The UK Space Agency is set to launch a £50m fund to support the development of cutting-edge research and development facilities in space infrastructure.
The Space Clusters and Infrastructure Fund (SCIF) is a first-of-its-kind organisation dedicated to space infrastructure. It will award match funding to UK organisations to develop the R&D infrastructure needed to make space products mission-ready and sell them into commercial markets.
Investment in R&D infrastructure is essential for the growing space sector. Funding allows for building and testing new UK space and satellite capabilities and supporting innovative missions that can benefit people, businesses, and communities nationwide.
Minister of State at the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology George Freeman MP said: “The UK space industry is vital to the UK Innovation Economy. The £50m Space Clusters and Infrastructure Fund is the UK’s first fund dedicated to supporting the space industry and developing the R&D facilities key to growing the space clusters across the UK.
“The fund will generate investment, create jobs, and enable UK space companies’ cutting-edge technology to be mission-ready for new commercial satellite markets.”
Bringing high-value space technologies to the market
The funding is available to industry and academia, which can deliver projects to procure, build, or upgrade R&D facilities and equipment. The facilities should also bring high-potential, high-value space technologies to the space infrastructure sector.
These projects will provide critical anchor points at the local level for new businesses, investment, and research. Moreover, they will create hundreds of jobs in areas of the UK that need it most.
“The UK has a thriving space sector, which is well-established and globally respected. We are growing this exciting sector further by catalysing investment, delivering missions and capabilities, and championing the power of space to improve lives,” explained Dr Paul Bate, Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency.
He continued: “The Space Clusters and Infrastructure Fund demonstrates the government’s commitment to space and will help deliver the ambition set out in the National Space Strategy. From this, we will build one of the world’s most innovative and attractive space economies to develop new skills and create jobs.”
Levelling up space infrastructure is a top priority
Levelling up is a priority of the UK Space Agency due to the economic benefits it brings.
Lizzie Kerr, Director of UKspace, the industry trade association, stated: “R&D underpins so much of the UK space industry’s activities and continued innovation.
“Therefore, UKspace welcomes this funding commitment from the government. It has huge potential to impact many of our members by developing and renewing facilities and bringing growth and employment across the UK.”
The government has previously invested in space infrastructure such as the National Satellite Test Facility (NSTF) and National Space Propulsion Test Facility on a case-by-case basis.
The NSTF, due to open later this year in Harwell, features the UK’s largest vacuum test chamber, where satellites the size of a double decker bus will be exposed to extremes of hot and cold for months at a time. It also includes a vibration facility that replicates the conditions of a rocket launch.
Additionally, the National Space Propulsion Test Facility in Westcott allows UK organisations to test state-of-the-art engines that move small satellites in space at a more affordable rate than going abroad.
The UK Space Agency’s funding for space infrastructure, including SCIF, is in addition to £1.84bn invested through the European Space Agency in November. These projects ensure that the UK’s space and commercial satellite sector will lead in future international missions and innovative commercial programmes.