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Space data to drive economic and business growth in the East Midlands

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University of Leicester based Centre for Excellence wins two-year funding extension to apply hi-tech solutions for business needs

7 September 2017 – A space technologies centre of excellence based at the University of Leicester has won funding for two years to bring hi-tech know-how for the benefit of businesses in the region.

The East Midlands Centre of Excellence in Satellite Applications is to be located at the University’s new Leicester Innovation Hub, a £5.1m dedicated creative incubation and innovation space in the heart of the city, part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), to provide an easy to find ‘front door’ to the University’s innovation support, expertise and facilities, especially in Earth Observation and GIS.

The new Centre will receive £200,000 per year, part-funded by the Satellite Applications Catapult and UK Space Agency, to employ dedicated staff to showcase innovative commercial uses of satellite data and to establish closer links/collaborations between industry and academia in the region. The Earth Observation Innovation Fellow in the Leicester Innovation Hub will be on hand to help companies practically use the satellite data to create and launch new products and services.

Professor Roland Leigh, Chief Executive of the Centre, said: “The East Midlands has an incredibly strong heritage in the space sector, and the potential for significant growth through the use of satellite data. This centre will work across the East Midlands, engaging with businesses and higher educational institutions, in order to drive economic growth by supporting businesses in understanding the potential of the use of satellite data, and fostering the development of related applications.

“Our purpose is to establish regional presence and represent the Satellite Applications Catapult in the East Midlands. In the first three months, we have identified our focus areas and priorities, where satellite-enabled solutions are capable to bring economic impact in the East Midlands in terms of Future transport; Agri-tech and Low-carbon technologies. In the first quarter, the Centre has engaged with at least 10 businesses and helped initiate 3 collaborative projects.”

The East Midlands Centre of Excellence in Satellite Applications has been running since April 2017 as a partnership of the University of Leicester, the NERC National Centre for Earth Observation (NCEO https://www.nceo.ac.uk/) and the British Geological Survey (BGS http://www.bgs.ac.uk/ ), part-funded by the Satellite Applications Catapult https://sa.catapult.org.uk/ and the UK Space Agency . The Centre is led (and hosted) by the University of Leicester, and it builds upon an initial 3-year period of activity(2014-2017),

Professor Leigh added: “The funding extension means that we are recognised as a Centre of Excellence with great potential to achieve our regional objectives. The UK has a target to grow the UK’s share of the World space economy to 10% by 2030, which is worth £40bn per annum and creation of 100 000 new jobs. The Satellite Applications Catapult and its centres of excellence will provide significant contribution to achieve this target.

“Our aims are to promote and enable the regional exploitation of Earth Observation, GNSS and geospatial data and services throughout the business and public sectors in the East Midlands.”

Stuart Martin, CEO of the Satellite Applications Catapult, said, “The Catapult was created to foster economic growth by helping industry across the UK to exploit satellite data. To extend the reach from our base in Harwell, Oxford, we established five regional centres to work with their local businesses. The East Midlands Centre of Excellence has worked with some great new initiatives and we are delighted to contribute further to the growth of East Midlands region.”

Colin Baldwin, UK Space Gateway Programme Manager, said: “The UK Space Agency is delighted to support the East Midlands Centre of Excellence in Satellite Applications. The UK’s space sector underpins £250 billion of the UK’s economic activity across a diverse range of other sectors. This centre will help companies from across these sectors to develop new capabilities using space data and services.”

Working closely with the Leicester Innovation Hub, the Centre also plans to align its work with the Space Park, Leicester.


The East Midlands Centre of Excellence has a vision to support the acceleration of satellite applications across the greater East Midlands.