[Satellite News 01-06-12] The British government has taken up plans to foster domestic research and technology work and develop its satellite applications industry through the construction of a new facility that would be run by the U.K. Technology Steering Board (TSB).
In a Jan. 6 speech, U.K. Science Minister David Willetts said the opening of the Catapult Center — TSB’s fourth facility — would represent a significant step in the British government’s long-term goal to enhance the country’s science and technology sector and become less dependent on services.
“[The Catapult Center] will provide business with access to in-orbit test facilities to develop and demonstrate new satellite technologies,” Willetts said in speech delivered to the U.K. Policy Exchange firm. “It will also provide access to advanced systems for data capture and analysis, supporting the development of new services delivered by satellites. These could be in a wide range of areas such as distance learning and telemedicine, urban planning, precision agriculture, traffic management and meteorology.”
The facility will be designed to act as a technology and innovation hub for new satellite-based products and services, with a focus on applications of research and development in communications, broadcasting, positioning and observation. It also aims to provide in-orbit test facilities for U.K. organizations looking demonstrate new satellite technologies.
TSB CEO Iain Gray voiced support for the new center and said that the government’s plan would have the backing of the British aerospace industry as it could help develop U.K.-based satellite technologies and jobs.
“The Catapult will help U.K. businesses create many products and services across a wide range of areas, such as distance learning, telemedicine, urban planning, precision agriculture, traffic management and meteorology,” Gray said. “The TSB believes that the satellite applications Catapult [Center] will help achieve targets set out in the U.K. Space Innovation and Growth Strategy to grow U.K. market share from 6 percent to 10 percent by 2030 and create 100,000 high-value jobs.”
U.K. aerospace industry group ADS also welcomed the announcement. In a statement, ADS Deputy CEO and Managing Director Graham Chisnall said the development plans also could serve as an important recognition of the U.K. space industry and the country’s specialization in satellite technologies.
“This is just one of several steps being taken through government, academia and industry to see the United Kingdom reach full potential in an area that, through forecasting alone, is worth nearly 1 billion British pounds ($1.5 billion). Therefore, the industry and its 70,000 employees warmly welcome it,” said Chisnall.
In addition to the Catapult Center, Willetts also announced proposals to construct new types of academic universities for postgraduates that are studying science and technology.
“The government is looking to foster links between industry and academia as well, with the goal of increasing the amount of knowledge exchange income by 10 percent over the next three years,” said Willetts. “We will not allocate additional money for science and technology beyond the 4.6 billion British pounds ($7.2 billion) already dedicated [to the U.K. Space Innovation and Growth Strategy], but the government will not trim the spending as it curtails outlays in other areas. Changes in intellectual property management and expanded use of innovation vouchers that could help small businesses work with academia are aimed at helping meet that target.”