University technology centre leads space race for businesses after funding win
21 March 2016
A revolutionary North Wales technology centre will help launch businesses from across the UK’s £11.8billion space industry after landing a cash windfall.
The team at Wrexham Glyndwr University’s OpTIC Technology Centre in St Asaph is celebrating a £50,000 grant that will see the Denbighshire facility nurture firms operating in the sector.
Led by OpTIC Centre Director Caroline Gray, a bid was entered following calls from the UK Space Agency and its Innovation and Growth Strategy: Space Growth Action Plan.
The 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.
One method of doing this is through expanding support for business incubation centres across the UK which is why OpTIC was chosen. The centre will also be promoting and hosting a series of industry relevant networking events utilising their extensive business and conference centre facilities.
Caroline said: “The vision is to ensure a high-quality, consistent supply chain for the sector. Glyndŵr Innovations will maximise and expand current links to form a North Wales base of knowledge transfer, technological expertise and a programme of business and technical support in an environment which allows small companies to concentrate on growth and development without the constant pressure of everyday business concerns.
“It will, through its networks such as the North West Innovation Network, collaborate closely with similarly focused incubation units throughout the UK to share best practice and ensure small companies benefit through a national network of relevant events taking place in their sector.”
She added: “We are thrilled to have received this backing, which comes as we refocus the centre and build on our already strong reputation in the fields of high technology, optics and scientific research.”
Among the other incubators to receive funding are Business Durham, Leicester Dock, Sci-Tech Daresbury and Loughborough University.
The investment will support start-up companies across the breadth of the space arena and grow the industry in those regions - an important path in realising the UK sector’s ambition to achieve a 10% share of the global space market by 2030.
The announcement was made at a Northern Space Consortium event in Liverpool, where politicians and business leaders were introduced to the opportunities and potential of the highly lucrative UK Space Industry.
Colin Baldwin, UK Space Gateway Programme Manager at the UK Space Agency, said: “North Wales, northern England and the Midlands all have the potential to make a significant contribution to our thriving space sector.
“There are opportunities for a range of companies developing innovative products that can match the needs of the space industry. The incubators at Glyndwr Innovations, Sci-Tech Daresbury and Business Durham will build upon the growing interests in space and the role it can play to support other sectors within their local areas, both in technology developments and space-derived services.
“We’re committed to nurturing business and research in these regions, and showing small businesses how they can benefit from our £11.8billion space industry.”
Professor Graham Upton, Interim Vice-Chancellor at Wrexham Glyndwr University, says the OpTIC Technology Centre is “perfectly placed” to capitalise on the grant and support firms in the space sector to develop further.
“This is great news, and I would like to congratulate Caroline and her team for all of the hard work that went into this,” he said.
“The centre has been revitalised in past months; it is perfectly placed to take advantage of this funding and is growing as a hub for innovation and pioneering engineering work. To have been chosen along with these other organisations is very encouraging and shows we are moving in the right direction.”
The OpTIC Centre celebrated 10 years in 2015, and in past months scientists at the Glyndwr facility completed a €5M project to produce prototype mirror segments and test facilities for what will be the world’s largest telescope, the £900m E-ELT project (European-Extremely Large Telescope) to be sited in Chile.
For more information on Glyndŵr Innovations, visit http://www.glyndwrinnovations.co.uk
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.