In a significant move to revolutionize 5G and broadband coverage across the UK, British innovators could secure up to £160 million from a scheme aimed at delivering advanced high-tech satellites.
Science and Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan announced this development today. The scheme, known as Connectivity in Low Earth Orbit (CLEO), focuses on the development of Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites.
These satellites offer unparalleled resilience and resistance to disabling attempts, as demonstrated during Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, where they ensured continuous and reliable connectivity even in challenging circumstances.
CLEO aims to support UK researchers and businesses in driving the development of new constellations, including smarter satellites with improved hardware, faster data delivery through AI, and enhanced connectivity through satellite interconnection. These interconnected networks will serve billions globally, propelling the UK’s satellite industry toward global leadership.
This investment marks the UK’s most significant ever commitment to satellite communications, unlocking the country’s potential to become a global giant in the satellite industry and creating hundreds of highly skilled jobs to boost the Prime Minister’s economic growth agenda.
The package will be complemented by various 5G integration projects, such as the 5G testing facility at ESCAT in Harwell, Oxfordshire. These projects aim to establish networks in underserved and remote areas, ensuring high-speed internet and connectivity throughout the UK.
This initiative aligns with the government’s Science and Technology Framework, which prioritizes improving Future Telecoms.
Science, Innovation, and Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan stated that bridging the digital divide is crucial for empowering citizens across the country.
By investing in the research and development facilitated by CLEO, the government aims to level up the country while stimulating economic growth through high-quality jobs.
This record investment also presents an opportunity to capitalize on the UK’s reputation as a world leader in innovation and R&D, supporting leading UK businesses in delivering the next generation of satellites and establishing the UK as a true space superpower. To enhance the UK’s capabilities and long-term ambitions in the space sector, the government is exploring grant funding of up to £100 million.
An additional £60 million from the European Space Agency’s (ESA) UK-backed Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems (ARTES) program may support this grant funding.
The scheme will establish UK leadership in critical areas for the next generation of LEO satellite communication technologies, such as AI and machine learning.
CLEO aims to facilitate the research and development necessary to launch hundreds of satellites into space, revolutionizing the UK’s communication infrastructure and eliminating connectivity gaps.
Harshbir Sangha, Missions and Capabilities Delivery Director at the UK Space Agency emphasized that this announcement is a crucial step towards the UK Space Agency’s goal of maximizing the potential of low Earth orbit and becoming a global leader in next-generation satellite communications technologies.
The intention is to catalyze investment, build on existing capabilities, and meet the challenges associated with capturing a significant share of the rapidly evolving global market. This will be achieved by leveraging the growing national space program and leading investments in commercial ESA programs like ARTES.
This announcement follows the reintroduction of the government’s National Space Council, which aims to position the UK as a true space superpower.
Co-chaired by the Science and Defence Secretaries, the council is responsible for coordinating government policy on space and ensuring that the UK is well-positioned to capitalize on opportunities in the space sector, driving job creation and economic growth, which are among the Prime Minister’s key priorities.
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