Space University Sets Up Shop on Isle of Man


The Isle of Man, the tiny island in the Irish Sea that has been luring space and satellite companies to its shores with the promise of simple regulations and low taxes, has scored another victory:

The International Space University (ISU) has launched the International Institute of Space Commerce (IISC) as the world’s leading authority on space commerce. It is located at the International Business School (IBS) in the Isle of Man to capitalise on the island’s growing importance as a space industry jurisdiction….

By agreement with the ISU, the Isle of Man Government has made a five-year commitment to establish and host the IISC. Both ISU and the IBS are working together to strengthen links between the two institutions with the longer term goal of facilitating both academic and student exchanges to the benefit of both groups.

The decision to locate the IISC in the Isle of Man followed the first-ever board meeting for over a decade of ISU trustees outside their Strasbourg base, and which took place last September on the island. There the trustees saw at first hand the strong commitment and innovation of the Isle of Man space commerce industry. 

Isle of Man Minister for Space Alex Downie said, "Welcoming the IISC to the Isle of Man is part of our overall strategy to encourage space innovation."

 That strategy seems to be working quite well: Sea Launch Co., Inmarsat and Loral Skynet are among the companies that have set up subsidiaries on the Isle of Man. And it’s a strategy that the Isle of Man is aggressively pursuing; they recently knocked Bermuda out of the competition for a satellite slot worth an estimated $850 million a year in revenue serving the North American market:

The Island’s initial application for the slot, in 2002, was followed by one from Bermuda for a very similar frequency on the radio spectrum that would have caused interference.

The Island’s Communications Commission was granted £500,000 of legal expenses by Tynwald to allow it to argue against conflicting filings of this nature.

A subsequent representation to Ofcom resulted in a consultative document recommending that, in the result of conflicting filings, the party making the first application would have priority, meaning that legal action was not required.

So what’s the appeal of this small island in the Irish Sea? A very pro-business political environment certainly helps: 

 The Isle of Man has long had a reputation as a banking, insurance and shipping center, and the government now is working to become known as an optimal place for other kinds of businesses to set up shop, he said.

"The Isle of Man has been one of the fastest-growing economies in Europe over the last 10 years, and we have a desire to diversify the Manx economy into new and innovative technologies," Ramsey said in a telephone interview from the capital city of Douglas. Manx is the traditional reference to things related to the Isle of Man. "We have a small economy, and we only need a small slice of cake to boost it significantly."

In addition to the space industry, the Isle of Man also is trying to attract the film industry, Ramsey said.

And that it’s a nice place to live doesn’t hurt:

With a population of approximately 76,000, the Island enjoys one of the highest standards of living in Europe, with a higher GDP per capita than the UK. It is recognised by the IMF as a jurisdiction “of the highest standing” and is ‘AAA’ rated by both Standard and Poor’s and Moody’s.

In addition to its focus on space interests, as one of the world’s larger international finance centres, the Isle of Man boasts a thriving captive insurance market, one of the largest shipping fleets (with more tonnage on the Manx registry than the British fleet), a super yacht register, a specialised high tech manufacturing sector and a growing film industry.

Interestingly, as a Crown Dependency, the Island is fully self regulating via its Parliament, the Tynwald, which is the world’s oldest continuous legislature celebrating this year its 1,026th anniversary of democratic home rule. The Isle of Man is neither constitutionally, politically, nor legally part of the United Kingdom, unlike an Overseas Territory or colony of the UK. It benefits from membership of the WTO, the IMF, and the OECD and other relevant international bodies by dint of its relationship with the UK. The Island also has a special relationship with the EU under which it enjoys free movement of goods within the EU but is not subject to the vast majority of EU law (most notably rules governing tax harmonisation).

But how’s the weather? Maritime gray.