Unlocking space innovation and growth in the West of England

18 November 2020

The West of England’s ambitions to harness innovative space-related activities and unlock their economic, social and environmental benefits have been given a boost by the UK Space Agency.

The Government announced today (18 November) that the UK Space Agency will provide financial support for a new space hub led by the West of England Combined Authority (WECA). The consortium includes the National Composites Centre (NCC), the Centre for Modelling & Simulation (CFMS) and the Universities of Bristol and Bath, which are engaged in cutting edge research for the space sector including engineering, astronomy, planetary science, and life and health sciences.

The new hub provides the opportunity for the West of England to position itself at the forefront of space-enabled innovation and inclusive growth. It will see experts and business leaders coming together to identify and showcase existing strengths and set a future strategy which will maximise the space potential of the region.

West of England Mayor Tim Bowles said: “It’s fantastic news that once again the Government has recognised our ambition for the West of England and we have secured funding for the region’s space technology businesses. This initial funding, working in partnership with the UK Space Agency, will launch our work to develop new opportunities and create jobs in this exciting sector.

“There is real potential to build on our strengths and assets in the region and unlock the potential of the West of England as a ‘Place for Space’ and secure our long-term economic recovery.”

Space and satellite technologies make an invaluable contribution to climate change and sustainability, communications and connectivity, and a range of end-user sectors from healthcare to broadcasting.

Industrial champions on the West of England space hub include Thales Alenia Space and CGI Group, two major space anchor companies in the region, as well as LENA Space, an innovative space SME which specialises in low-cost space propulsion. The new hub will engage with a wide variety of space stakeholders across multiple sectors and, in particular, explore how SMEs and aerospace companies that have been adversely impacted by COVID-19 can benefit from space opportunities.

The West of England is one of seven locations securing Government funding to ensure space is a priority for regional economic growth; contributing jobs and attracting commercial investment from space companies to the region. The region is well positioned with existing strengths to support all areas of the space sector; including manufacturing, space operations, space applications and ancillary services, as well as being home to a wide variety of non-space users that rely on satellite services.

Science Minister Amanda Solloway said: ““The UK’s space sector has shown incredible resilience to the coronavirus pandemic and will continue to play a key role in our recovery – from creating high quality jobs to finding unique ways to support our NHS.

“This funding will arm local leaders up and down the UK with the tools they need to put their local areas at the front of the commercial space race, while refuelling the tank of the UK economy and helping Britain realise it’s ambitions as a global space superpower.”

The West of England space hub will contribute strongly to the UK space industry which, in the last decade, has transformed into one of the UK’s fastest growing sectors, employing close to 42,000 people and generating an income of nearly £15 billion every year. The region will also play an instrumental role in achieving the national ambition of securing 10% of the global space market by 2030 by leveraging its existing industrial strengths, highly skilled and creative workforce, and world-leading research assets and expertise.

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