Edited transcripts from video messages

Professor Paul Boyle, President & Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leicester says the new developments provided fantastic opportunities for the University and for the city, region and beyond.

“At the University of Leicester, we have a 50 year-plus record of delivering the science and engineering which has enabled exploration of space to Mars, Jupiter, and beyond. At the new National Space Park, we’re going further than exploring the Universe – we will deliver a step change that ensures people who work in space and space-related industries really think of Leicester as the place to go.

“Here at Leicester we are really focussing on areas in which we are globally leading.  We are known for research at different scales – we are famous for our DNA work and the work we do at cellular level, but we are also very well known for the work we do out in space, so we are trying to make sure we can focus in the areas we are really strong. The National Space Park allows us to bring together a broad area of research where we have academics, students, local and national businesses all engaged in delivering in what will become THE National Space Park.

“One of the things our University is really unique about is that we build equipment but we also host the National Centre for Earth Observation Science, so we are interested both in building things that are sent out into space to collect lots of data, but we also specialise in analysing those data – whether we turn those data into GPS algorithms, whether it is used for pollution monitoring, whether it is helping us to understand deforestation across the world, we can use these data in a myriad of ways.

“The Space Park is all about taking our academic researchers, these globally leading physicists and others who do all this work on space, to one place bringing with them the students, the training and apprentices and critically co-designing it so that business can be involved too.  We want businesses to sit next door to academics who are next door to the students – all of them can interact to make this a place where space and space related industries really do grow.”

Professor Iain Gillespie, the University’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Enterprise, said the National Space Park spoke to the research capability of the University- building new partnerships, exploring the commercial and transformative aspects of our research, and most importantly, creating the opportunities that set our students apart.

He said: “In Leicester we have a fantastic heritage in manufacturing. But we need to make it more high-tech and we have a great opportunity to do that using an old industrial site where- at one point- Leicester was leading the world. We want to lead the world again in high-tech, this time around space, space engineering and space data. It is an amazing opportunity to build not just new high-tech facilities here in Leicester at the National Space Park but to build jobs, to create spin-outs and, with the Dock scheme, to build new businesses and locate them here at the hub of the UK in Leicester. “

For Professor Martin Barstow, Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Strategic Science Projects and Director, Leicester Institute of Space & Earth Observation, the National Space Park has put Leicester on the map as a Space City.

He said:Our space work started here in Leicester in 1960, just after the space age and since 1967 we have had an instrument in orbit in space doing some kind of research for every year since then. We have a huge reputation internationally for building space craft and instrumentation, so Leicester is the natural place to locate the National Space Park.

“We’ve collaborated with everyone around the world- we work closely with NASA and the European Space Agency and we’ve provided lots of instrumentation for ESA space missions.

“We are also the first country to work jointly with the Japanese on a space mission back in the 80s and in the last couple of years we helped India to launch their first ever astronomical observatory and provided instrumentation for that.

The aim of the National Space Park is to create a cluster of research and teaching and business.  Everything is normally very separate and although we do great research, we do it is isolation from our industrial partners – the National Space Park will give collaborators a chance to work with our researchers and students, providing amazing work experience opportunities.

“The National Space Park will bring to Leicester some of the major industrial players in space research and space business alongside a number of small companies to provide the supply chain for these businesses.  We will create hundreds of jobs so effectively Leicester will become a Space City.”

For Professor Paul Monks, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Science & Engineering at the University of Leicester, the National Space Park provides huge opportunities for exciting new advances, breakthroughs and innovations.

He said: “The National Space Park really is a multidimensional undertaking – we are going to be doing research there in space, we are going to be working with industry, and innovating around teaching and the student experience. It will be an exciting time for students – what we are envisaging there is whole new courses in taught master’s around things like space engineering and big data and we are also envisaging collaborating with industry in third and fourth year projects in sciences.

“The NSP really encompasses the whole of the STEM agenda – there is no department within the College of Science and Engineering that is not involved in some way. It encompasses the traditional subjects around Physics and Astronomy, but it is bringing in engineering and space engineering but I think the most exciting part is grasping the big data issue.  Very soon satellites will put down peta-bytes of data every day and there is a real challenge around exploiting that data both for academic and scientific interest but also for new industrial products. Your mobile phone is really a space-enabled product and we are developing with industry and with innovation in, for instance, informatics, new projects and ideas.

“A key element of the work we will be doing at the NSP is translating space technology out of traditional sectors into new sectors. The University of Leicester has a strong record of translating space science out into the areas of medicine, for example. We are leaders in the area of non-invasive diagnostics and that was by translating our space technology, our space imaging and our space detection of gases out into the medical arena. An example of this work is the ‘Star Trek Bed’ at the Leicester Royal Infirmary that the University has established.

“This announcement is hugely exciting. It will put a landmark building down there but what is more important than a building is that it will draw together industry and academia to really innovate in the research space and the teaching space to deliver new frontiers.”

The NSP will provide opportunities for:

  • Industrial collaborators to work with academia and make boundaries between academia and industry more porus
  • A great student experience exposing students to state of the art space research and working with space data.
  • New courses, MSc degrees that bring together space engineering and big data
  • Getting students to work on real space projects
  • Dedicated facilities for staff that allow for  a real uplift in our capabilities to do research on space and space-enabled data

“This has really put space on the launchpad in Leicester,” said Professor Monks.

Dr Turi King, the University’s research expertise ambassador, said: “Space science is one of the few areas that the general public is able to make a real and valuable contribution. That’s not just looking through their telescopes and discovering comets, but things like working with online projects like Galaxyzoo where people are able to look at photos from telescopes and categorise new galaxies.

“The Space Park will allow for engagement on many levels- we already host the Space School for children and the NSP will allow us to provide even more opportunities for educational engagement.”

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