Science and Technology Facilities Council
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Huge day for the UK space industry at Harwell

The huge social and economic benefits to the UK economy of the rapidly growing space sector was highlighted on Thursday 2nd December at an Information Day at the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus (HSIC).

The event heralded the STFC-led International Space Innovation Centre's place as the national hub of a major cluster of international space activities and saw an agreement made for the European Space Agency's (ESA's) Business Incubation Centre at the campus. The space sector in the UK supports almost 68,000 jobs and contributes an annual turnover of £5.9 billion; HSIC is fast becoming a major contributor to this as the national hub.

Keith Mason (STFC) and David Southwood (ESA) signing the MoU

The International Space Innovation Centre (ISIC), which will be operational in April 2011, is a unique partnership between the public and private sectors. It brings together industry, national laboratories, academia, international space agencies and government to maximise and exploit space research and technology, reinforcing the UK's competitiveness and spearheading national growth in the global space market. The initial focus of ISIC will be understanding and countering climate change, ensuring the security of space systems and services and exploiting and visualising data generated by Earth observation satellites. Future areas for ISIC will include robotics and exploration, novel power sources and integrated applications.

The Minister of State for Universities and Science, David Willetts said "Establishing a centre like ISIC as part of the Harwell space cluster can only help strengthen the thriving space sector in the UK. Bringing together vital components of earth observation, security and resilience and space science know-how will make it easier for small companies to grow more quickly and will help manifest and drive innovative ideas."

Colin Paynter, CEO Astrium UK said "ISIC has enormous potential in creating a virtuous circle of upstream to downstream space activities, and with the right conditions it can be an ideal environment in which to grow our existing successful space companies and also to create the major space companies of tomorrow."

The International Space Innovation Centre

An agreement between STFC and ESA to run the ESA Business Incubator Centre (BIC) at Harwell was signed at today's event. The ESA BIC Harwell will complement the work of ISIC by offering a unique and intensive package of technical expertise and business support for up to 10 start-up businesses a year. The centre at Harwell is the fifth ESA has set up. "ESA chose Harwell for its first UK centre in 2009 and has now announced a Business Incubation Centre which aims to support up to ten new businesses a year. Both ESA facilities draw on the critical mass of talent and technology at Harwell and the unique hub and spoke capability offered by ISIC. Working in partnership ESA and the International Space Innovation Centre will help spearhead the growth of the space industry and generate new technologies and services that will provide a direct benefit to the UK economy" said Professor Keith Mason, STFC Chief Executive.

David Southwood, ESA Director of Science and Robotic Exploration who signed the agreement for ESA said during his talk at the event "In the UK, academia and industry are working together productively, rather than as separate elements. We're setting up here to learn how things are done in the UK and to spread that across Europe."

ESA's pan European BIC centres allow entrepreneurs to set up companies at their own risk based on a technology developed by Europe's space industry and institutions. Among the benefits is a cash incentive scheme with up to £40,000 for intellectual property (IP) protection, design, prototyping and market studies. Since the end of 2004 ESA has successfully managed a business incubation programme, during which 55 start-up companies have been established.

Notes to editors

More information about ISIC can be found on the ISIC section (link opens in a new window) of the STFC website.

More information about ESA's BIC can be found on the ESA BIC (link opens in a new window) section of the STFC website and on the ESA website (link opens in a new window).


Images have been taken on the day and will be available shortly after the event. Please contact the Press Office for more details.


Lucy Stone
Press Officer
STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory
Tel: +44 (0)1235 445 627
Mob: +44 (0)7920 870 120

European Space Agency

The European Space Agency (ESA) is a research and development (R&D) agency working on behalf of its 18 member states and one associate member. These are: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UK, and the Czech Republic, and Canada (associate member). By pooling the resources of its member states, ESA undertakes programmes and activities far beyond the scope of any single European country, developing the launchers, spacecraft and ground facilities needed to keep Europe at the forefront of global space activities.

Harwell Science and Innovation Campus

The Harwell Science and Innovation Campus (HSIC) was created by the UK government in 2006 to build on the outstanding set of existing science and technology facilities already on site to become a world-leading centre of science and technology.

Researchers at Harwell are working in fields as diverse as fusion energy, climate change and medical science. Facilities already available include X-ray and neutron radiation sources, a Peta-Watt class laser; and the existing Rutherford Appleton Laboratory Space Science and Technology Department.

The campus at Harwell is a joint venture between the STFC (a government-funded organisation); the UK Atomic Energy Authority; and international property group Goodman.

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