The UK government has announced a £15 million funding initiative by the UK Space Agency to support the research and development of space-based instruments. This funding aims to enhance a variety of environmental services, including meteorology, climate monitoring, environmental management, agriculture, urban planning, and scientific knowledge improvement.
With its existing status as a global leader in Earth Observation (EO) tools, technologies, and data utilization, the UK aims to expedite the development of promising EO technologies that could be deployed on satellites within the next few years.
The National Space Strategy in Action report, published in July, outlines the government’s strategy to maintain the UK’s position at the forefront of EO technology for commercial and public services.
George Freeman MP, Minister of State at the Department for Science, Innovation, and Technology, emphasized the critical role of Earth Observation technology in addressing contemporary challenges such as climate change and humanitarian disasters.
He expressed the UK’s commitment to harnessing its world-leading skills in this field, which extends beyond climate monitoring to ensuring infrastructure safety and supporting agricultural productivity.
Freeman highlighted the £15 million investment as a means to boost the economy and drive the UK’s aspiration to become a science superpower.
The Earth Observation Technology Programme funding, administered by the Centre for Earth Observation Instrumentation (CEOI), is part of a larger £400 million package announced in November 2022 to support the UK’s Earth Observation sector.
Harshbir Sangha, Missions and Capabilities Delivery Director at the UK Space Agency emphasized the essential role of satellite technology in monitoring climate change, protecting the environment, managing resources, responding to disasters, and promoting sustainable development.
The funding aims to catalyze investment across the sector and support innovative projects, ranging from sensor technology development to improved understanding of climate change through data utilization.
The £15 million funding will cover Pathfinder projects (up to £75,000), Fast Track projects (up to £250,000), and Flagship projects (up to £3 million).
Pathfinder and Fast Track projects will support early-stage research and experimental hardware development, while Flagship projects will further advance technologies through testing in relevant environments and demonstration flights.
Chris Brownsword, Director of the Centre for Earth Observation Instrumentation, highlighted the significance of this funding opportunity, which represents a substantial increase compared to past grants.
He emphasized that it will continue to support the development of innovative technology while accelerating the pace of technological advancement.
Previous CEOI calls have successfully brought together academia and industry to develop UK-owned technologies, and Brownsword expressed excitement about the potential successes that this new funding opportunity can facilitate.
Since 2016, the Earth Observation Technology Programme has provided £20 million in funding for 57 projects. Notable projects include the development of a Next Generation Synthetic Aperture Radar for Oceanography, a Compact Infrared Imager and Radiometer, and a Laser Heterodyne Radiometer.
Professor John Remedios, Executive Director of the National Centre for Earth Observation, commended the UK’s history of developing satellite instruments that have significantly contributed to understanding the global Earth system.
He highlighted the new investment as an opportunity to design and test the next generation of Earth observation capabilities.
Remedios emphasized the vibrant community of Earth Observation scientists in research laboratories, universities, and industry who can contribute novel technologies, mathematical algorithms, and valuable datasets through international partnerships.
Dr. Jonathan Taylor, Principal Fellow at the Met Office, emphasized the importance of investment in Earth Observations (EO) for ongoing advancements in weather and climate research and prediction.
The Met Office looks forward to collaborating with successful applicants to provide innovative services and information to a wide range of users through new EO technology.
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