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New space agency and new international space centre for UK

A new £40m International Space Innovation Centre (ISIC) at Harwell is at the heart of Government plans to support Britain’s growing space sector.

UK Space Agency

Business Secretary Lord Mandelson and Science Minister Lord Drayson announced the creation of the ISIC, supported by £12m from BIS’ Strategic Investment Fund, at today’s launch of the UK Space Agency.

The centre, to be sited with the European Space Agency facility opened last July, will provide a central hub for British space activity and ensure the UK maintains its world-leading space capability. Funded through public and industry investment, the ISIC will establish centres of excellence in the UK to:

  • exploit the data generated by Earth Observation satellites;
  • use space data to understand and counter climate change; and
  • advise on the security and resilience of space systems and services.

The space and satellite industry is one of the UK’s unsung success stories. It supports 68,000 jobs in the UK directly and indirectly and contributes £6bn to the economy. This hi-tech, high-skilled sector underpins high speed broadband, high definition television, GPS and weather forecasting that the modern world relies on.

QuoteThe UK Space Agency will give the sector the muscle it needs to fulfil its ambition. Britain’s space industry has defied the recession. It can grow to £40bn a year and create 100,000 jobs in 20 years.Quote

Lord Drayson
Science and Innovation Minister

Business Secretary, Lord Mandelson, said: "The £6bn space industry is one of Britain’s real success stories. Year on year it provides more jobs both directly and indirectly to the UK workforce. This is exactly the kind of high value-added industry we need to support as we rebalance our economy, creating sustainable growth and the jobs of the future."

Science and Innovation Minister, Lord Drayson, said: "The action we’re taking today shows that we’re really serious about space. The UK Space Agency will give the sector the muscle it needs to fulfil its ambition. Britain’s space industry has defied the recession. It can grow to £40bn a year and create 100,000 jobs in 20 years. The Government’s commitments on space will help the sector go from strength to strength."

Pam Alexander, Chief Executive at the South East England Development Agency, which leads on the space sector on behalf of the nine RDAs, said: "The space industry is growing three times faster than the rest of the economy and will make a major contribution to the UK’s future economic success. The sector is already growing strongly in the South East and London, delivering high-quality, hi-tech jobs in telecommunications, security and navigational systems.

"The new funding for the International Space Innovation Centre, which includes £6m investment from SEEDA, confirms Harwell's position as a centre of excellence and builds on SEEDA’s work to harness the potential of space. The UK is firmly on the global map in this internationally competitive industry."

Further measures to support the British space industry announced today include commitments to:

  • launch the UK Space Agency on 1 April bringing together all UK civil space activities under one single management;
  • develop a National Space Technology Strategy to make sure the space sector delivers its potential, overseen by an industry-led steering group;
  • ensure the observations needed for climate monitoring to enable the UK to strengthen its leadership role in climate change policy and science;
  • establish a senior-level expert panel to take a view of emerging space capabilities to reflect these in future national security and defence planning;
  • work with industry to set out how space-enabled services can help deliver next generation broadband.

A new Space Leadership Council will also be established to provide advice on the implementation of the government response to the IGT in the first instance. The Council will include representatives from industry, academia and Government.

The UK Space Agency will take over responsibility for BIS policy and key Government budgets for space. This will start with the ESA subscriptions currently funded by NERC, STFC and TSB and subsequently managing UK interests in EU projects including the space component of GMES, and Galileo. These are currently the responsibility of Defra and DFT respectively.

It has also been agreed in principle that the Agency will manage the UK’s financial interest in the EU Satellite Centre, which is currently the responsibility of the MOD. The Agency will also begin to take responsibility for space funding for technology and instruments currently carried out by the Research Councils and TSB. Crucially the Agency will negotiate on the UK’s behalf on international bodies.

Notes to Editors

The Space Innovation and Growth Strategy (link opens in a new window) was published on 10 February 2010. The ISIC is the best way to deliver business benefits and growth. It espouses the ‘hub and spoke’ model advocated by the Space Innovation and Growth Team in its recent report.

The intention to create an executive agency for space was announced by Lord Drayson (link opens in a new window) on 10 December 2009.

A key part of the New Industry New Jobs strategy, the Strategic Investment Fund was announced in the April 2009 Budget with £750 million for industrial innovation, job creation and growth. It was extended by a further £250 million in the December 2009 Pre-Budget Report.

In the 11 months since its creation, the Strategic Investment Fund has committed to investments in Britain’s emerging industrial strengths, including low carbon vehicles, wind and wave power, life sciences and new technologies in plastics, chemicals, composites and advanced manufacturing.

Department for Business, Innovation & Skills

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) is building a dynamic and competitive UK economy by: creating the conditions for business success; promoting innovation, enterprise and science; and giving everyone the skills and opportunities to succeed. To achieve this it will foster world-class universities and promote an open global economy. BIS - Investing in our future.


Page last updated: 23 March 2010 by the UK Space Agency