UK Space Agency announces £65m fund for space tech

National Space Innovation Programme (NSIP) aims to accelerate development of new space technologies, satellite applications and services through funding for high-risk but high-reward projects designed by British companies 

The first tranche of up to £34m is now open to proposals, with NSIP keen to see projects that will drive innovation, accelerate the route to market and catalyse investment into the UK space sector. The remaining £31m will be split across further calls for proposals in 2024 and 2025, with projects running until March 2027.

white and red space ship on blue sky during daytime

Photo by Bill Jelen

The idea behind NSIP is to provide an opportunity for the UK space sector to develop viable commercial innovations that can tackle a range of challenges – from combating climate change to making in-orbit applications more sustainable. NSIP support will be key to addressing barriers in research and development, and to bringing high-value space tech to market that can create jobs and benefit us all for generations to come. 

This funding model has already proved successful. An NSIP pilot scheme launched in 2020 provided UK organisations with funding of more than £25m. This included support for SatVu to develop the first Middle Wavelength Infra-Red (MWIR) satellite, launched in June 2023, which observes Earth to gain data on building emissions that can then help us to improve customer energy use and reduce emissions. 

Another recipient was Northumbria University, which received funding to design, test and build a new miniaturised laser optical communications terminal that it’s hoped will transform data sharing between satellites, in turn support future satellite and space science missions. 

In the new round of funding, NSIP money will be divided between major projects and kick starter funding. The latter will provide targeted support for early-stage and disruptive innovation. Again, there’s a precedent here. Cardiff-based Space Forge has been developing retractable solar panels that could provide reusable satellites with compact and affordable means of sourcing energy. In addition, Imperial College London’s research into metal additive manufacturing for application in space could allow for replacement parts to be printed as required in orbit. 

 George Freeman MP, Minister for Space at the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, says: ‘Our space sector is constantly advancing thanks to pioneering new ideas from our world-class scientists and technologists that push the potential of British innovation at its best.   

‘Investing in these projects not only bolsters the UK’s seat at the table of the global space community, but it unlocks future business and job opportunities that will accelerate the growth of our nation’s £17.5bn space sector.’ 

Dr Paul Bate, Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency, adds: ‘In today’s interconnected world, space technologies have become critical to almost every aspect of our daily lives.    

‘The National Space Innovation Programme will support the UK’s most ambitious space technology projects and their potential to address real-world challenges, to catalyse investment, deliver new missions and capabilities, and harness the power of space to improve lives.’ 

Rob Desborough, Managing Partner at investment company Seraphim Space, says: ‘The UK has a thriving SpaceTech ecosystem, over $47bn of private capital has been invested across the global space sector since 2015. The UK accounted 17% of this, making it the second most attractive destination – only behind the US. Mechanisms like this are critical for the UK to maintain its prominence in what is now a globally competitive market worth in excess of $1tn by 2030.’  

John Hanley, Chair of trade association UKspace, adds: ‘The UK space sector is one of the most research-intensive parts of our economy – with almost £800m reported spend on R&D in the last size and health study. The UK Space Agency’s National Space Innovation Programme is hugely important as a catalyst for further industry investment to develop new and improved commercial products and services – driving growth across the whole of the country.’ 

The announcement of RSIP funding comes ahead of the UK Space Conference due to take place November 21 to 23 at ICC Belfast, where representatives from government, industry and academic space innovators will gather to collaboratively shape the future of space.

In related news:

Tackling CO2, water pollution and threats to biodiversity – from space

£20m from UK Space Agency for drones and other tech to connect remote areas

‘Put your money in space,’ investors told


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