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UK aims for 10 per cent market share with space catapult

The Technology Strategy Board’s Satellite Applications Catapult is aiming to enable the UK industry to capture a 10 per cent share of the global space market and may even co-fund PhD students, its newly appointed chairman has said.

The UK’s share in the global space market is estimated at 4 to 5 per cent. The market itself is expected to be worth £400 billion in 2030.

Speaking to Research Fortnight Today following the announcement of his position at the catapult centre in Harwell, Tim Sherwood said the centre will not only act as a broker between business and industry, but will also advise small businesses on how to secure funding for their ideas.

“We’re going to work with researchers and business to grow applications and the space business,” he says. “It’s going to be more focused on the downstream, applications side, but necessarily we’ll have to do some research as well.”

Among his ideas for the catapult, Sherwood says he wants to work closely with researchers, potentially co-funding PhD students and offering placements within the centre. “We haven’t thought the details through yet—that will come in the next three months,” he says. “But I like some of the ideas from the Fraunhofer centres.”

The UK is strong in Earth observations, navigation and communications, he adds, so these could be potential areas for growth. However, it is not so good at integrating work across them.

Sherwood, an ex-business developer at Vodafone, says his first priority will be to oversee the merger between the catapult and the International Space Innovation Centre at the Harwell base in Oxfordshire before the centre opens for business in early April.

“ISIC has done a good job, but it could only take things so far; the catapult allows us to build on that good work,” he told Research Fortnight Today. “The priority is merging the two on time and in a very sympathetic manner so everything is brought across—we don’t want to lose anything.”

His appointment was announced on 3 December, alongside that of chief executive, Stuart Martin, previously business director for space and satellite communications at Logica.

Together they will establish a full board for the centre, appoint around 70 members of staff and set up a satellite advisory group, which will advise the board on future trends in both research and the applications market.

Speaking at the European Space Solutions conference in London, science minister David Willetts also confirmed £1 million funding for companies looking to work in Harwell, which is part of the TSB’s launchpad initiative, announced last month.