New funding to boost space sector growth across the UK  

Posted on March 7, 2024

Six projects to improve infrastructure and encourage collaboration across the UK’s growing space sector have been announced today at Space-Comm Expo, following the publication of the government’s Space Industrial Plan.

Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL), one of the nation’s leading satellite manufacturers, has won a project from the UK Space Agency’s flagship Space Clusters Infrastructure Fund.

The £250,000 public investment, matched by the company, will enhance SSTL’s facilities with a Research and Development Imager Cleanroom in Guildford. This will support the development of cutting-edge, space-based imaging technology – the ‘eyes’ of satellites that monitor our planet and the space environment.

SCIF, which has awarded £47 million to date, for projects ranging from a space skills centre in Newcastle to a microgravity research centre in Cardiff, builds upon the UK Space Agency’s wider investments to develop the UK space ecosystem.

As set out in the Space Industrial Plan, the government is committed to continuing its support for space clusters across the UK and providing the tools needed to drive collaboration between them and catalyse further investment.

Minister for Space, Andrew Griffith said:

“Our £250,000 investment in Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd underlines the key role this Government sees for UK businesses in advancing global space capabilities.”

“Aligned with our new Space Industrial Plan, this funding will enhance SSTL’s research facilities so it can drive forward innovation in cutting-edge imaging technology, which is so crucial for satellite operations.”

The UK Space Agency is announcing £500,000 for a further five projects today to foster collaboration between the UK’s network of space clusters:

Space North: Uniting Space Hub Yorkshire, the North West Space Cluster, and Space North East England to showcase the region’s resilient communications expertise, attract inward investment and boost research and collaboration.

Unlocking Space for Agriculture: Bringing together regional space and agricultural sectors in Scotland and the East of England to explore challenge-based opportunities through space capability research and knowledge-sharing.

South West Space Partnership: Building on the strengths of Space West, the Cornwall Space Cluster, the West of England Combined Authority, Cornwall Council and Invest Bristol & Bath, this pan-regional partnership aims to promote the region’s space capability, attract international investment and develop strategic collaborations.

Power4Space: Strengthening ties between the North West Space Cluster and Midlands Space Cluster, and their respective supply chains, to seize commercial opportunities in novel power systems for deep space applications.

Using Earth Observation to monitor Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) and Seaweed Production: Leveraging Earth observation capabilities within NI Space, Space Wales and the Space East clusters to monitor water bodies for Harmful Algal Blooms and Seaweed Production, improving delivery of local government services using space assets and data.

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

“With entrepreneurs and businesses from across the UK space sector at Space-Comm Expo, I’m pleased to announce this series of targeted projects to support the continued growth of our space ecosystem and deliver on the government’s Space Industrial Plan.

“Hot off the heels of the Chancellor’s Budget boost for Low Earth Orbit satellite manufacturing in the UK, these new projects will help catalyse investment, increase collaboration and boost prosperity across the country.”

In Spring Budget 2024, the Chancellor announced the launch of the full Connectivity in Low Earth Orbit (C-LEO) programme, building on the initial £15m C-LEO call that was announced at the Autumn Statement. This programme of up to £160 million over the next four years will unleash our country’s potential to become a global leader in next generation satellite communication technologies while creating hundreds of highly skilled jobs to boost the Prime Minister’s priority of growing our economy. This will ensure that the UK space sector is able to compete in the rapidly growing global market of LEO constellations.

The UK Space Agency funds a wide range of projects to catalyse investment, deliver new missions and capabilities, and champion space. Recent announcements include the following.

  • A £2 million upgrade to the Satellite Applications Catapult’s In-Orbit Servicing and Manufacturing (IOSM) facility at the Westcott Space Cluster in Aylesbury, which will provide unique capabilities in the UK where companies can verify, validate and demonstrate a range of in-orbit operations including manufacturing, servicing, inspection, repair and assembly.
  • A £10 million investment into telecoms capabilities under the European Space Agency (ESA) Advanced Research in Telecommunication System (ARTES) programme.
  • The launch of the Unlocking Space for Business programme with a £2 million investment into initiatives to help organisations understand how satellite data and services could support their growth and kick off pilot projects and partnerships.
  • A £7.4 million investment into collaborations between UK and international space organisations, supporting their bids for selection by major science and exploration missions.
  • Support for Open Cosmos building three satellites for the ESA NanoMagSat constellation that will measure Earth’s magnetic field to help assess space weather hazards.

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    Stuart Catchpole

    Space Cluster Manager
    New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP)