COLLABORATION

Leicester Space Park is the new frontier of UK space exploration

SOURCE: Greg Rakozy / Unsplash
Leicester could be about to become the new base for UK space exploration with the anticipated launch of the new state-of-the-art Space Park.

When you think of space exploration, your first thought is probably not Leicester in the United Kingdom. But that could be about to change as the midlands city and its namesake university gear up for its new state-of-the-art Space Park.

The new purpose-built facility promises to become a new base for UK space exploration when it opens in late 2020. Developers just received planning permission approval for the first phase of construction, which is slated to start in the autumn.

The development will provide a world-leading collaborative hub for space and the space-enabled industries, creating more than 2,500 high-value jobs and driving increased economic benefits for Leicester and the East Midlands.

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Alongside industry, academics and first-class teaching facilities, the £100 million first phase will also house the National Centre for Earth Observation, led by the University of Leicester. The site is part of the Loughborough and Leicester Science and Innovation Enterprise Zone, meaning any businesses taking up space in the new development will work closely with the university.

The project recently received a major financial boost when a key part of the Park, its new Manufacturing, Engineering, Technology and Earth Observation Research Centre (METEOR), was awarded nearly £14 million in funding.

The investment, which comes from Round 6 of Research England’s flagship capital investment scheme, the UK Research Partnership Investment Fund (UKRPIF), will leverage a further £50 million of investments in space and Earth observation (EO) research in Leicester.

The UKRPIF award is the largest funding award made to Leicester University in its history, and it is the only university in the Midlands to be awarded UKRPIF funds in this round.

UKRPIF requires double-match funding from non-public sources, and the funding for METEOR has leveraged co-investment from a range of project partners, including Airbus, Lockheed Martin, Thales Alenia Space and a host of other companies.

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Space Park Leicester will be open to businesses to take advantage of the world-class technologies, which, in such a booming space industry, could mean the difference between failure and success for some.

The UK Space Sector has trebled in size since 2000, with an ambition to grow from 6.5 percent of the global space economy to 10 percent by 2030. This is equivalent to £40 billion and expected to provide 100,000 jobs.

Globally, the sector is projected to increase by 80 percent to £400 billion by 2030.

The creation of Low-Cost Access to Space Manufacturing Facility, integrated in Space Park Leicester, will support the UK’s national launch ambitions.