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UK government launches new international space collaborations

Stephen Kuper

The UK government has announced a £5 million ($9 million) initiative bringing together international partners as part of collaborative agreements to help support space projects in robotics, disaster relief and space debris.

UK government launches new international space collaborations
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Through the government’s new domestic space fund, the National Space Innovation Program, the UK Space Agency will fund innovative technologies and services to support UK trade, science, and security with major space players like Australia, France, Japan and the US.

Funding – from £250,000 to £2.5 million will be given to the best international collaborative projects from UK industry, academia and research organisations.

Science Minister Amanda Solloway explained, "The UK’s space sector is playing a critical role in tackling some of the world’s greatest challenges from monitoring climate change to providing vital relief for countries affected by natural disasters."

Potential projects cover a huge range of space activities, from tackling space debris with new monitoring technologies to using Earth observation satellites to track issues like climate change, and space science and satellite applications to provide expert disaster relief assistance.

"Today’s funding will provide the UK’s leading space scientists and researchers with an international platform to continue fulfilling the incredible potential of space technology, working collaboratively with our global partners, while boosting UK space exports and creating skilled jobs," Minister Solloway explained. 

This funding builds on the UK Space Agency’s existing work on the world stage. In June, the UK and US governments signed an agreement that paves the way for US companies to operate from UK spaceports and export space launch technology, as the UK aims for the first launches from the early 2020s.

In September 2019, the UK signed an agreement with the Australian Space Agency to lay the foundations for swift and amicable negotiations for space-related opportunities under any potential future UK-Australia trading arrangements.

Alice Bunn, international director at the UK Space Agency, added, "There are over 100 space faring nations across the world now, many of which are looking to collaborate with the UK. This funding enables us to seize those opportunities and develop them, creating high-skilled jobs and boosting our economy."

The UK Space Agency also runs its successful International Partnership Programme (IPP), a £30 million a year program, which has grant-funded 43 projects in almost 50 developing countries across Africa, Asia-Pacific and Latin America and built new partnerships between 186 mainly UK-based organisations and 183 international organisations.

Bunn added, "This funding is an important step to growing the UK space sector’s influence on the global stage."

Stronger international relationships and the ability to fund new projects are crucial to meeting the government’s increased ambitions for space. New funding will help boost UK space exports, which are already worth £5.5 billion each year, in areas such as satellite platforms, sensing systems and advanced software.

The UK also remains a leading member of the European Space Agency, which is independent of the EU.

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