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by Sofia Villegas
28 September 2023
Multi-million UK space innovation funding goes live

Artist's impression of laser-based communications between cubesats in space | Northumbria University

Multi-million UK space innovation funding goes live

The UK Space Agency has announced up to £65m of funding is now available via the National Space Innovation Programme (NSIP) as part of their continued efforts to make the UK a world leader in the sector. 

Launching today with first leg of funding of £34m, the agency aims to help groundbreaking projects developing space technology move forward. 

It is also hoped that the programme could help tackle challenges such as climate change and improve sustainability in orbit operations.

The remaining funding calls will occur over the next two years, with projects running until 2027. 

George Freeman, Minister for Space at the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, said: “Our space sector is constantly advancing thanks to pioneering new ideas from our world-class scientists and technologists that push the potential of British innovation at its best.  

“Investing in these projects not only bolsters the UK’s seat at the table of the global space community, but it unlocks future business and job opportunities that will accelerate the growth of our nation’s £17.5bn space sector.” 

Dr Paul Bate, chief executive of the UK Space Agency, added: “The National Space Innovation Programme will support the UK’s most ambitious space technology projects and their potential to address real-world challenges, to catalyse investment, deliver new missions and capabilities, and harness the power of space to improve lives.” 

Since launching in 2020, the NSIP has allocated over £25m in funding across the UK. 

Those funded include aerospace company SatVu, which this year introduced an infra-red satellite that can provide live data on building emissions and energy use and Northumbria University for its laser-based communications terminal.

Funding is also available to projects at early stages of the innovation journey via the NSIP Kick Starter scheme, which recently funded Imperial College's research on how metal additive manufacturing could allow for replacement parts to be printed in space. 

John Hanley, Chair of the trade association UKspace, said: “The UK space sector is one of the most research-intensive parts of our economy – with almost £800m reported spent on R&D in the last Size & Health study.”

Ahead of the upcoming UK Space Conference, the fund mirrors the government's amition to keep supporting the booming sector, with Scotland currently being Europe’s top satellite producer. 

Rob Desborough, managing partner at space tech investor Seraphim Space, said: “Over $47bn of private capital has been invested across the global space sector since 2015. The UK accounted for 17 per cent of this, making it the second most attractive destination - only behind the US. 

"Mechanisms like this are critical for the UK to maintain its prominence in what is now a globally competitive market worth in excess of $1 trillion by 2030.” 

The announcement is not the first thing to make the agency appear in Scottish news this month, as just last week the UK Space Agency docked a 72ft rocket in the middle of George Square, Glasgow. It hopes the model will be a “beacon of inspiration” for the next generation to join the industry. 

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