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Space sector urges business to join growing industry at university conference

14 July 2016

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Space sector leaders have urged businesses to join an industry that’s really taking-off.

More than 70 representatives from local government, the space industry and related companies attended the first UK Space Agency Supporting Regional Growth conference at the OpTIC technology Centre in St Asaph.

The science and research complex – part of Wrexham Glyndwr University – landed a £50,000 grant from the UKSA earlier this year and is aiming to attract firms to capitalise on its engineering, metrology, R&D and incubation facilities and expertise.

Glyndwr Innovations, UKSA, Welsh Government, Kent Periscopes, Innovate UK, the Centre for Solar Energy Research (CSER), Aerospace Wales Forum, Northern Space Consortium and Denbighshire County Council were among those in attendance.

OpTIC director Caroline Gray said it was an “exciting day” for Wales – coinciding with the nation’s Euro 2016 semi-final clash with Portugal – and for the British space trade.

“We are working with UKSA to show the capabilities and benefits of businesses joining us here at OpTIC,” said Mrs Gray.

“There are many benefits to being based here with us and we now have the funding to help launch the spark of an idea and support it through technology, design, metrology and incubation, tailoring these services to deliver what these companies need.

“We are at the heart of this new UKSA project and proud to be a part of it. There is a strong northern presence which is nice to see, and we are in a great position now to deliver.”

The UKSA proposal highlighted the need to grow space industries in UK regions by providing a supportive commercial environment to assist entrepreneurs to grow and develop small companies.

Topics discussed on the day included R&D in Wales, The Wales Space Strategy, nurturing growth on St Asaph Business Park, and optical systems for aerial imaging.

Among the speakers was Craig Brown, Lead Technologist for Space at Innovate UK, who revealed this area has “bucked the trend” and is performing well despite the tough economic climate, particularly in past years.

“The space economy is performing well above average in terms of exports, it is a sector that’s bucked the trend,” he said.

“If you’re an innovator then this is an industry to be part of; we’re showing the world we are open for business and have seen an increase in the number of companies coming to us.”

Mr Brown added: “The problem at the moment is that the space sector doesn’t know the businesses that can respond to what’s out there, which is why the UKSA is raising awareness and building these communities so it is on the ground to broker relationships and link to national opportunities.”

Notes: The UK Space Agency is at the heart of UK efforts to explore and benefit from space.  It is responsible for all strategic decisions on the UK civil space programme and provides a clear, single voice for UK space ambitions. The Agency is responsible for ensuring that the UK retains and grows a strategic capability in the space-based systems, technologies, science and applications. It leads the UK’s civil space programme in order to win sustainable economic growth, secure new scientific knowledge and provide benefits to all citizens.

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