Boost to improve the UK’s capability in Earth observation to tackle global environmental challenges

Posted by ap507 at Sep 12, 2016 12:36 PM |
University of Leicester to receive funding to develop new technologies

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 12 September 2016

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The University of Leicester is part of a new £2m joint programme which will help to develop innovative technologies to observe Earth from space.

The UK Space Agency has today unveiled new support to help the UK space and satellite technology sector maintain their leading position in earth observation and help tackle global issues such as deforestation and disaster monitoring.

This support includes a new £2m joint programme for UK companies and academia to develop innovative technologies to observe Earth from space.

Working together with the University of Leicester, Airbus Defence and Space UK, QinetiQ and STFC RAL Space, the £2m funding from the UK Space Agency will nurture UK companies and academia to develop their technologies and help them gain access to a funding pot of more than £10m to take their ideas to the next level.

New funding for satellite technology development will be managed on behalf of the UK Space Agency by the Centre for Earth Observation Instrumentation (CEOI), a consortium of world-class academia and industry experts.

Previous grant winners have achieved remarkable success to date by developing technology and positioning UK industry to win over £150m in external contracts over a 10 year period.

Over the next five years, CEOI will be responsible for managing EO technology projects with a total value of up to £20m - the £10m from the UK Space Agency could be matched by additional funds from industry. This funding helps ensure the UK remains competitive in the global space sector, supporting a growing community of SMEs and maintaining a leading role for UK scientists.

Professor Paul Monks, Head of the College of Science and Engineering and Pro Vice-Chancellor at the University of Leicester, said: "The CEOI programmes to date have really improved EO technology in the United Kingdom, facilitated £17million of technology projects in the last three years and delivered a programme of workshops and conferences. The new contract will develop technologies to a higher level and support the Government’s Innovation and Growth Strategy. We want to see the very best in business and academia applying for the technology calls as they are announced.  I’m delighted that the UKSA has placed its trust in Leicester and its partners to deliver their programme to 2020.

“Leicester itself has benefitted from CEOI grants. Our world-class air quality innovations team have received funding to monitor air quality from space. In doing so they were able to develop two upstream space projects: (CompAQS) The Compact Air Quality Spectrometer and (HAPI) The High-resolution Anthropogenic Pollution Imager and 2 downstream projects: uTRAQ and the Hot Spot Mapper. Researchers can produce real-time data on how polluted parts of the landscape are, including motorway junctions, airports, car parks and urban environments. This is valuable data for urban planners and legislators to mitigate the impact of pollution on life chances.”

The University of Leicester held a signing event for the contract with the CEO of the UK Space Agency, the President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leicester and attended by senior figures from Airbus Defence and Space, QinetiQ and STFC RAL Space.

The project is part of the Leicester Institute for Space and Earth Observation. This new Institute brings together all the research work within the University associated with Space (including astronomy and planetary science) and Earth Observation.

The focus will be on Space/EO missions and instruments, Space and EO data and innovation. Expected outcomes will bring science leadership (mission scientists), alongside Engineering capability, and develop expertise on data analysis, data exploitation and leading technology that can be applied both within Space Research and outside in other areas e.g. medical devices and diagnosis.

Professor Paul Boyle, President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leicester, said: “The University is world-renowned for its work in space science – every year since 1967 has seen a Leicester built instrument operating in space. UKSA is an important partner for the University in developing our Space and Earth Observation interests and our management of the CEOI programme continues a successful collaboration with Airbus, QinetiQ and STFC.

“The University is extremely well placed to bring academic input to the project and it complements other important projects such as NCEO (National Centre for Earth Observation) while aligning with our ambitious plans to develop the National Space Park.”

Jo Johnson, Minister for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, added: “The UK is already a world-leader in Earth observation satellites technology and data services. This investment helps our sector keep the competitive edge in the design, development and build of instruments on future spacecraft, while the data portal will help other parts of our economy sectors better understand how satellites can help their business. These innovative partnerships are one of the reasons that the UK is best place in the world for space.”

ENDS

Notes to editors:

For more information contact Professor Paul Monks on p.s.monks@le.ac.uk   

About CompAQS

The CompAQS instrument is a visible DOAS imaging spectrometer first built in 2008 under CEOI funding by the University of Leicester based on designs by Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. The instrument’s unique variation on the concentric design offers an unprecedented accuracy in retrievals of the key air quality parameters NO2 and O4. Current plans include adapting the instrument for a space-borne platform capable of resolving pollutant concentrations at sub-urban level (1x1km ground sampling). This resolution is much more advanced than the current generation of instruments and would allow the instrument to monitor urban pollution and provide air quality data of significant value to users and policy makers.

Bilateral Carbon Mission

The main objective of the Bilateral Carbon Mission Project is to develop a bilateral satellite mission concept for CO2 measurements from space between UKSA and the French space agency CNES by evaluating key areas such as spacecraft, instrument and ground segment as well as to the science exploitation of interest to the UK space industry and academia. The project has been completed and the University of Leicester is looking forward towards a future CEOI project to further develop this joint mission concept. 

About the Leicester Institute for Space and Earth Observation

This new Institute brings together all the research work within the University associated with Space (including astronomy and planetary science) and Earth Observation, which is spread across a number of Departments within the College of Science and Engineering: Physics and Astronomy, Chemistry, Computer Science, Geography, Geology, Engineering and Mathematics.

The focus will be on Space/EO missions and instruments, Space & EO data and innovation. Expected outcomes will bring science leadership (mission scientists), alongside Engineering capability, and develop expertise on data analysis, data exploitation and leading technology that can be applied both within Space Research and outside in other areas e.g. medical devices and diagnosis (already underway).

Space was identified by the last Government as one of the eight great technologies and is seen as cross-cutting enabler of growth. The Innovation and Growth Strategy (IGS) study in 2010 identified Space as a growth market with the target of £40 billion by 2030, 10% of world market. This growth needs to be underwritten by research. Having an integrated Space and Earth Observation Institute is timely as government actions continue to implement the IGS.

The University of Leicester has a long and distinguished record of discovery in space science. Every year since 1967 has seen a Leicester-built instrument operating in space. We hold, and have held, vital roles in many space missions for space agencies including NASA, European Space Agency, UK Space Agency, ISRO (India) and JAXA (Japan), covering astronomical, planetary and Earth observation science missions. These include NASA/ESA’s James Webb Space Telescope, ESA’s Bepi-Colombo mission, and ESA’s and EUMETSAT’s Meteosat Second Generation missions.

 

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