The UK Space Agency has announced a £10 million funding competition that will help UK companies put their technologies at the forefront of a new generation of global telecommunications services, products and applications. 

Announced at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona – an international event for connectivity and communications – the funding is part of the UK’s commitment to the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Advanced Research in Telecommunication Systems (ARTES) programme. 

The £10 million investment is open to a diverse range of innovative products or components, systems or services, and any aspect of the space, ground or network segments. This could include breakthrough technologies such as the development of lasers to communicate in space, or for pioneering market opportunities, such as the use of space tech to boost the efficiency of global shipping and trade. 

Andrew Griffith MP, Minister for Space at the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, said:  

Telecommunications is vital for the future of the UK, by connecting remote areas, improving healthcare and upgrading navigation, which is why it is a key government priority, backed by schemes like Project Gigabit rolling out super-fast connectivity across the country. 

Our additional investment of £10 million today will put the UK at the forefront of the next generation of telecoms, as well as supporting the experts and innovators who make these pioneering breakthroughs possible, boosting the UK economy through our thriving space sector.

Minister for Science, Innovation and Research Andrew Griffith. Photo credit: UK GOV. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 DEED

Dr Paul Bate, Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency, said: 

Satellites have connected people and businesses across the world for decades, and the UK has a rich heritage in advanced communications technology.  

As demand for global connectivity and data continues to soar, this funding will help UK companies develop and broaden their range of products and services – from satellite components to ground systems – and collaborate with new partners. It is a great example of how we can use our leading role in ESA to catalyse investment and unlock the benefits of future telecoms technologies.

ARTES aims to unleash innovation in telecommunications services that improve life on Earth and unlock growth opportunities for businesses. The new funding announced today could support projects that help improve connectivity in remote or rural areas, enable the transport of medical supplies via drone, or manage traffic for the emerging generation of autonomous vehicles. 

Previous projects funded under the programme include the development of a miniature ground station to support disaster relief operations, devices to improve the efficiency of high data transfer satellites, and the first European in-orbit demonstration of a new type of water propulsion. 

Digital infrastructure is crucial to unlocking opportunities for growth and prosperity and delivering the government’s mission to put the UK at the forefront of global scientific and technological advancement, and future telecoms is one of the five critical technologies identified in the Science and Technology Framework.  

The UK Space Agency will host a webinar on 22 March for potential applicants looking to learn more about how their ideas could support this ambition, and how to bid for investment. 

The UK is one of the leading ARTES partners, having committed a total £190 million to the programme at the ESA Council of Ministers in November 2022. The UK Space Agency announced an initial round of £20 million funding at the opening of ESA’s European Centre for Space Applications and Telecommunications (ECSAT), at the Harwell Space Cluster in Oxfordshire. ECSAT includes a 5G/6G Hub, which is generating new opportunities associated with converged satellite and terrestrial telecommunications networks. 

Antonio Franchi, ESA Head of 5G/6G Non-Terrestrial Networks Programme Office, said: 

ESA is proud of its strong partnerships that underpin the ARTES programme. Working in collaboration helps us maximise the impact of ESA’s expertise in communications, with the aim of connecting everyone, everywhere and at any time. 

By supporting innovation, we support the advancement of the digital transformation of society and industry. Together, we ensure Europe’s leading position in the field of telecommunications.

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