ‘current' generation as well as the ‘next-generation'; leveraging government investments to grow the space sector ( government procurement to innovate ); harnessing space technologies, infrastructure and services to participate in the digital world (e.g., space data as actionable data to addressing world s pressing challenges); and entrepreneurship in the space sector.

Key implementation considerations/challenges

State of the space sector: to ensure success in a competitive global economy, it is important to understand the sector's financial performance, technology trends and new services, and changing business models. Canada has niche capabilities in many areas (e.g., robotics, telecommunications, remote sensing) that need to be considered in the context of the changing nature of space, from both a commercial and government driven approach.

Outreach and awareness: Canada is known for its space innovations, such as the Canadarm, but few Canadians are aware of more recent achievements, such as in space science (e.g. Scisat's contribution to understanding  ozone issues), earth observation (e.g. Radarsat's role in resource management, national security) and applications. Government and industry must do a better job profiling its achievements, the great technologies they are developing, what they do and how they improve quality of life for Canadians.

Industrial space policy:  In an era of fast technological advances and dynamic business models, there is no one size fits all solution. There is a new business model emerging—often referred to as New Space—that is transformative and government policies and regulations need to adapt to this reality in order to support growth in the sector.  It may be important to ensure that the Government is equipped to find solutions and has more modern tools (public private partnerships, purchasing services as opposed to assets).  Noting that business operates on a 3-5 year plan, continuity and consistency over the longer term is important for informing investment decisions.

Talent: Continuity, inspiration, and compelling space activities are necessary to retaining capacity (e.g., for engineering and re-design of small components/systems for satellites; developing space applications; conducting data analytics and data scientists to make sense of big data).  Of concern is the continuing ‘brain drain' of space capability to the US and to Europe stemming from the lack of new space projects. A dedicated focused effort on attracting talent and investment is needed to complement government investment, such as contests, challenges and competitions (e.g. GoogleX prize) that foster innovation and attract youth/talent to the sector. 

Fundamental research: There is a key role for government in advancing fundamental science from a public good perspective; many companies do not invest in this area, or only minimally. Reductions to government-sponsored basic research in recent years were highlighted as a concern.

Partnerships: Canada is viewed as a reliable international partner; re-affirming or affirming international engagement is important for continued long term success. In addition, while collaborating with traditional international partners (NASA, ESA) remains important, there may be greater opportunities with non-traditional and new space faring nations. Other partnership models such as consortiums and public private partnerships are core to innovation and entrepreneurship. The tools, mechanisms and regulatory frameworks need to be in place to support networks, new ideas and innovation.

Procurement: Building on views expressed in the Emerson Report (Review of Aerospace Programs and Policies, Space Volume), procurement remains a key tool for driving innovation and entrepreneurship. The Build in Canada Innovation Program (Innovations Solutions Canada) is a modern tool that may have huge potential for the space sector, if it would allow the Government of Canada to buy data from innovators.

Eco-systems: Canada s space sector and technologies naturally fit in the Government's Innovation and Skills Agenda, including on super clusters. Government and stakeholders need to imagine what they can do together, to solve problems, and consider the supplier ecosystem.

Investment and Entrepreneurship:  Investors do not see an environment in Canada conducive to a positive return on investment; it is not always about more government investment but flexibility in programs and regulations. The UK catapult program was identified a model program to support entrepreneurs and start-ups.  Entrepreneurs need assistance in learning how to build the business in Canada. Regulatory frameworks must be flexible and responsive to keep pace with disruptive technologies. Space technologies and applications have significant application for other sectors (mining, oil and gas, forestry) and they are often under-used/deployed.

Top Ideas / Outcomes

Balanced space program: There is the need for a balanced space program and for a range of activities—flagship programs (e.g. International Space Station), smaller mission activities, science, technology development and capability demonstration—necessary to provide critical flight heritage while sustaining and maintain talent/capabilities in the Canadian space sector. Dedicated funding to support new space activities help to grow the sector—many space firms have been created, or established through government programs, which provide important seed money.  

Update legislation and regulation: Canada should review its legislative and regulatory frameworks (e.g., remote sensing, space mining) to determine if/how they support innovation business models similar to efforts in other jurisdictions. Disruptive technologies are impacting the pace of change in the sector and policies/regulations need to keep up to support experimentation. For example, in space mining, other countries are actively establishing legislative frameworks; Canada should engage in these types of discussions sooner rather than later.

Whole of government approach:  A coordinated approach for space, including civil and defence space programs, will help to leverage space for the benefit of Canadians. There is an opportunity to align industrial growth objectives within a space strategy (e.g., recognition from a defence perspective of industrial growth as a driver for decision-making).  

Disruptive technologies: Companies and government alike need to collaborate on areas for growth, innovation and disruptive technology development. Government has the opportunity to support activities through direct support, and/or through regulations/legislation.   

Global challenges: There is a high level of interest from Canadians and youth, to use space-related data to solve some of the world s global challenges (e.g., agricultural issues, water problems, space debris, urban planning). Investments in space applications and technologies can create new businesses, technology capabilities and digital skills (e.g., engineering, data analytics and big data).


  • Al Conrad–IMP Aerospace
  • Arthur Ruff–ISRU Tech Inc.  
  • Sarah Goldfeder–Earnscliffe Strategy Group
  • Chris Kitzan–Canada Aviation and Space Museum
  • Christopher Dodd–Airbus Defence & Space Canada, Inc.
  • Daniel Goldberg–Telesat
  • David McCabe–COM DEV Canada, Honeywell Aerospace
  • Eric Choi–Magellan Aerospace
  • Eva-Jane Lark–BMO Nesbitt Burns Midland Doherty Ltd.
  • Geoffrey Languedoc–Canadian Aeronautics and Space Institute
  • Iain Christie–Aerospace Industries Association of Canada
  • Ian Scott–Telesat
  • Jason Palidwar–Iridian Spectral Technologies
  • Jim Quick–Aerospace Industries Association of Canada
  • John Detombe–ADGA Group
  • Larisa Beach–Neptec Design Group Ltd.
  • Leslie Swartman–MDA
  • Lori M. Wickert–Newmont Mining Corporation
  • Matt Ivis–MDA
  • Rick Pitre–Terizons Consulting Inc.
  • Robert A. “Bob” Ryerson–Kim Geomatics Corporation
  • Ryan Alan Anderson–QShift
  • Stewart Bain–NorStar Space Data