Space in Leicester and Leicestershire
Join the space race from Leicestershire, increasing market penetration and profits by building better data-driven products, services and solutions.
The UK space sector is worth £17.5 million, and satellites underpin £360 billion per year of wider economic activity. With more than 50 years of history and innovation, the UK has outperformed most nations in developing a modern space industry, and its companies are global leaders.
Leicester is driving new growth and is home to Space Park Leicester, a cluster for research, enterprise and education in space and Earth observation. It draws on the region’s centres of excellence to exploit space-enabled data, develop skills for the space industry and provide low-cost access to space and satellites.
Leicester and Leicestershire (East Midlands)
Foreign direct investment
Sector and market opportunity
Leicestershire and the East Midlands provide essential infrastructure and expertise at Space Park Leicester, creating a clear pipeline of opportunity in both upstream and downstream markets.
The region offers a location for satellite manufacturers and data businesses to collaborate and access customised data to fit business needs. Opportunity exists to increase market penetration through building better space data-driven products.
Space Park Leicester – at the heart of the UK – combines on-site downstream applications with on-site, upstream engineering.
Space presents significant opportunities because:
- the global space economy is projected to grow from an estimated £270 billion in 2019 to £490 billion by 2030
- constellations of satellites are being launched to deliver worldwide services
- new state and commercial space stations are being planned and built, and tourism operators are flying their first customers into space
- a UK Space Agency survey showed that the UK the space sector is growing faster than the rest of the economy, and the average worker in the space sector is 2.6 times more productive than the UK average
The East Midlands boasts a strong and vibrant space cluster with a broad range of capabilities.
The University of Leicester has helped to make the area one of the hot spots of national space activity since the 1960s, with a strong track record in flight instrumentation and upstream space technologies.
The region is home to 116 space companies, with over £100 million of investment into Space Park Leicester alone. Space Park Leicester is run by the University of Leicester with regional, national and international partners, including the National Space Centre, European Space Agency, Airbus and Thales Alenia Space. The centre also hosts the national headquarters of the NERC (National Environment Research Council)-funded National Centre for Earth Observation.
The region has the UK’s second-largest freight airport (East Midlands Airport) with two international passenger airports less than an hour away.
Leicestershire’s road network is well connected with easy access to the M1, M69 and M6.
East Midlands Freeport will focus on clean growth and multimodal connectivity. The key aims are to boost international trade in high-value manufacturing goods and to work with global industrial brands located regionally.
Local talent and skills
More than 200 academics are within the East Midlands Space sector.
Over 20,000 students here are studying relevant subjects including physics and astronomy, mathematics, mechanical engineering and computer science.
Midlands Innovation is a collaboration between 8 research-oriented universities, within which 3 regional higher-education institutes (Leicester, Loughborough and Nottingham) collaborate with counterparts in the West Midlands.
Research and expertise
From fundamental research to commercialisation, Leicester and Leicestershire have everything to take your technologies from concept to market, including product accelerators ESA Business Incubation Centre (BIC) UK and the Space Commercialisation Engine from The Satellite Applications Catapult.
Space Park Leicester’s combination of facilities – including laboratories, workshops, cleanrooms, a concurrent design facility and a virtual reality cave – will provide an essential support infrastructure to those collaborating on research and development projects.
Companies based at Space Park Leicester will be plugged in to the UK’s wider space ecosystem including launch expertise in Scotland and Cornwall.
The Midlands is at the forefront of technologies such as industrial digitisation, life sciences and alternative fuels. It's home to world-class assets and centres of innovative excellence. The region is ideally placed for the distribution of manufactured goods, reaching 92% of the UK population within 4 hours. Birmingham is at the heart of one of the UK’s largest infrastructure projects, HS2, and hosted the 2022 Commonwealth Games.
Enabling clean growth
Space Park Leicester is an influential venture for transformational impact and academic-industry co-operation that can address the big challenges facing society including achieving net-zero, improving health and ensuring sustainability.
Its world-leading space research can deliver positive impact to the planet using space-based instrumentation and space-derived data combined with existing knowledge and information to drive the UK’s path towards net zero.
Local and national government support
This first ever National Space Strategy brings together the UK’s strengths in science and technology, defence, regulation, and diplomacy to pursue a bold national vision.
This strategy identifies 5 goals and the activities that government, academia and industry will need to take to achieve them (in short: growth, global Britain, scientific discovery, national interest and UK citizens).
To support this, the UK will unlock growth in the space sector, using government to unleash the potential of industry, entrepreneurs, and innovators.
Locally, soft landing support is available through Leicester and Leicestershire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).
Environmental consultancy EarthSense is a joint venture between aerial mapping company Bluesky and the University of Leicester.
EarthSense has used complex modelling techniques to create the first high-resolution nationwide map of air pollution, combining data from satellites and its own air quality monitoring sensors with open-source data.
This application follows on from the 2016 SSGP funded project, Air Quality Hotspot Mapper, which demonstrated a clear need to identify air quality hot-spots and relate them to sources of air pollution.
Geospatial Insight was established in 2012 at the University of Leicester’s incubator G-STEP to address a gap in the market for delivering actionable business intelligence sourced from satellite imagery.
Initial steady growth focussed on building strong foundations for the future by securing partnerships with a comprehensive network of global satellite, aerial and UAV providers, development of products and major client acquisition.
Today the company is one of the leading providers of geospatial intelligence in the world, with proven expertise across the investment, insurance and corporate sectors.
Airbus Intelligence has artificial intelligence as its driver, following other major companies, such as Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft and IBM. The trend has a lot of potential benefits to aerospace companies.
Its business-focussed example, Airbus Smarter Fleet, is a cloud-based service platform developed with the help of IBM. Smarter Fleet provides Airbus customers with solutions including intelligent maintenance and engineering tools, increased flight efficiency and optimised fuel consumption.
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