UK Space Agency’s £10m for telecoms

Funding competition launched to help UK companies put their tech at the forefront of new generation of global telecommunications applications, products and services 

Funding worth £10m is being made available by the UK Space Agency as part of the country’s commitment to the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Advanced Research in Telecommunication Systems (ARTES) programme. The funding was announced at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, an international event focused on connectivity and communications.

a large satellite dish sitting on top of a metal structure

Photo by Ambitious Studio* – Rick Barrett

‘Modern life is increasingly connected,’ begins the government’s guidance for applicants, ‘with ubiquitous connectivity sitting at the centre of many major technology advances, such as autonomous vehicles and connected machines. To ensure the UK can exploit these emerging opportunities, we are seeking ideas to help drive innovation in satellite communications in new and emerging markets.’ 

The hope is that the new funding could support projects that help improve connectivity in remote or rural areas, enable the transport of medical supplies via drones, or manage traffic for the emerging generation of autonomous vehicles. 

A wide range of UK businesses are eligible to apply, including those developing innovative products or components, systems or services, or any aspect of the space, ground or network segments. That could include breakthrough tech such as the development of lasers to communicate in space. Or, it might mean pioneering market opportunities such as the use of space tech to boost the efficiency of global shipping and trade. 

Indeed, previous projects funded under this programme have included the development of a miniature ground station to support disaster relief operations, devices to improve the efficiency of high data transfer satellites and the first European in-orbit demonstration of a new type of water propulsion.  

Future telecoms is one of the five critical technologies identified in the government’s Science and Technology Framework (along with AI, engineering biology, semiconductors and quantum). Digital infrastructure is, says the government, crucial to unlocking opportunities for growth and prosperity, and to delivering the government’s target of putting the UK at the forefront of global scientific and technological advancement.   

The UK Space Agency will host a webinar for potential applicants on March 22, 2024.   

The UK is one of the leading ARTES partners, having committed £190m to the programme at the ESA Council of Ministers in November 2022. In July last year, the UK Space Agency announced an initial round of £20m funding drones and high-altitude aircraft to boost connectivity in hard-to-reach parts of the UK and support emergency services. That announcement was made at the opening of ESA’s European Centre for Space Applications and Telecommunications (ECSAT), at the Harwell Space Cluster in Oxfordshire. ECSAT includes a 5G/6G hub that is already generating new opportunities associated with converged satellite and terrestrial telecoms networks. 

Andrew Griffith MP, Minister for Space at the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, says: ‘Telecommunications is vital for the future of the UK, by connecting remote areas, improving healthcare and upgrading navigation, which is why it is a key government priority, backed by schemes like Project Gigabit rolling out super-fast connectivity across the country.   

‘Our additional investment of £10m today will put the UK at the forefront of the next generation of telecoms, as well as supporting the experts and innovators who make these pioneering breakthroughs possible, boosting the UK economy through our thriving space sector.’ 

Dr Paul Bate, Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency, adds: ‘Satellites have connected people and businesses across the world for decades, and the UK has a rich heritage in advanced communications technology.   

‘As demand for global connectivity and data continues to soar, this funding will help UK companies develop and broaden their range of products and services – from satellite components to ground systems – and collaborate with new partners. It is a great example of how we can use our leading role in ESA to catalyse investment and unlock the benefits of future telecoms technologies.’  

In related news:

Smart charging for eVTOL at Snowdonia Aerospace Centre 

Cutting-edge weather in Reading

£45m to unlock quantum possibilities


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Help us break the news – share your information, opinion or analysis
Back to top