The UK has an ambition to capture 10 percent of the estimated £490bn global space sector market by 2030. It has never been a more exciting time to be in the sector as we are on the cusp of a new revolution for communications and the next generation of digital technologies. Our world in 10 years, if not before, will be looking rather different. Just as we perhaps never imagined that people can be working from home or have the ability to shop from the comfort of their own home twenty years ago.
As the cost barriers to being in space have reduced, the opportunity has grown significantly. The launch of mega-satellite constellations and the use of connectivity and data has developed a new economy in its own right. The realisation of the internet of things and autonomous vehicles will be enabled by a robust space infrastructure.
The North East is well placed to serve this market, as it already has a cluster of companies engaged with space and the Centre of Excellence funded by the UK Space Agency and Satellite Applications Catapult been building this ecosystem since 2014.
It is also home to global centres of academic and industry excellence in advanced instrumentation for space, sensors, printable electronics, materials science, graphene applications, photonics, formulation, smart data, GPS, AI and immersive tech.
Some of the region’s recent exciting achievements range from major space weather projects, such as SULIS at Northumbria University, to NORSS creating the UK’s first orbital analyst centre in County Durham.
The region’s expertise in this sector all began to take shape in July 2004, when North East Technology Park (NETPark) in County Durham was officially opened. The building came with a vision to become a nationally important centre for innovation, fostering the growth of science-based or technological industries. Today, NETPark in Sedgefield is one of the premier science, engineering and technology parks in the UK.
Thanks to the work of cosmologist, Professor Carlos Frenk, and Professor Ray Sharples, at Durham University since the 1980s, capabilities in advanced instrumentation for space grew out of the site in the city to NETPark. Businesses based on the park have gone on to build some of the most complex optical technologies for space research and satellites such as for the Hubble and James Web Space Telescopes.
NETPark is the base for the North East Satellite Applications Centre of Excellence which is the focal point of the emerging space sector in our region, and plans are also in place to create a North East Space Hub on Phase 3a of the development. The Centre also manages the recently opened Space Enterprise Lab, a regional space for innovation that is digitally inclusive.
The North East boasts a vibrant space community network that often share experiences and explore collaboration opportunities brought together by the North East Satellite Applications Centre of Excellence. With more than 1,000 North East people employed in the space sector and 52,000 STEM students at the region’s five universities, we have both the experience and the potential to offer technology businesses.
The region has a proven track record in the space sector, with a growing cluster of over 30 experienced companies; access to a large and knowledgeable workforce; universities known worldwide for research and innovation; highly competitive operating costs; extensive infrastructure; and enviable transport links. It also has the ambition to grow the sector.
The North East offers savings on operating costs of more than 30% compared to London and is the second least expensive location to hire space-related staff in the UK. The region has a range of incentive programmes and support organisations to assist companies entering the market. It can also offer some of the UK’s most cost-effective Grade A office space – less than a quarter the price of London, and 40% cheaper than Scotland.
In addition, the North East is served by Newcastle International Airport which provides national flights to destinations including London Heathrow, Exeter, Bristol and Southampton, as well as international flights to Dubai, Orlando, Paris, Amsterdam and Frankfurt. Teesside International Airport provides direct flights to Southampton, Belfast, Aberdeen, Dublin, Amsterdam and Esbjerg. London can be reached in under three hours by rail, with services every 30 minutes from Durham Station, while train journeys to Edinburgh take 1.5 hours.
The A1 motorway flows through the region, and the North East has three major ports, Port of Tyne, Port of Sunderland and Teesport, specialising in importing raw materials and exporting finished products. As a region, the North East has everything it takes to be a success in the space sector.
The North East has a strong background in data analytics and this expertise can be applied to information gathered from satellites. Companies such as Nonlinear Dynamics, Saggezza, On:Trac, OpenCast, PHG and Websands are involved in data analytics/management and software in the North East. In addition, there is a Digital Catapult in Sunderland, with strengths in data analytics. The Catapult has a focus on projects around the controlled delivery and security of data and value of data.
The North East has expertise in applied research with the Centre for Doctoral Training – Cloud Computing for Big Data (Newcastle University). This new multi-million-pound initiative is training the next generation of experts in the analysis of “big data” using advanced statistical methodologies and the latest cloud computing technologies, addressing an acute worldwide skills shortage. The University is named in the top 125 universities worldwide for computer sciences in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings.
