Surrey Blog

International Collaboration: Developing Partnerships to Achieve Common Goals

We enjoyed the chance to meet with our industry partners and colleagues at the 30th Space Symposium, May 19–22, 2014, in Colorado Springs.
And despite the show being held a month later than the usual April slot, there was plenty of “Colorado spring weather”  to act as a conversational icebreaker:

Damaging hail the size of golf balls pummeled Colorado Springs, May 21. Photo credit: Liz Jewell/KRDO
The annual Space Foundation event is taking on an increasingly international flavor, with a stronger commercial and overseas presence in recent years, and this is something that the organizers are actively promoting with the removal of “National” from the conference’s name.

So our Surrey US CEO John Paffett, PhD, was delighted to be invited to participate in the panel session “International Collaboration: The industry Looks Globally.” With 41 satellites launched to date and 15 currently in manufacture, and with customers from over 30 countries, Surrey has been supporting a global market from the outset.

Leroy Chaio, PhD, former NASA astronaut and International Space Station (ISS) commander, moderated the session. With his personal experiences of the international partnering to build and operate the ISS, which transcended periods of significant political differences and geographic conflicts, Chaio is a strong proponent for using the collaborative ISS framework as a starting point for future cooperation.

The lineup of distinguished panelists with a broad range of perspectives all agreed that the topic of international collaboration was a timely subject to discuss against the backdrop of several geopolitical events at home and overseas: John Paffett, PhD, chief executive officer of Surrey Satellite Technology US, James Beletic, PhD, president of Teledyne Imaging Sensors,  Heather Bulk, president and chief executive officer of Special Aerospace Services, Wade Larson, president and chief operating officer of UrtheCast, and Mark Sirangelo, PhD, corporate vice president of Sierra Nevada Corporation Space Systems.

The panelists discuss international collaboration on the Main Stage in the International Center
Moderator Chaio asked the the panelists about their views on a wide range of issues associated with the challenges of and opportunities for working on a global scale.

From Surrey’s perspective, one of the biggest challenges to doing international business is how we react to change—recent political events in Ukraine, which until recently was a benign environment, was not anticipated even a few months ago. With sanctions resulting in satellites being demanifested from Russian launchers and the procurement of Russian rocket components being called into question, the ability to be able to adapt to the changing environment is critical. Ensuring the safety and wellbeing of staff who may have to work in politically charged or dangerous environments is critical.

Legal and export concerns also require sensitivity; even when the ITAR regulations change later this year, there will still be administration and compliance issues to manage. There were a variety of responses when the panel was asked about appropriate countries for jurisdiction for arbitration; however, Surrey advocates a simple approach: the best thing to do is to avoid arbitration in the first place, by being open with partners and customers, managing risks from the outset, and honoring commitments. Adopting a partner mindset, with the objective of a fair deal for all stakeholders, rather than a traditional customer–supplier arrangement, is critical for building trust, successful outcomes, and lasting relationships, especially when bridging language and cultural differences.

There are some very notable examples (including the ISS) of different nations putting their ongoing geopolitical differences to one side to work together to achieve common goals. The panelists all agreed with Paffett’s statement, “Global issues are everyone’s problems to fix and tackle.” Paffett commented that orbital debris and interplanetary endeavors are well-suited to international collaboration.

Finding common ground and pooling the fantastic wealth of worldwide capabilities to build international “dream teams” can help to deliver sustainable benefits to our global community.


23 May 20140 Comments1 Comment

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