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Science Minister unveils funding package at UK Space Conference

Posted 24 September 2019 · Add Comment

A new package of space funding was unveiled by Science Minister Chris Skidmore at the UK Space Conference today, which is being held at the International Convention Centre (ICC) in Newport, South Wales (24th-26th September).

Courtesy Harvepino / Shutterstock

The Government is committed to developing the UK’s national space capabilities while stepping up international collaborations, including through the European Space Agency (ESA).

The UK Space Agency will provide up to £1 million, matched by industry, for innovative new business ideas that could benefit from a flight to the International Space Station. These could be anything from medicines and innovative materials developed in the low gravity environment, to space-flown consumer products. 

The Science Minister also announced a new STEM education programme which will see the UK Space Agency supporting the space sector to engage with one million young people each year. The new programme aims to recruit more professionals to enthuse and inspire young people, providing training and matching them up to opportunities in schools and colleges.

This follows the announcement earlier today that the government is investing £20 million to predict severe space weather events, improving systems at the Met Office Space Weather Operations Centre and building the UK’s knowledge on how to forecast and better prepare for space weather.

The UK Space Agency will also award £1.3 million to help further develop plans for horizontal spaceports in Wales, Scotland and England:
•    £499,811 to Snowdonia Aerospace for the Snowdonia Spaceport Development Plan, which aims to create a centre for space R&D, training and satellite launch.
•    £488,000 to Machrihanish Airbase Community Company for the spaceport cluster plan in Argyle, Scotland, centred on an aerodrome with the longest runway in Scotland.
•    £306,480 to Cornwall Council for an Accelerated Business Development and Research Project at Spaceport Cornwall, supporting its ambition to be a centre for future flight technologies.

Science Minister Chris Skidmore said: “I’m consistently blown away by the incredible strength of the UK space industry and the contribution it makes to life across the country, providing us with innovative solutions to complex problems and creating high-skilled jobs for more than 40,000 people.

“There are huge opportunities as space becomes more commercial, and to meet them we must harness the inspirational effect space has on young people and bring even more people into this fast-growing sector.

“It’s also vital that we both build our national capability and forge new international partnerships, while strengthening our commitment to the European Space Agency, which delivers world-leading science and a significant return on investment, benefiting people and businesses across the country.”

This morning, the UK Space Agency and Australian Space Agency signalled their intent to develop a ‘SpaceBridge’ agreement, which will unlock greater collaboration between the two nation’s governments, regulators and space industries. 

There are further opportunities to increase international space collaboration at the European Space Agency Council of Ministers meeting in November, where science, space weather and exploration will be key priorities for the UK.

The government has also confirmed it will establish the UK’s first National Space Council, with further details of the chair and membership of the Council to follow in the coming weeks.

The Science Minister will meet key international partners such as the European Space Agency and NASA during the UK Space Conference, which is expected to attract up to 1,800 people to the new International Convention Centre Wales.

He will also engage with representatives from across the UK’s thriving space sector to discuss a potential boost to national investments in key technologies and priority missions.

The Space sector in Wales
Wales is already home to unique space expertise and facilities with the number of space sector organisations growing by more than a third since 2015. The Snowdonia Spaceport Development Plan will receive up to £500,000 from UK government (via the UK Space Agency), which will be used to support plans to create a centre for space Research and Development, training and satellite launch, building on Llanbedr Airfield’s rich heritage in experimental flight testing. 
Kevin Foster MP, UK Government Minister for Wales, said: “This is an exciting time for the space sector in Wales. With this new UK Government funding we have the opportunity to play a significant role in shaping the future space economy.
“A spaceport at Llanbedr would cement our reputation for innovation and take Wales into the commercial space age, creating jobs and strengthening the aerospace supply chain across the country.”
The UK Space Agency is working closely with the Welsh Government to help meet Welsh ambitions for space and the UK Government’s strategic priorities. 
Ken Skates, Welsh Government Minister for Economy and Transport said: “I am delighted the Welsh Government is supporting this major event in the space community calendar.

“Wales has a real opportunity to take advantage of the commercialisation of space and play an important part in growing the UK space sector to the 2030 target of 10% of the estimated £400bn global space economy.
“Developments which we are backing including at Llanbedr are a clear demonstration of the Welsh Government’s commitment to the sector.”
The UK Government through the UK Space Agency has also worked with Welsh Government to announce new funding for satellite enabled technology and applications to support remote healthcare services in rural Welsh communities. Snowdonia Aerospace LLP has been awarded £86,000 for a project to conduct a proof-of-concept demonstration using space technology development, showing how satellite-enabled drones could be used as part of a broader satellite-enabled network to support remote healthcare in rural Welsh communities. 
Tactical Wireless Ltd and Emergency Medical Retrieval & Transfer Service have been awarded £57,000 to build a bespoke, enhanced communications hub, capable of bonding multi-network cellular and satellite links, so as to provide enhanced and resilient communications from a mobile platform using space technology.  This module will have wi-fi hotspot capability and be demountable from the vehicle for healthcare visits in Rural Wales.
Dr Graham Turnock, Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency, said: “The space sector in Wales is growing and it’s exciting to be in the fantastic new International Convention Centre Wales for the UK Space Conference 2019, which I’m sure will spark new collaborations and partnerships. 
“From our investment in the Snowdonia Spaceport Development Plan to funding to tackle healthcare issues we are working to boost the Welsh space sector even further. The skills and expertise here mean the sky really is the limit.”
Both governments are represented at the Space Conference including the UK Government Minister for Wales Kevin Foster MP, Welsh Government Minister for Economy and Transport, Ken Skates AM and Dickie Davis OBE, Deputy Director for the Advanced Materials & Manufacturing Sector, Welsh Government. 
As well as industry, 450 local schoolchildren will attend the conference, taking part in space education activities including a tour of the Moon, handling Moon rocks, finding out about the latest UK rocket technology and a talk from Tim Peake.
They will be joined by 50 'SPINterns' – undergraduates and graduates on Space Placements in Industry – who will deliver pitches and presentations on topics including Forecasting Wildfires through Disruption of Navigation and Timing Signals, Designing Hybrid Rocket Engines and Studying the Atmospheric Structure of Mars.
Sixty teachers from primary and secondary schools will learn about using space in the classroom during two days of teacher conferences held as part of the main conference and organised by the UK’s space education office, ESERO-UK.
The UK Space Conference is the first international event to be held at the ICC Wales convention centre. It is organised by a committee chaired by the UK Space Agency and supported by representative from industry and academia.  


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