STEPHANIE shines a light on North East space opportunities

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AN INNOVATIVE programme in the North East is looking to help more businesses take advantage of the growing space technology sector.

Space technology, including photonics, which uses light, is playing an increasingly critical role in resolving some of the world’s greatest challenges, from sending bigger sized data to the lasers used in automotive production to make cars lighter and safer.

STEPHANIE was established two and a half years ago to help North East companies capitalise on opportunities in the sector by sharing knowledge and good practice and influencing policy and funding.

Steve Clements, CEO of Axenic, a company which designs high-speed optical modulators and is based at the North East Technology Park (NETPark) in Sedgefield, County Durham, said: “We’re looking for investment to scale up the team to match our growth. There are lots of opportunities for us and STEPHANIE has definitely helped businesses to make connections and raise awareness of the great things being done in photonics in the North East.

“The refreshing thing was being at a meeting in London recently and a company based in the South East had heard there was thriving space activity in the North East and that the photonics industry was part of that. Space is definitely where the future lies.

The region is already home to the North East Satellite Applications Centre of Excellence, the National Photonics Centre and Durham University’s Centre for Advanced Instrumentation.

Business Durham, the economic development arm of Durham County Council, is the UK partner for STEPHANIE, which is an EU-funded Interreg Europe five-year programme. There have been a number of exchange trips to learn best practice and the North East hosted a delegation from Prague in January.

Elaine Scott, business engagement and opportunities manager at Business Durham, said: “The North East not only has world-leading expertise in photonics technology, but is also one of the most forward-thinking regions when it comes to ways of turning space research and technology into applications that can help solve real-world problems.

“We know businesses in the North East have the passion and ideas to capitalise on the opportunities in the photonics industry. The STEPHANIE programme is about influencing new or existing projects in the region to support businesses which might be working in this innovative field. The exchange trips are a fantastic way of sharing best practice and showcasing what the North East has to offer.”

STEPHANIE brings together eight partners from seven European countries to exchange knowledge on how to ensure that policy is designed to guarantee real benefits from space technology based on photonics, particularly in space and earth observation.  It is being led by the National Research Centre of Italy.