Health care exec to lead UK Space Agency

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TAMPA, Fla. — The UK Space Agency has picked health care veteran Paul Bate to be its next CEO starting Sept. 6.

Bate is currently vice president of commercial at Babylon Health, responsible for sales around the world for the U.K.-based virtual health care services company.

Prior to Babylon he was on the board of the U.K.’s Care Quality Commission, which regulates health and social care services in England.

Bate, who has a Ph.D. in particle physics, was also the U.K. prime minister’s policy adviser for health and adult care between 2011 and 2013.

Paul Bate
Paul Bate, incoming UK Space Agency CEO. Credit: UK Space Agency

The British government said Babylon grew 40-fold to its current $4.2 billion valuation during the five years Bate has been at the company.

News of the UK Space Agency’s incoming CEO comes shortly after Babylon announced plans to merge with Alkuri Global Acquisition Corp., a special-purpose acquisition company (SPAC).

Like the SPAC mergers that have recently swept across the space industry, the deal gives Babylon a significant capital infusion as it catapults to the public market.

A SPAC merger that quantum technology encryption venture Arqit announced May 12 made it the first space company unicorn — a startup valued more than $1 billion — to emerge from the U.K.

U.K. Science Minister Amanda Solloway said June 9 she approved Bate’s appointment after a comprehensive open recruitment process.

“Paul has an impressive track record of working with private and public sector providers to deliver growth and value for money, and to use new digital technology in new, accessible and cost-effective ways,” Solloway said in a statement. 

“These are exactly the skills we need as we seek not just to grow our space sector, but to ensure that the benefits of our drive to cement the UK as a world-leading space nation reach all our communities.”

Bate will replace Graham Turnock, who announced plans in January to step down this year following the end of his four-year term.

Turnock, who also holds a Ph.D. in particle physics, helped the U.K. ramp up space industry investments in recent years, as the country aims to double its share of the global space economy to 10% by 2030.

The British government bought part of low Earth orbit satellite broadband constellation OneWeb out of bankruptcy last year. 

It also expects to finalize legislation by the end of 2021 for conducting space launches from U.K. soil.

“As we stand on the threshold of a new and exciting chapter in our history as a space-faring nation, Paul’s insights and experience promise to deliver more great things for the UK in space,” Turnock said in a statement.