UK Space Agency's £15 million funding accelerates Earth Observation technology for a greener, more sustainable future. Ritzau Scanpix / Mads Claus Rasmussen/Reuters

The UK Space Agency has secured £15 million in funding to support the research and development of space-based instruments, with a focus on enhancing environmental services such as meteorology, climate monitoring, environmental management, agriculture, urban planning, and scientific research.

The UK has already established itself as a global leader in Earth Observation (EO) tools, technologies, and data utilisation. This new funding is expected to accelerate the development of cutting-edge EO technologies originating from the UK, with the potential for these advancements to be integrated into satellites in the near future.

The funding aligns with the National Space Strategy in Action report, which was published in July and outlines the government's commitment to maintaining the UK's leading position in EO technology for both commercial and public services.

George Freeman MP, Minister of State at the Department for Science, Innovation, and Technology, emphasised the critical role of Earth Observation technology in addressing pressing challenges such as climate change and humanitarian disasters. Freeman highlighted that the funding would not only benefit climate monitoring but also play a role in ensuring bridge safety and optimising agricultural practises, ultimately boosting the UK's economy and solidifying its position as a science superpower.

"This pivotal technology doesn't stop there and from ensuring the safety of bridges to enabling our farmers get the best from their land, this £15m investment will boost our economy and drive forward our ambition to make the UK a science superpower," he said.

The Earth Observation Technology Programme funding will be managed by the Centre for Earth Observation Instrumentation (CEOI) and 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 emphasised the indispensable nature of satellite technology in daily life, facilitating climate change monitoring, environmental protection, resource management and responses to global humanitarian crises.

Sangha believes the funding will catalyse investment across the sector, supporting innovative projects, new sensor technologies, and improved climate change understanding through data analysis.

He said: "Satellite technology is essential to our daily lives, helping us to monitor climate change and protect our environment, manage our resources, respond to global humanitarian disasters and support sustainable development. This funding will help catalyse investment across the sector to support a range of innovative projects, from developing new sensor technologies to using the data for improved understanding of climate change."

The £15 million funding will be allocated to various project categories, including Pathfinder projects (up to £75,000), Fast Track projects (up to £250,000), and Flagship projects (up to £3 million).

These projects will cover technology development at different stages, ranging from early-stage research to lab-based experimental hardware, and even testing instruments in relevant environments such as vacuum chambers and airborne demonstration flights.

Chris Brownsword, Director of the Centre for Earth Observation Instrumentation, welcomed the call for grant proposals, emphasising that it represents a significant increase in funding opportunities. Brownsword highlighted the programme's history of driving innovation and fostering collaboration between academia and industry, resulting in the development of UK-owned technologies. The Director expressed excitement about the potential successes this new funding could facilitate.

Since 2016, the Earth Observation Technology Programme has provided £20 million in funding across 57 projects. Notable examples include the development of a next-generation Synthetic Aperture Radar for Oceanography led by the National Oceanography Centre in collaboration with Airbus, a Compact Infrared Imager and Radiometer led by the University of Oxford, and a Laser Heterodyne Radiometer led by RAL-Space.

This funding opportunity is the latest in a series of technology development activities the UK Space Agency has issued under its Earth Observation Technology Programme. Since 2016, this programme has provided £20 million in funding across 57 projects, with many of these projects progressing toward flight on commercial, societal, and research space missions.

Additional quotes from experts in the field highlight the pride in the UK's history of developing transformative satellite instruments and the anticipation of the country's vibrant Earth Observation community contributing to leading global partnerships.

The newly secured funding marks a significant milestone in the UK's space industry and its efforts to address environmental challenges while advancing scientific knowledge for the benefit of all.