The National Innovation Centre for Data (NICD) delivers key technical and practical data skills into organisations to enable them to improve competitiveness and enable business grow. The NICD supports the industry by delivering insights that make UK organisations aware of the value of data, providing workforces with data analytics skills and connecting UK organisations into networks of data skills.
Both Newcastle and Northumbria Universities are recognised for Academic Centres of Excellence in Cyber Security Research (ACE-CSR) by the NCSC and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). CyberNorth is also the cyber security cluster for the North East. The group is working to grow the industry across the region to position it as a great place to do cyber security business, which in turn will help to increase the number of jobs in the industry.
There are AI and Machine Learning capabilities in the region, from companies such as Wordnerds, Gliff, Jumping Rivers, Waterstons. Recently benefiting from the £50m Catalyst innovation centre at Newcastle’s Helix, the North East is poised to form a hotbed for researchers, investors and tech entrepreneurs, enabling collaboration and technological growth. The Catalyst is home to the National Innovation Centre for Data and the National Innovation Centre for Ageing, assets which will help growing SMEs take advantage of world-class research opportunities.
Key Reasons to Invest
- 52,000 STEM students per annum at the region’s five universities
- NETPark in County Durham, one of the UK’s premier science parks attracting 30-plus companies and over 550 highly skilled jobs
- More than 1000 people employed in the North East in space-related sectors
- 30% saving on operating costs in the North East
- 200% growth in the North East space sector between 2010 and 2019
- £50m extension planned for NETPark over 25 acres with 10,000 – 50,000 sq ft D&B opportunities available
Business Based in County Durham
Altec Engineering – www.alteceng.co.uk
Axenic Ltd – https://axenic.co.uk
Rhea Group – https://www.rheagroup.com/
Viper RF – www.viper-rf.com
NORSS – https://www.norss.co.uk/
Filtronic – https://filtronic.com/
Evince Technology – https://www.evincetechnology.com/
Isocom – https://www.isocom.uk.com/
Businesses Based in North East
e2E Services Ltd – e2eservices.co.uk
Ford Aerospace – www.ford-engineering.com
INEX Microtechnology http://www.inexmicro.com/
M-Connected – www.m-connected.com
Realsafe Technologies – www.realsafetechnologies.com
Rolls Royce – www.rolls-royce.com
Satstream Media – www.satstreammedia.co.uk
Satcom Global – www.satcomglobal.com
Spincraft ETG – www.spincraft-etg.com
Succorfish – https://succorfish.com
Aavid, Thermal Division of Boyd Corporation – www.boydcorp.com
TT Electronics Welwyn Components – www.ttelectronicsresistors.com
UltraMAP – https://ultra-map.org/
VREO Innovation – www.vreoinnovation.com
Merlin Flex Flt – https://www.merlinpcbgroup.com/flex/
Analox Group – https://www.analoxgroup.com/
Regional Skills and Talent
- The North East has over 52,000 STEM students at university
- More than 1000 employees in the North East in space-related sectors
- 8.7% of all NE students study engineering & technology-related subjects – the highest proportion of any UK Region
- Over 200 university courses across five universities of use to the space industry
- The North East has the highest proportion of ICT employees employed in satellite telecommunications activities in England (3.1%, 2018)
- The North East has a thriving software sector (32,720 people employed) with particular expertise in data analytics
- Durham University
- Ranked sixth in the world for space science and has been a key contributor to the intellectual pool, along with other universities in the region.
- Ranked 99th out of 1,227 total entries in The Times Top Universities in Physical Sciences 2022
- Ranked fourth out of 50 UK universities in physics and astronomy according to The Complete University Guide 2022.
- At the cutting edge of space research with an outstanding reputation in space science, consistently ranking in the global top 20 and European top 10 Institutions.
- Has 3 members of staff listed in Clarivate Analytics’ 2021 Highly Cited Researchers in the field of Space Science
- The University’s Department of Computer Science is ranked in the top 10 in the Complete University Guide 2022. It’s research strengths include theoretical computer science, computer vision, AI, high-performance & scientific computing, digital humanities, health and networks.
