Professor Mazzucato, working with Dr Douglas Robinson, has recently worked with NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) to examine innovation policy related to the core missions of ESA and NASA. Their work explores the existing and evolving public-private partnerships in the US and the European context—and the implications of these for space related innovation, socio-economic impacts and growth.
Public activities in space are undergoing massive change, with more than 60 space faring nations and a growth in the number of private sector organizations interested in the space economy. As a consequence, the space sector is rapidly evolving in its 'ecosystem', and also being pressured to deliver socio-economic impacts at a reasonable cost.
In the US, while NASA has historically been able to drive market creation through its procurement, the past decade has seen a visible shift in US space policy away from NASA-directed developments in areas such as low-Earth orbit (LEO), towards an eco-system with a mix of private, not-for-profit, and public actors in LEO. This has fundamentally changed NASA ‘s role from one of orchestrating/directing, to a more ‘facilitating’ one driven by commercialization needs. This shift in approach has ramifications for the LEO ecosystem as well as NASA’s innovation policy, which has previously centred on clearly defined “mission-oriented” objectives, such as putting a man on the moon or creating the space shuttle fleet.
For the European Space Agency (ESA), creating a strong European space innovation system is a key mission in the current era of what some have called “new space” and which ESA's Director General Jan Woerner calls “Space 4.0”. ESA is exploring new ways of partnering with the increasing number of space faring nations, private space firms and other non-space entities for achieving socio-economic impacts including jobs and growth and societal grand challenges.
Both NASA and ESA have been interested in learning from Professor Mazzucato's work on market creating 'mission-oriented' policies, and how they differ from the more traditional market fixing framework steering public agencies world-wide. The work of Mazzucato and Robinson, with NASA and ESA, is exploring the different implications for public-private partnerships that these different policy frameworks imply.