Lancashire businesses urged to look to the stars in new hi-tech space race
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It follows a special LEP event hosted recently in Lancaster which brought together senior figures from the county’s private and public sectors, and national government bodies, to highlight Lancashire’s immense space sector strengths.
These include not only the county’s rich pedigree in the aerospace sector, but also several other key industries, such as energy, chemicals, telecoms, electech and cybersecurity, which are all set to play a key role in the space economy.
Lancashire’s university-led research and development capabilities, combined with assets such as the AMRC North West at Samlesbury, are also seen as having a major role to play as the space sector evolves.
Lancashire companies attending included Victrex, BAE Systems, Milliamp, Quantum Base and Adriani alongside representatives of the North West Aerospace Alliance, both East and West Lancashire Chambers of Commerce, the Boost business support service, Lancashire County Council, and the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership.
Staff from the region’s universities - including leading academics from UCLan, Edge Hill and Lancaster University - were present, as were members of UKSEDs, the national space society for UK students.
National government departments and agencies – including The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), Innovate UK, the European Space Agency (ESA), and the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), were also there.
Speakers at the event included Alan Cross, the STFC’s North West Space Cluster Development Manager; Alun Williams, BEIS’ Engagement Lead for Space Investment Policy; Drs Matthew Dickinson and Joanne Pledger from UCLan; and Andrew Schofield, former Technology Delivery Director from BAE Systems.
In addition, there were contributions from Paula Gill, CEO of the North West Aerospace Alliance; Isaac Caletrio from UKSEDS; Nicola Mortimer, Operations Director, Milliamp; and Professor Rob Young, CTO, from quantum security specialists, Quantum Base.
They discussed topics as far ranging as what more needs to be done to make the space sector more accessible and appealing to young people in Lancashire; what are the challenges and opportunities with regard to maximising Lancashire’s potential within the space and satellite market; what are the advantages of the county and North West region working together as a space industry cluster; and what can local businesses do to get more involved in the space market.
The event also reflected on the official launch earlier this year of the North West Space Cluster.
Hosted at Square Kilometre Array Observatory (SKAO) headquarters at Jodrell Bank in Cheshire, this high profile industry gathering attracted hundreds of business leaders, academics and policy leaders drawn from across the county.
Its purpose was to showcase the North West region’s collective space and satellite strengths, and to set out the government’s North West Space Cluster Strategy for the region.
Rich Grant from Milliamp, and Chris Mayne from Forsberg Services – together with UCLan’s Professor of Solar Physics, Robert Walsh – all making presentations on the day. Businesses, universities and other stakeholders from across Lancashire were also widely consulted on the North West Space Cluster Strategy prior to publication.
Debbie Francis, chairman of the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership, said: “For areas like Lancashire to maximise the opportunities offered by the emerging space market, and to fully utilise the county’s strengths in sectors like aerospace, engineering, cybersecurity, chemicals, telecoms and energy, we need to collaborate.
“This special LEP event, and the ambitions of the wider North West Space Cluster and growth strategy, is a great example of this partnership approach in action, and we are looking forward to the county playing a key role in the UK’s dynamic and fast-growing space and satellite economy.
"What was also clear from the meeting is that we are still at the early stages of what is set to be a very exciting journey for Lancashire.”
Morecambe and Lunesdale MP David Morris was earlier this year named as the Government’s first Space Champion.
His brief is to work with the industry to ensure the UK’s space sector continues to grow and follows a Government announcement of £3m towards space-based solar power projects.
Grant funding will also be made available for spaced-based weather monitoring sensors to aid more accurate weather forecasts.
At the time Mr Morris said: “The UK space sector is fast becoming a world leader and I look forward to being a champion for the industry within government.
“An independent report found significant commercial potential in developing SBSP’s underlying technologies as products in their own right – particularly with regards to wireless power transmission and solar power.
“It is a privilege to be asked to be the first UK National Space Champion and the appointment shows the government’s commitment to the sector and its commitment to its growth.”
The global space economy's value reached $424bn in 2020, according to research from Space Foundation, having expanded 70 per cent since 2010.“Revenue from manufacturing, launch services and ground equipment will make up the majority of the revenue growth in the satellite sector,” Citi said in May this year.
Lancashire companies interested in the space sector may also find out more at the Space-Comm Expo on September 7 and 8 this year at Farnborough.
It will focus on on the commercial future of space for business, defence and aerospace and feature a host of exhibitors and supply chain companies particularly in the field of satellites.
It will feature the latest technology and engineering solutions, allow firms to network and learn from leaders in the field.