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- July 23rd, 2020 Posted in News
  • New space programme to invest in pioneering UK space projects to tackle climate change and support 5G economy
  • Fund is first of its kind for UK and will help us compete more effectively with other space nations
  • £5 million of the funding set aside exclusively for international space projects, to strengthen the UK’s partnerships with space faring nations

A new National Space Innovation Programme launches today, with new funding for high-risk, high-reward projects that apply space technology, like Earth Observation and communications satellites, to tackling global issues from climate change to the 5G economy.

This is a first step towards helping the UK compete more effectively on the world stage as a space power with other countries which have dedicated national funding on top of their commitments to the European Space Agency (ESA).

Previously the UK has supported national space innovations on a case-by-case basis, including funding for UK spaceports and launch operators. The new programme will coordinate national funding and support the development of a comprehensive UK space strategy, as part of Government’s clear commitment to increasing the UK’s space ambitions.

The Programme is now inviting proposals to develop new technologies, products or services with the potential to grow the UK space sector, create high-skilled jobs and tackle global issues. The first £10million of this funding will support projects focusing on either:

  • Earth observation technologies – half of the measurements needed to monitor climate change rely on satellites, so the development of more advanced instruments and data analysis techniques will support climate science and inform Government and business strategies to reduce emissions or protect local areas from impacts such as flooding, by identifying changes to the environment
  • Communications projects – new technologies such as autonomous vehicles, AI and robotics rely on fast, reliable connectivity, and need to operate in remote areas that may be difficult or expensive to reach using ground-based signals or fibre. Satellite communications can fill in the gaps, and new projects could be funded to enhance how space and ground-based systems complement one another to ensure 100% coverage, support new technologies and increase resilience.

Dr Graham Turnock Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency said: “The National Space Innovation Programme will enable the UK to develop products, services and technologies while creating high-skilled jobs and boosting our economy. The UK Space Agency is leading work across Government to develop the UK’s space capabilities. Our closest international competitors have well-developed national programmes alongside their European Space Agency commitments. Now is time for the UK to do the same as we increase our space ambitions.”

The UK space sector is a huge economic success story, growing by over 60% since 2010. The industry already supports £300 billion of UK economic activity through the use of satellite services, and employs more than 40,000 people. This is expected to grow further, with the space sector estimating there could be aa £60 billion market in the future in new Earth observation and communication technologies.

The remaining £5 million of this initial funding has been set aside for investing in international projects, which in turn will support closer working relationships with key space faring nations such as the US, Australia and Japan.

Stronger international relationships and the ability to fund new projects, will also help boost UK space exports, which are already worth £5.5 billion each year, in areas  such as satellite platforms, sensing systems and advanced software.

UK Businesses, universities and research organisations can bid for funding to match their own investment in projects that will help the space sector create new high-skilled jobs, while developing new capabilities and technologies. Each project will be able to bid for a grant between £200,000 and £2 million, out of the £15 million funding.

Nick Shave, Chair of UKspace, the space sector trade association, said: “UKspace welcomes the launch of the National Space Innovation Fund. We believe this new programme has the potential to become the foundation in enabling Britain to become a leader in the up and coming space industrial revolution. Britain already has a world-class space industry in specific capability areas, such as resilient satellite communications and observation systems essential in tackling climate change. We very much hope this is the inception of the National Space Programme that we need to springboard our innovative space sector on the world stage, driving significant new growth and opportunity.”

The National Space Innovation Programme is one of several new measures being introduced to supercharge the UK’s space ambitions and follows the successful bid to acquire a stake in the satellite company OneWeb.

The acquisition of OneWeb signalled the Government’s ambition for the UK to be a pioneer in the research, development, manufacturing, and exploitation of novel satellite technologies through the ownership of a fleet of Low Earth orbit satellites.