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- August 19th, 2020 Posted in News
  • Government backs new pioneering space projects that will apply UK expertise to tackling development problems across the globe
  • UK academics will work on space solutions for world issues from tackling human trafficking and forced labour groups to eliminating malaria by detecting breeding locations of mosquitoes
  • Funding forms part of the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) which supports cutting-edge research to meet challenges faced by developing countries

Today, on World Humanitarian Day, the UK Space Agency has announced £3.4 million of new funding for 10 cutting-edge projects that back UK academics using space to tackle global development problems – from the spread of malaria to human trafficking and forced labour.

In 2018, there were an estimated 228 million cases and 405,000 deaths from malaria alone. Using satellite, air-borne and ground-based sensing technology, academics at The Open University will detect where mosquitoes are most likely to breed and support efforts to tackle this deadly disease at its source. Once identified, ‘sprayer drones’ will release biocontrol agents that will kill mosquito larvae without affecting other species as part of the DETECT project.

Uganda is a source and destination country for men, women, and children trafficked for the purposes of forced labor and sexual exploitation. A project backed by the cash injection announced today will see UK academics at the University of Nottingham apply earth observation technology from satellites to Uganda’s anti-human trafficking and forced labour efforts.

These projects will develop solutions to global challenges that will open up new opportunities for UK space expertise to help countries overseas to deal with myriad problems. Among the others being backed are space-based solutions that will help protect wildlife habitats in Kenya and another that will improve resilience to flooding in Bangladesh, which is suffering the most prolonged monsoon rains in decades.

Science Minister Amanda Solloway said: “From flooding and climate change, around the world people continue to be affected by crises that are having a profound impact on their countries’ economies and their lives. These 10 new projects have the potential to provide solutions to the world’s biggest development problems by using the latest and most high-tech space technologies such as satellites, and help improve millions of people’s lives in developing countries.”

The £3.4m funding comes from the UK Space Agency’s International Partnership Programme (IPP) which is designed to use UK space expertise in satellite technology and data services to deliver ground-breaking solutions to real-world problems across the globe. Projects aim to help developing countries while building effective partnerships that can lead to growth opportunities for the UK space sector.

This announcement comes as a new report is published, evaluating the impact of existing IPP projects.

The report reveals that since launching IPP in 2016, satellite training has been delivered to over 300 health workers across three states of Nigeria, saving an estimated 30 lives; and a marine pollution application has prevented two oil spills from reaching the coastline, saving an estimated £3 million in clean-up costs and significantly reducing the impact on the environment and its wildlife.

The report also shows that space-based solutions continue to be 12 times more cost-effective at delivering sustainable forestry, seven times more economical in supporting agriculture, and twice as resourceful for ensuring disaster resilience, than ground-based alternatives.

Liz Cox, IPP’s Head of International Relations at the UK Space Agency, said: “The compelling results of the previous projects cement the case for investment in space for sustainable development. IPP is not only demonstrating the value of satellite solutions and improving the lives of people on the ground in developing countries but also facilitating effective alliances between the United Kingdom and international organisations. It’s a ‘win-win’ and an exciting moment in the Programme.”

IPP, a £30 million a year programme, has already grant-funded 33 projects in 44 countries across Africa, Asia-Pacific and Latin America and built partnerships between 120 space-enabled data organisations and 147 international partners in developing countries. These projects are designed to meet UN Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) such as support for precision agriculture, early warning systems for disaster prediction, maritime safety, and disease forecasting.

The Programme has so far generated £279 million in Gross Value Added for the UK economy and supports 3,300 jobs globally. The UK economy gains more than £2.50 for every £1 invested in IPP projects.

The UK space sector is an economic success story, growing by over 60% since 2010. The sector already supports £300 billion of UK economic activity through the use of satellite services, and the government has established a new National Space Council to consider how space policy can enhance the country’s prosperity and place in the world, as well as our security interests.