STC Ventures Into Space

Silverstone Technology Cluster

16th March 2020

Please click here to watch the summary video now available on our STC Youtube channel.

The cluster took a giant leap into space this week at an event focusing on The UK Space Sector. Part of our new STC ‘Business Growth’ series and in association with The Open University Space Academic Network, this event provided insights and opportunities to get involved in this opening market. Experts from government, academia, global business and small private start-ups shared different perspectives emphasising how they are welcoming involvement from commercial businesses to drive forward innovative growth in this sector.

Firstly, Farooq Sabri of London Economics mapped out the scale of the UK space market, currently over 5% of the global market with income totalling over £14.8billion in 2017. The Government aims to achieve 10% global market share by 2030, creating new legislation this year that helps encourage greater commercial engagement in response to the increasing requirement for new supply chains and innovators.

Martin Lee of Airbus (UK Programme Procurement Manager) highlighted the fast-paced development of their satellite activity. With 15 new satellites being launched per month, Airbus are involved in creating new high-value data-driving ‘constellations’. Lee emphasised the need for adjoining sectors to get involved in providing the end-to-end technology now needed to manage, not only the movement of complex satellite traffic, but also the big data streaming back to Earth. He stressed that private businesses must engage to drive the new “revolution in manufacturing” needed to bring down the cost and time of getting fault-free technology into space. “If the space sector keeps its doors closed, we can’t get there…or meet the emerging requirements”. Lee highlighted several areas to collaborate and inviting involvement from across the cluster.

Professor Andrew Holland of The Open University then gave us an overview of their involvement in the Space sector and outlined many available routes to funding and skilled resources for businesses looking to branch into this sector. The OU has a large team involved in the education, R&D and tech development of Space Science research and innovation. This includes such intriguing areas as Astrobiology, Solar System formation and the search for water and extractable resources on the Moon. They also help develop new space instrumentation, seeking ways to apply space tech to other real-world challenges too. They actively provide SME support providing access to R&D scientific facilities, help in securing funding and placing skilled post-grad interns to assist in key collaborative innovation projects.

Anthony Baker of Satellite Vu then shared his experience of a start-up involved in the space sector. Specialising in infrared satellite imagery, their satellite will see the economic activity and energy wastage from structures anywhere in the world and also detect ocean-bound issues. Lots of big businesses (eg: BP, Defence etc) have expressed interested in investing in this “hot data”. Satellite Vu is seeking partners who can “take their data and add value” by taking it into other specialised areas such as energy efficiency projects and image processing experts.

Lockheed Martin’s Steve Gibson (Senior Business Development Manager) then presented the sheer scale of their involvement in the space sector. With over 850 satellites, all with 100% success rate, they are the world’s biggest space business globally with $10bn sales in 2018. They are involved in a huge variety of areas from Skynet, the UK satellite and rocket launch programme planned from Scotland, re-entry capsules, to space domain operations and space traffic management. They are also now actively looking for partners to collaborate on new innovations.

As the finale, The UK Space Agency was presented as the “voice of the UK space industry” by Freddie Martin, explaining their civil service role as an executive agency of the government. Tony Forsythe went on to highlight key technology projects now actively looking for new suppliers and that “there is a lower cost/lower orbit access to space now” which opens the sector to new businesses not yet space specialists. He described funding opportunities from the National Space Technology Programme and encouraged new businesses to find out more at the “Satuccino coffee mornings” held on the first Wednesday of every month at the Harwell technology campus.

All in all, this event showed that the doors are well and truly open to the Space sector and that it is only through collaborating with new tech partners that this industry will meet its goals.


Market Perspective of Growth Opportunities Across the Supply Chain – Farooq Sabri, London Economics

Dual Use Opportunities in the Space Sector – Martin Lee, Airbus

Space Science Research, Innovation and SME support – Prof Andrew Holland, The Open University Centre for Electronic Imaging

A UK Start-up Journey for Sustainability in Space – Anthony Baker, CEO Satellite Vu

Opportunities for Growth and Partnering on Innovation
Youtube clip – Steve Gibson, Lockheed Martin

Not available for distribution:
Technology Applications in the Space Sector – Freddie Martin & Tony Forsythe, The UK Space Agency

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