Space Industry Virtual Summit 2022; Excerpts

The 2022 Space Industry Virtual Summit (SIVS) was hosted by ZASPACE in collaboration with the Brazilian Space Cluster and the Embassy of Brazil in Pretoria. The virtual event included keynote addresses by Mr Ntoshane Mohlamonyane, representing the CEO of the South African National Space Agency (SANSA), and Carlos Moura, President of the Brazilian Space Agency (AEB). 

The Summit began with Kamal Ramsingh, CEO of ZASPACE, thanking their sponsors, New Space Systems and CubeSpace. He noted that today was Africa day, discussing how the day came to be. Kamal subsequently gave an overview of the two-day programme and introduced the first speaker, Felipe Gastao Bandeira, from the Embassy of Brazil in Pretoria, South Africa. 

Felipe began by recognising the other available dignitaries and thanked the organisers for the event, the panellists, and the two aforementioned sponsors. He also expressed his gratitude to the individuals who registered for the B2B programme holding on May 27, 2022. Felipe Gastao Bandeira noted the strong bilateral relationship between Brazil and South Africa and that it is upon this partnership that they are seeking to develop both countries.  He pointed out that the summit aimed to foster collaboration and scale the north-south divide in space application development. He ended by wishing for great connections, interactions, and matchmaking, on behalf of the Brazillian government. 

The next speaker was Jeferson Cheriegat, General Director of PqTec. He expressed gratitude toward the previous speaker, the ambassador. He stated that space was the new frontier and noted how basic space applications could influence the quality of life on earth. Jeferson was succeeded by Thabang Mpye, Head of Information & Communication Technology, Technology and Innovation Agency (TIA). He shared a presentation on the TIA’s operations, stating how the agency differed from SANSA. They focus on IT and ICT innovations. He discussed the budgetary allocations of the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) in the space industry over the years. He referred to the MDASat constellation that was launched in January 2022.

The first keynote was presented by Mr Carlos Moura, President of the Brazillian Space Agency (AEB). He introduced the nation’s 2022-2031 space strategy entitled the National Space Activities Programme (PNAE). The strategy highlighted Brazil’s spatial objectives, including the Alcantara Spaceport. He also discussed the test launch of its space vehicles and the launch of its Amazonia-1 satellite. The President also noted the recently launched NanoSats, the NanoSats in progress, and their recent joining of the Artemis Accords. He concluded by wishing a very successful programme. 

The second keynote was given by Ntoshane Mohlamonyane, representing the interim CEO of SANSA, Ms Andiswa Mlisa, who was unavoidably absent. He is the Strategic Manager to the CEO of SANSA. Ntoshane expressed his gratitude to the other present dignitaries. He noted their belief that the initiative will make both agencies contribute to areas of strategic importance to both countries. Ntoshane also discussed the expectations from the collaborative partnerships that the matchmaking programme would facilitate. He concluded by appreciating the efforts of the organisers of the summit.

A company profiling session succeeded the keynotes with the following companies being profiled: Akear Group, CubeSpace, Avibras and Geoint. A panel discussion on “Key considerations in obtaining funding and scaling” subsequently held. Kamal moderated the panel in the absence of Davis Cook. The panellists include Envir Fraser, CSO, Convergence Partners, Deven Govender, CEO, Lion Pride Investment, Daniel Pirola, International Business Analyst at Apex, and Ana Arraoio’s, Coordinator for international cooperation, Embrapii. Kamal began by expressing the importance of funding and asked about the funding landscape for space companies. Deven noted that millions of USD are flowing into African countries via African startups and stated that it was easy to attract funding if you had a good product. He noted the funding hotspots, including finance, technology, etc. He also stated that his organisation generally offered funding to persons rather than startups. 

The second question was about space tech firms’ challenges in raising funding. Envir noted the existence of capital, which is often difficult to access. Ana explained that entrepreneurs with robust and solid projects looking to develop cutting edge technologies would be able to raise funding. She also noted that companies have to innovate, which differentiates successful startups from failures.

The next panel session, moderated by Luisa Rocha, focused on sectors with the greatest opportunity for partnerships & collaboration between Brazil and South Africa. The panellist includes David du Toit of Dragonfly Aerospace, Elcio Oliveira, business director at Innospace do Brazil and Mothibi Ramusi, director at ZASpace. 

Speaking on some of the milestones recorded while operating in South Africa, Mothibi noted that an environment could not develop without first assessing its capabilities. He further explained that the assessment of South Africa’s capabilities in space makes it possible for South Africa to partner with Brazil. In addition, Mothibi recounted that the partnership has helped both countries and translated into economic growth fueled by a rapidly developing space ecosystem.

While speaking on the same subject, David explained that the space industry is very niche and, as such, thrives on active collaborations as it is impossible for one country to go it alone. He also added that the complexities of the space industry make it essential for governments, students, researchers and other space actors to work together to ensure the continuity of the capacity building across both countries. 

Elcio explained that governments dominated the scene in the early days of space exploration. Still, the NewSpace age is showing a break from the norm, with commercial companies, innovators and startups developing products and services tailored to the specific challenges within different regions. 

While commenting on the research opportunities in universities, David opined that there is a need for both governments to provide space courses and job opportunities for these students to secure working positions after their studies. He also noted that there should be a link between institutions and companies through internships, allowing students to learn first-hand about companies to develop novel solutions. 

Mothibi also discussed the importance of the right policy and regulatory frameworks for developing a particular sector. He noted that developing the right policies would fast-track the industry’s growth. Furthermore, Elcio, while speaking on the importance of the proper regulatory framework, mentioned that the current relationship between universities, research institutions and space is suboptimal and requires improvement to enjoy more success in the industry.

The last panel discussion, moderated by Dr Val Munsami, was titled “Enabling start-up ecosystems”. The panellists include James Barrington-Brown, CEO of NewSpace Systems, Daniel Resemini, CEO of DeltaV and Prof Eduardo Bezerra, Universidade Federal de santa catarina.

Responding to the question about the difficulties startups face in the ecosystem, Daniel mentioned that it is often challenging for startups, especially those building cutting-edge technologies, to raise seed funding. He attributed this challenge to the scepticism from investors about backing a new line of products.

While giving his recommendation on how to improve the growth of the ecosystem, James discussed the triangle relationship between the government, the academia, and the companies. He explained that the regulatory body needs to provide the right environment and policy to support the ecosystem’s growth. In addition, he added that the government also needs to support the universities and research institutions with funding to ensure that they produce the right human capital required by the companies. Finally, James added that the government has many roles in determining the industry’s growth.

James also noted the importance of finding the right mentorship programme as a startup, as this would serve as an essential learning tool for the company. He added that the startups would be able to learn from the experiences of these mentors to ensure that they don’t make the same mistakes that they did.

Furthermore, Daniel advised that there is a little margin for error in the space business as a startup because, at that point, they are essentially bootstrapping. He then suggested that startups ensure that they carry out their due diligence to ensure that they don’t make mistakes that could run them out of business. He also mentioned that startups should be patient in their first few months of operations as this period is always difficult. However, he also added that scaling through this period becomes easier with dedication and hard work.  Professor Eduardo also highlighted that as long as they bring robust ideas into the market, entrepreneurs need to be patient, understand and prepare that things might move as quickly as they want.

The Summit continued the following day with a B2B matchmaking session to foster collaboration among both regions. The attendees would consequently break off into one-on-one collaborations that have been pre-selected to foster strong relations across the South Atlantic.