£7m awarded to ‘high-risk, high-reward’ UK space projects

The UK government has awarded over £7m in funding to 21 organisations hoping to innovate in the space sector, from projects to help monitor climate change to ones providing greater connectivity to remote areas.

The funding will go towards “high-risk, high-reward” projects across the UK which aim to tackle major problems using space technology.

The supported 21 projects include:

  • A collaboration involving satellite company OneWeb and the University of Strathclyde to deliver connectivity to poorly served areas through satellite mega-constellations.
  • A project that will explore applying machine learning to Earth observation to improve predictions about how to mitigate climate change.
  • The 'Satellites for Batteries' project to use satellite data to increase the identification of battery metals for mining companies.
  • The Newport-based 'Space Forge' project to develop and launch the world’s first returnable satellite.
  • An Open University-led project to test the UK’s first 'Precision Forestry' tool to support tree planting.

“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,” said Amanda Solloway, the UK's science minister.

“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,” she added.

The funding comes from the UK Space Agency’s National Space Innovation Programme - the first UK fund dedicated to supporting innovation in the space sector. Other countries, such as France and Germany, already have dedicated public funding programmes for space.

Dr Graham Turnock, chief executive of the UK Space Agency, commented: “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.”

A further £5m of funding has been set aside for international projects. Successful applicants for this strand of funding will be announced in the coming weeks.

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