The first £8.5 million of investment from the UK’s National Space Technology Programme was announced today by the Science Minister, David Willetts. This boost to the UK space sector will match-fund a range of projects with industry to develop commercial products and services using space technology or space-derived data.

The competition is funded by the UK Space Agency, in partnership with the Technology Strategy Board and the South East England Development Agency. Proposals are sought for projects that fall into one or more of the following market areas: Satellite Telecommunications; Sensing: Position, Navigation and Timing; Robotics and Exploration and Access to Space. All projects must be collaborative, business-led and have a clear route through to commercial exploitation.

Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts said:

“The UK space industry is an important driver of growth and supports thousands of the most high- tech jobs we have in this country. This investment will take that success further, as part of the £10 million for space technology announced in the Budget. It will help innovative British businesses design and manufacture highly commercial, cutting-edge products that will be in global demand.”

Dr David Williams, Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency, said:

‘Having a National Space Technology Programme means helping UK researchers and businesses develop the technology and services for the future of space. The Agency is committed to maintaining the momentum that the UK has gained since our launch last year, and developing our domestic space capabilities will be a large part of that.

Iain Gray, Chief Executive of the Technology Strategy Board, said:

“The Technology Strategy Board’s role as the UK’s innovation agency enables it to play an important role, working closely with the UK Space Agency, in engaging the space industry and UK space capability to enable the development, commercialisation and exploitation of space technologies to address broader challenges and growth opportunities across a wide range of emerging markets.”

Oona Muirhead CBE, Chief Executive of SEEDA, said:

“We are delighted that SEEDA’s £500,000 investment will provide vital support to businesses in the South East to develop new commercial opportunities in the space industry and engage in research and development programmes. This programme builds on our support in 2010/11 to small businesses to help them access facilities at the International Space Innovation Centre at Harwell and the Surrey Space Centre. The South East is at the forefront of the global space industry and there are huge commercial and export opportunities for businesses, particularly in down-stream technologies such as phone applications.”

‘Space for Growth’ will provide up to £2 million for flagship projects and up to £100,000 for smaller projects. The competition opens on 31 October and will be managed by the Technology Strategy Board. It will encourage businesses to work together to design new products, a model established by the International Space Innovation Centre at Harwell and Guildford. Further elements of the National Space Technology Programme will be announced in due course.

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