UK Government awards £850,000 to three space projects in Scotland

The £850,000 funding is part of a wider UK Government funding package awarding 21 projects a share of over £7 million 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.

The three projects in Scotland benefitting from the package:

The University of Edinburgh’s Global Lidar Altimetry MISsion project receives £289,920.53
The School of Geosciences at the University of Edinburgh will bring together expertise from Scotland’s growing space and photonics sectors to pioneer a new approach to space-borne lidar using a laser compatible with a small satellite and, for smaller platforms, deployable optics to collect sufficient light. Consortium partners: Fraunhofer UK Research Ltd (Glasgow), UK Astronomy Tech Centre, University of Strathclyde.

The University of Edinburgh’s Data SlipStream project receives £214,542.82
The University of Edinburgh will develop and demonstrate efficient, scalable data handling systems for use by organisations working on climate change mitigation. These systems will have a further potential impact on the agriculture, forestry, coastal, freshwater, urban and infrastructure domains. Their pathfinder system, SingleTree, will use EO data to detect small scale land use changes that are important from a climate policy perspective. Consortium Partners: Resilience Constellation Management Ltd, the Data-Driven Innovation (DDI) initiative and Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region.

Glasgow-based Craft Prospect Limited receives £345,433
The Responsive Operations for Key Services (ROKS) mission will demonstrate technologies for future secure telecommunication systems using Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) and supported by artificial intelligence. This phase of work will progress the flight payload and ground test systems before a final build to demonstrate in-orbit by 2022. To date the work has developed the mission concept, proved the technology basis for highly miniaturized space-ready quantum systems and AI toolbox, and secured opportunities with multinational finance, telecommunication and data providers for cybersecurity. The consortium harnesses Glasgow and UK-wide technology and skills at Strathclyde University, Bristol University, and Fraunhofer Centre for Applied Photonics (CAP) Glasgow.

Steve Greenland, Managing Director, Craft Prospect Ltd said:

Craft Prospect is excited to be working with world class partners in UK quantum technology and optics to progress our ROKS mission, accessing major market opportunities in space autonomy and cybersecurity.

Support from the UK Space Agency underpinned by the Scottish Investment Bank is accelerating our Smart Secure Space roadmap to demonstrate how emerging quantum technologies and artificial intelligence will impact the space sector in the coming years.

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-skill 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.

UK Government Minister for Scotland, Iain Stewart, said:

The UK Government is committed to investing in innovation to cement the UK as a global leader in space.

We are living during a very exciting time for the space industry. The Chancellor committed £14.6bn in funding for R&D in the Spending Review, which means investment in Scotland’s highly-skilled experts will continue to grow.

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. The industry already supports £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.