UK companies at the forefront of space innovation

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Credit: Northumbria University

21 UK organisations have been awarded a share of over £7 million of funding to put the UK at the forefront of the latest advances in space innovation.

The cash injection is going to high-risk, high-reward projects that support companies and universities with radical ideas for how we tackle climate change through Earth Observation or address satellite communications challenges, from providing greater connectivity to remote places to increasing the efficiency of our homes.

Projects set for the cash boost include The Open University who will use the money to create the UK’s first Precision Forestry tool, TreeView, which will support efforts to tackle the climate emergency through detailed measurement of tree-planting initiatives aimed at increasing carbon dioxide removal.

Surrey-based Global Satellite Vu will build a new compact, high-resolution infrared camera for satellites to measure thermal emissions from our homes, schools and places of work, supporting the government’s green economic recovery plan.

Space Forge will take advantage of the unique qualities offered by the space environment. By manufacturing in microgravity, the space start-up hopes to produce a next-generation computer chip for the terrestrial and satellite telecommunications industries and return them from orbit for use on Earth.

Science Minister Amanda Solloway said:

We want the UK to be a world leader in space technology which is why we are supporting our most ambitious innovators who are developing first-of-a-kind technologies to help solve some of our greatest challenges.

From slashing carbon emissions to protecting the UK’s critical services from harmful cyber-attacks, today’s funding will unshackle our most entrepreneurial space scientists so that they can transfer their revolutionary ideas into world-class products and services, while helping to boost the UK economy.

The funding comes from the UK Space Agency’s National Space Innovation Programme (NSIP), which is the first UK fund dedicated to supporting the space sector’s development of innovations, allowing us to compete internationally on the world stage with other countries, like France and Germany, which have dedicated national funding for space.

Businesses, universities and research organisations were awarded co-funding for projects that will help the space sector create new high-skilled jobs, while developing new skills and technologies on UK soil. Grants from the £15 million funding pot range from between £170,000 and £1.4 million per project.

Dr Graham Turnock, Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency, said:

Space technologies have become deeply embedded in, and critical to, almost every aspect of our daily lives. With rapid technological innovation, space offers a broad and growing range of opportunities to support economic activity and protect the environment.

From the satellites connecting our calls to the ones that tell us when to expect rain when we step outside, space technologies are fundamental to our day-to-day lives.

Our space sector is constantly advancing and welcoming new ideas, and through this funding we are championing the best of this British innovation.

In addition, £5 million of the programme funding has been set aside for international projects, which will focus on increasing exports and securing new inward investment, supporting UK science and the prosperity agenda by funding working relationships between world-leading researchers and institutions and developing space capabilities important to the UK’s security interests.

The call for applications for this strand of funding closed in October and successful applicants will be announced in the coming weeks.

The UK space sector is a huge economic success story, growing by over 60% since 2010. Satellites already support £300 billion of UK economic activity through the use of satellite services and is expected to grow further as this new government support unlocks commercial opportunities.

The UK also remains a leading member of the European Space Agency, which is independent of the EU. ESA membership allows the UK to cooperate in world-leading science on a global scale, enabling UK scientists and researchers access to a range of international R&D programmes.

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