Levelling-up boost for the UK space sector with new funding for growth
Eighteen projects aimed at boosting the UK space sector are to receive funding from the UK Space Agency.
The £6.5 million includes support for high-impact, locally-led schemes and space cluster development managers to help the space sector grow across England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.
One project will explore the potential for a space observatory and planetarium to be established in Snowdonia, taking advantage of the area being part of the most extensive dark skies reserve in the UK.
Another will look at how space technology could be used to tackle water leakage and monitor coastal erosion and stability in Cornwall.
The projects will harness space-enabled technology to address local priorities, such as using Earth Observation data to improve local public services and help innovative engineering companies access the UK’s growing space markets.
Secretary of State for the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, Michelle Donelan, said:
“These projects will tap into the wealth of talent found in places like Cornwall and the east Midlands, as well as across Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, while using space and satellite technology to support local communities.
“This funding will help link local clusters to valuable networks of innovators and investors, showcasing the strengths of the UK space sector to international investors and levelling up the economy.”
The projects are focused on piloting local activity that could be scaled up and rolled out nationally and are being supported by the UK Space Agency’s delivery partner the Satellite Applications Catapult.
The funding follows £600,000 given to 10 space clusters across the UK in February 2022, with some of those who received funding then getting further support this time round.
The £6.5 million includes £485,000 for STFC RAL Space’s Chilbolton Advanced Satellite Tracking Radar, in Hampshire, is one of three national sensors that track space objects. The radar which can detect objects about the size of a toaster at an altitude of 1,000km, provides crucial data for satellite tracking operations. The funding will provide upgrades to improve the reliability and robustness of the sensor and maintain a key sovereign asset.
Dr Paul Bate, Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency, said:
“Establishing a network of space clusters and high-impact projects will accelerate the development of the thriving space ecosystem the UK needs to realise the full economic potential of space across the UK.
“We’ve been working with the regions to understand their strengths and the needs of their local space economies so that we can back these clusters of excellence to collaborate, grow and thrive.”
Part of this funding will support local areas to appoint Space Cluster Managers: individuals who will work with local government, businesses, and academia to coordinate space activity and encourage collaboration and inward investment.
These clusters will complement the world-leading Harwell Space Cluster, in Oxfordshire, which is home to more than 100 space organisations, employing over 1,400 people.
Stuart Martin, Chief Executive Officer at the Satellite Applications Catapult said:
“We have a long-standing commitment to driving the growth of the UK space sector at a regional level and are delighted to continue our support for the delivery of this investment, with our focus on building a coherent space community.”
"This additional funding will help cement relationships across the UK’s space community while forging new collaborations with those not yet utilising and benefiting from space data and technology. We look forward to ensuring that the sector as a whole takes advantage of the opportunities presented through these locally led initiatives and supporting a connected and thriving ecosystem.”
The UK Space Agency funding also includes £1.5 million for an expert consortium of business support providers, led by Entrepreneurial Spark, to work with entrepreneurs from all over the UK and help them get involved in the space sector.
A previous collaboration between the UK Space Agency and Entrepreneurial Spark, aimed at space start-ups, generated almost £9 million in investment and created 80 new jobs for those who took part in the business support programme.
Locally led, high impact projects
- Space Technology and Exploitation Programme – ADS Northern Ireland - Funding: £495,000
ADS will oversee a pilot programme enabling space supply chain SMEs in Northern Ireland to engage with large companies and use innovative, new solutions to overcome their technology challenges – unlocking new potential markets and building UK space capabilities.
- GreenSpace – Space Hub Yorkshire - Funding: £483,000
Space Hub Yorkshire will establish a network of organisations from across the space, finance, and agriculture sectors to embed the use of Earth Observation and geospatial data into the UK’s Green Finance ambitions and commitment to Net Zero.
- Pivot into Space - Midlands Aerospace Alliance - Funding: £500,000
An R&D programme that will support small innovative engineering companies across the Midlands to pivot their technologies and capabilities into the UK’s growing space markets, focusing on the design and manufacture of spacecraft and the infrastructure required to launch them into space.
- SpaceCraft – Space South Central Cluster - Funding: £406,000
The Space South Central Cluster will open up engineering facilities and technical expertise to local companies to enable more high-quality space prototyping and manufacturing.
- Developing a Sustainable Scottish Space Sector - Space Scotland - Funding: £373,000
Space Scotland will strengthen the Scottish space ecosystem by enabling initiatives to reduce its environmental impact, addressing workforce skills challenges, and leveraging new market opportunities with neighbouring and novel sectors.
- Dark Sky Observatory – Space Wales - Funding: £36,000
A project exploring the potential for a space observatory and planetarium to be established at Spaceport Snowdonia that takes advantage of the area being part of the most extensive dark skies reserve in the UK.
- Space for Good: Water Management with EO Data – Cornwall Space Cluster - Funding: £20,000
A project to explore how space technology could be deployed to tackle water leakage, seagrass habitat monitoring, and coastal erosion and stability in Cornwall.
- R2-D2: Resilience to Recovery – Data for Disasters – Newcastle University - Funding: £20,000
A scoping project to explore the potential for satellite data to improve emergency management in North East England.
- Monitoring of Natural Assets –Newcastle University - Funding: £18,000
A study to identify regional space capabilities, skills and challenges in natural capital and ecosystem services monitoring and management.
Cluster development managers
- Northern Ireland Space Office - £223,000
- North East Centre Of Excellence - £296,000
- Space Hub Yorkshire – £348,000
- West of England Combined Authority and National Composites Centre - £136,000
- Cornwall Space Cluster - £272,000
- New Anglia LEP (covering Norfolk and Suffolk) - £163,000
- Aerospace Wales - £200,000
- University of Leicester - £284,000
- Space South Central (covering Hampshire, Surrey, and the Isle of Wight) - £300,000