- Newcastle University has recognised academic expertise in the field of precise satellite positioning, remote sensing, and their applications to oceanographic and environmental science, precision farming and transport engineering.
- The Universities of Northumbria, Sunderland and Teesside have recognised expertise in big data, software and visualisation – all underpinning expertise
- Northumbria University is also leading on The Optical Communications Research Group (OCRG) which specialises in visible light communications, non-linear control systems and optical sensor research. OCRG collaborates with many institutions from the USA, EU, Far East, and are involved in a number of research projects, including EU projects involving more than 20 countries. The Agilent sponsored Photonic Research Laboratory is the first of its kind in the North of England with unique and state-of-the-art test and measurement facilities in the UK and Europe.
The North East has some of the most cost-effective Grade A office space available amongst UK regions for Space-related FDI. North East office costs are less than one-quarter the cost of London and almost 40% cheaper than Scotland.
Within the UK, the North East offers some of the most cost competitive grade A industrial premises. Industrial costs are around £64 per square meter in the North East, which is under one-quarter of the cost in Greater London, 68% cheaper than those in the South East, 32% cheaper than in the East of England, and 11% cheaper than in the East Midlands.
The North East is one of the least expensive locations to establish a defence manufacturing plant, based on annual operating costs of a 167-person facility with grade A office and industrial space. The North East offers almost £15 million cost savings compared to Greater London, and almost £1.5 million compared to Glasgow.
Business Incentives and Support for the Sector
Durham Future Innovation Building (DFIB)
A Business Durham innovation programme, funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), supporting businesses in the County who are investing in research and innovation. Healthcare is one of the key sectors for the programme including businesses providing medical services, manufacturers of medical equipment or drugs, providers of medical insurance and those who facilitate the provision of healthcare to patients. Support includes:
- Masterclasses and workshops designed to enable a businesses to transform and innovate
- One to one support with specialist expertise to take innovation to commercialisation
- Signposting to industry experts
- The opportunity to apply for grant funding to support research and development
- Access to sector-based ecosystems with opportunities for networking with business, academia and enablers
Finance Durham Fund is a £20 million investment fund established by Durham County Council in 2017 with an aim to support business growth & job creation in County Durham. The fund has an economic development focus with emphasis on developing high growth SMEs. Managed by Maven Capital
Digital Drive Durham
A fully funded programme of business support, which also includes grant funding to help SME’s to improve & grow digitally. Grants of up to 40% are available for digital projects. Delivered by UMi (on behalf of Business Durham).
County Durham Growth Fund
A £8.9 million programme of investment. The fund offers capital grant funding to support SME’s looking to expand or establish new operations in County Durham. Delivered by UMi (on behalf of Business Durham).
Additional sources of funding
Available through various organisations and support programmes like NBSL, RTC North, BEEP, NE BIC, Business Boost.
The European Space Agency Business Applications Ambassador for the Midlands and North East is part of the team at the North East Satellite Applications Centre of Excellence.
Research and Innovation
- In Sept 2020, the UK’s only Orbital Analyst Centre was opened by Northern Space and Security Ltd (NORSS), a specialist space awareness and surveillance company, based in Durham
- Centre for Advanced Instrumentation (CfAI) – Durham University
Durham University is consistently ranked as one of the top space research institutions. The CfAI develops state-of-the-art instruments for application across a wide range of disciplines including astronomical instrumentation, biophysics, remote sensing and fusion diagnostics. The Centre’s space science technology R&D programme produced one of the key subsystems launched on the James Webb Space Telescope in 2018 – the NASA/ESA successor to the Hubble Space Telescope.
- The Aerospace Medicine and Rehabilitation Laboratory – Northumbria University
Aims to conduct world leading research in the fields of aviation medicine, space medicine, and terrestrial healthcare/rehabilitation. It strives to capitalise on research conducted on astronauts to directly benefit healthcare on Earth. Specific interests include the role of injury/disease (e.g. low back pain, osteoarthritis) and musculoskeletal unloading (e.g. through exposure to reduced gravity, long duration bedrest, or through the ageing process), on deconditioning of the musculoskeletal system, and in the development of rehabilitation interventions to counteract this deconditioning.
