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One of the more ambitious suggestions for helping solve our energy crisis and getting to Net Zero is SBSP or Space Based Solar Power. It involves building a huge solar panel in space to collect the sun’s power and beaming it back to earth using radio waves, then collected in an even larger rectenna “net” below.
The tech would provide energy, day and night, throughout the year, unaffected by weather, and feed 2 gigawatts of power into the grid, the equivalent of a nuclear power station.
The idea was discussed in a session at the FT’s Investing in Space conference this week. An independent study for the UK government has estimated the cost would be a reasonable £16bn, but it would take until 2040 to get it properly up and running, as technologies were developed for the modular construction of the panels in space by robots.
“Although the investment is not that great, the timescale for getting a return on that investment is rather long,” Professor Sir Martin Sweeting of Surrey University told the conference. “So the public sector could get it off the ground with a demonstration, and then that will give the private sector the confidence to take a larger role.”
The long timescales for space development and the ability of companies and their technologies to scale up were recurring themes of the conference. Mark Boggett, chief executive of Seraphim, a UK-based space investment firm, said Britain was in a good position to do so — only behind the US and China in terms of the number of space start-ups and having venture capital investments that amount to a third of the entire European market.
George Freeman, UK science minister, said Britain had the post-Brexit advantages of freedom to procure and regulate without the strictures of EU membership. Set against that is its exclusion from the EU’s Copernicus earth observation programme, although it can continue to play an important role in the European Space Agency.
Being at loggerheads with Europe over changes to the Northern Ireland protocol has not helped to resolve differences. While the political will is there to develop space tech, international co-operation is still lacking.
The Internet of (Five) Things
1. Japan taps pension fund for start-ups
While the UK tries to support its emerging space sector, Japan is planning to tap the $1.5tn might of the world’s biggest pension fund to build a desperately needed domestic start-up culture. Unveiling the “grand design” of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s “new capitalism” agenda, the cabinet has announced a push for the huge Government Pension Investment Fund to increase funding for start-ups.
2. The Netherlands says don’t fund old chip tech
In February, the European Commission put forward the so-called Chips Act, a €43bn investment plan that would use state aid to promote research and production of higher-technology chips. But the Netherlands has warned the EU should not put taxpayers’ money behind old technology. “It would be a waste of our talents and money if we tried to have a company in every country making yesterday’s chips,” said EU Dutch ambassador Michael Stibbe.
3. UK regulator targets Apple and Alphabet
The UK competition regulator is planning an investigation into Apple and Google’s market power in phone browsers and cloud gaming following a year-long study that found the two companies had a “stranglehold” on the market. The Competition and Markets Authority is consulting on launching a market investigation that would give it sweeping powers to tackle Google and Apple’s dominance in mobile phone systems.
4. Tech continues to hire
The end of the tech boom has sparked a flurry of job cuts as companies move swiftly to tighten their belts. Recruitment at Meta and Uber has slowed, job offers from Twitter and Coinbase have been rescinded and deep lay-offs have swept parts of the sector. Yet job postings for software developers in the US are up 120 per cent compared to an early 2020 pre-coronavirus pandemic baseline, reports Dave Lee.
5. Disney meets its cricket match
After five seasons with Disney, the Indian Premier League media rights from 2023 to 2027 are up for grabs in an auction starting on Sunday. Disney’s Star is expected to face intense competition from YouTube, Sony Pictures, Amazon and Viacom18, among others. Oh, and it has just sacked its top television executive.
Tech tools — Ikea record player
You won’t need an Allen key to put together Ikea’s new turntable, but you may need to order other elements of its music-oriented furniture collection, being released in collaboration with the band Swedish House Mafia.
OBEGRÄNSAD, which means “unlimited” in Swedish, is limited to an armchair, record player and desk for music production initially, but will extend to more than 20 products this autumn. The turntable, Ikea’s first since 1973, has a minimalist style and works with its ENEBY wireless speaker.
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