Queensland’s space industry could employ 6,000 people and generate more than $1 billion if it makes changes to rapidly scale up its operations to meet growing demand, a new report published by Deloitte Access Economics has found.

The study titled ‘Sky is not the limit: Building Queensland’s space economy’ takes an in-depth look at the capabilities and vast potential that the northeastern region possesses. While it said it could generate as much as $1.7 billion within 20 years, Deloitte also warned that Australia is not yet capable of supporting the industry properly.

In response to the study, State Development Minister Cameron Dick said at the weekend that Queensland’s space industry has a unique opportunity to build on the foundation of research and tech it already has in place. He claimed universities and defense industry businesses in the state can be at the forefront of next-generation infrastructure.

‘Queensland’s space industry employs more than 2,000 full-time positions and generates 543.9 million U.S. dollars per year through core industry services like satellite communication,’ Dick said on Sunday. ‘With our advanced manufacturing supply chain and world-leading research programs, it makes sense for Queensland to also be the home of Australia’s space manufacturing industry.’

The report said Queensland has the chance to develop its already competitive space industry and put forward points that suggest it could soon become a central pillar of the state’s economy. Three separate estimates have found that significant investment could enable the industry to support between 4,000 and 6,000 people in a range of jobs including R&D, manufacturing and operating systems.

New job opportunities and vastly increased revenue would require changes to ‘upstream’ the defense industries in Queensland. There are already plans to expand the RAAF Base Amberley to accommodate 7,000 workers by the end of the decade, while a $5 billion contract awarded last year will see a new Centre of Excellence at Redbank being built in the region.

However, the report said it was also important for a ‘supply chain of space industry components’ to be put in place, which could see the arrival of a space ‘ground station’ capable of supporting cutting edge tech including sophisticated remote sensing and analyzing space data.

Deloitte Access Economics is confident that Queensland can take advantage of new opportunities and posited a ‘conservative’ medium-term estimate that the space industry could add $1.3 billion to the economy and employ 5,000 more workers on a full-time basis by the end of the 2030s.

To achieve that goal, Queensland authorities must attempt to develop a ‘critical mass’ of space industries. It said the small-scale nature of the current industry means it is unable to support the upstream and downstream flow inherent to local supply chains. The report said these are needed as Queensland must operate as a ‘coordinated local market.’

Deloitte added: ‘For the Queensland space economy to rapidly scale up to meet global demand, greater depth and key anchor points are required in the supply chain. Queensland needs to support growth in existing capabilities, build out capacity in adjacent areas to current strengths, improve connections within the existing supply chain, leverage untapped local demand from other industries – for example agriculture – and continue to invest in the early stages of research and development.’

Dick said the Palaszczuk government will now take the time to look at ways to provide the assistance that local enterprises and universities need to capitalize on Queensland’s potential and to coordinate the process so it is capable of expanding at the necessary rate in the coming years.