- National Innovation Centre for Data (NICD) – Newcastle University
Located in the Catalyst, Newcastle, the NICD delivers key technical and practical data skills into organisations, improving business competitiveness and driving growth by unleashing the huge potential for innovation offered by the explosive growth in digital data.
- Ogden Centre for Fundamental Physics – University of Durham
Durham University is a world leading centre of research in astronomy and cosmology – a position strengthened by the new building for The Ogden Centre for Fundamental Physics, a world-leading centre of excellence. The £11.5m centre draws together a team of international scientists, postdoctoral researchers and PhD students from more than 20 countries around the world. Together they are investigating the mysteries of the cosmos, from the birth of the Universe through to the origin of galaxies, to the nature of dark matter and dark energy
Regional Support Networks
The North East Satellite Applications Centre of Excellence, NETPark, County Durham
- One of five regional centres of excellence across the UK, it is funded by the Satellite Applications Catapult and the UK Space Agency and works closely with the European Space Agency. The Centre helps organisations to solve problems and open up opportunities using satellite data and technology, e.g. better management of assets, earlier warnings of floods, more accurate information on condition monitoring, all leading to the more efficient use of resources, more market opportunities and a better quality of life.
- The Centre helps businesses to exploit the use of satellite data, technology and applications to gain a competitive advantage in a global market. Since 2014, it has helped organisations secure £9.2m funding, engaged with over 670 entities and seeded more than 280 collaboration links.
- The Centre’s virtual team includes the European Space Agency Ambassador for the Midlands and North East, and Northern Orbit – EEN services that can help find international suppliers and customers.
- For more information visit: https://sa.catapult.org.uk/north-east/
Space Enterprise Lab (SEL)
- The North East Satellite Applications Centre of Excellence also manages the new Space Enterprise Lab (SEL), one of eleven regional spaces for innovation recently opened by the Satellite Applications Catapult. The facility will provide users with access to the latest collaborative technology, resources and expertise, as well as hosting meetings, events and demonstrations to support the region’s growing space sector. https://sa.catapult.org.uk/sel/
North East Technology Park (NETPark), Sedgefield, County Durham
NETPark of the UK’s premier science, engineering and technology parks and home to some of the world’s fastest-growing companies. It provides the right mix of infrastructure, collaborative opportunities and support for science, engineering and technology companies. NETPark supports innovative businesses at every stage of their journey from concept to commercialisation with a wide choice of world-class laboratory, clean room and office space from 151 sq ft to 22, 110 sq ft.
Companies located at NETPark have access to a focused and international community where talent flourishes, ideas are generated and businesses have the infrastructure, support and resources to compete with the best in the world.
Since opening in 2004, NETPark has attracted more than 70 firms and is also home to The North East Satellite Applications Catapult.
NETPark Phase 3a will be a £50m extension over 26-acres, featuring an iconic gateway building for the hub, laboratories, offices, break-out rooms, and warehousing – creating expansion opportunities for established companies and paving the way for an influx of new space sector enterprises. Phase 3a will offer bespoke business solutions from 10,000 to 50,000 square feet, designed to take the region’s capabilities to a new level. New units will be available from summer 2023.
For more information visit: https://www.northeasttechnologypark.com/
North East Space Hub
Building on the momentum generated by the North East Satellite Applications Centre of Excellence, the creation of a North East Space Hub is being proposed on the new development within NETPark Phase 3.
Stage one of the plan, delivering 20,000 sq ft floor space, will involve the construction of a Disruptive Innovation for Space Capability (DISC) that will provide lab facilities to lower the cost barriers for businesses looking to innovate – as well as those wishing to enter the booming space sector. Modelled on the DISC concept at Harwell in Oxfordshire, it will be part of a network of national facilities to support specialist technology development, testing, manufacture, and in-space operations.
The hub will also house incubator facilities for fledgling businesses, as well as grow-on space, with connections and soft infrastructure support, for businesses to expand and accelerate innovation.
The plan seeks to build on the North-East’s acknowledged strengths in disciplines such as: advanced manufacturing, automotive, telecommunications, data science, environmental monitoring, and our renown ability to deal with the harsh environments in the energy sector. In addition, the North-East will fully exploit its blossoming digital sector, and enviable position as one of the strongest regions in the UK for immersive technologies.
For further information visit: www.sa.catapult.org.uk/north-east