As well as helping to meet green goals, the new space centre will generate UK jobs
A newly announced UK space centre will conduct a range of IT-led activities, including analysing data generated by satellites, to better understand and develop ways to counter climate change. It will also be an important source of new jobs and innovation in the UK economy, the government claims.
Announced alongside the launch of the UK Space Agency this week, the International Space Innovation Centre will cost around £40 million to develop – £12 million of which will come from the Department of Business Innovation and Skills’ (BIS) Strategic Investment Fund, with the rest made up by industry.
Investing in space technology
The centre will be located alongside the European Space Agency facility opened last July in Oxfordshire and, as well as investigating climate change data, will also investigate the security and resilience of satellites and other space technology.
According to business secretary Lord Mandelson, the space industry is one of the UK’s economic 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,” he said.
The government may face some criticism for setting up its own space agency alongside the European Space Agency, at a time when swinging budgets cuts are expected across the public sector. But according to the science and innovation minister, Lord Drayson, the space industry has continued to grow despite the recession.
“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 £40 billion 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,” said Drayson.
But despite the government’s belief in the financial potential of space technology, the government has backed away from some recommendations by the Space Innovation and Growth Strategy. The joint academic and governmental body suggested the government should double UK spending on European Space Agency programmes over the next decade but, according to reports, Lord Drayson shied away from such a move. “We will require a compelling business case for each proposal or mission,” Lord Drayson told the BBC.
UK to host European space conference
According to the BIS, European programmes account for around 70 percent of the UK’s civil spending on space, while the UK has committed €924 million (£825m) to European Space Agency programmes over the next two years.
The European Inter-parliamentary Space Conference (EISC) was held in London last October, and saw experts discuss aspects of space policy including its role in innovation. “It’s fitting for the UK to host the European Inter-parliamentary Space Conference this year,” said business minister Pat McFadden. “Space contributes some £6.5 billion a year and this figure is forecast to grow by around five percent every year until 2020.”
The UK Space Agency is due to be launched on the 1 April and will take over the management of the space strategy from BIS.