Space

Space companies to benefit from GBP1m investment in research and development

Companies working in, or looking to set up in, the space community at Harwell in Oxford will benefit from GBP1m funding to help them to go further and faster towards commercial success, according to David Willetts, Minister for Universities and Science.

The investment in innovative R&D projects is part of the Technology Strategy Board’s Launchpad initiative which supports business groups, suppliers and associated institutions who work together in the same location.

Willetts, speaking at the European Space Solutions Conference, said: “Space is one of our most promising sectors and the government is determined to foster innovation and help companies invest in R&D to drive long-term growth. This funding will support innovative projects where small businesses may see it as too risky to go it alone when developing their ideas into new products or services. It could also help companies grow by connecting them with mentors, expert advisors and the investor community around the world class Harwell campus. Harwell is becoming a crucial space cluster and this initiative takes it further.”

Iain Gray, chief executive of the Technology Strategy Board, says: This important competition will support small and medium sized businesses to achieve their growth ambitions through engagement with the facilities and expertise available around the developing space cluster at Harwell. Through provision of up to GBP100,000 per project and a programme of business and finance support services around the cluster, Launchpad will support winning businesses in achieving their potential, and in doing so, the development of the next generation of high growth space applications and technologies businesses."

A Launchpad is one of the Technology Strategy Board’s business tools designed to support the growth phase of existing clusters – a geographic concentration of interconnected business, suppliers and associated institutions in a particular field. Due to the concentration within a cluster, there are often advantages of speed and knowledge transfer that the Launchpad initiative encourages.

This builds on the success of the Technology Strategy Board’s GBP1.25m investment in London’s tech and digital hub Tech City in 2011. The competition attracted over 200 applications from SMEs to work in the digital space in Shoreditch, London, gaining an additional GBP1.5m of private sector funding towards 13 projects now at various stages of completion.

Support to raise appropriate new external finance is a key component of a Launchpad and applicants are likely to benefit most from participation in the programme if this aligns with their business objectives.

The Space Launchpad will encourage engagement with space sector expertise and facilities on the Harwell campus. These include the European Space Agency, the Science & Technology Facilities Council, RAL Space and the Satellite Applications Catapult centre, a centre for the development and commercial exploitation of space and satellite-based products, services and applications currently being established at Harwell.

Future planned Launchpads are in the materials and manufacturing sector, which will focus on a cluster of companies around Daresbury and Runcorn Heath, as well as a series of Launchpads in digital and creative clusters across different parts of the UK.

In each Launchpad the Technology Strategy Board will be working with a local partner organisation, known as a cluster champion, to deliver a full package of support to the competition winners and to engage with the cluster as a whole.

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