Research and development support for space

The UK’s space research infrastructure is sophisticated and well-developed, in academic institutions and the private sector. Many businesses have their own research and development operations.

Research infrastructure

Catapult network

The Catapult Network has 9 innovation centres across 40 locations in the UK. In each centre, businesses, scientists, technical specialists and engineers work together on late-stage research and development. Find more information on the websites below.

Catapults relevant to the space sector are:

Satellite Applications Catapult

Based in Harwell, Oxfordshire in the South of England, the catapult has shared workspace available for hire and a suite for the design, manufacture and testing of products.

Connected Places Catapult

Connected Places Catapult in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, in the South of England, is the UK’s accelerator for cities, transport, and places. It helps develop, implement and commercialise innovations, such as satellite data, to improve the way people live, work and travel.

Compound Semiconductor Applications Catapult 

Based in Newport, Wales and focused on power technologies to achieve net zero, future telecom networks and advanced sensor systems. All 3 areas are crucial to development of space-based technology.

High Value Manufacturing Catapult

Seven centres across the UK support delivery of technology at scale across sectors, including the space industry.

Major UK research organisations 

The UK Space Agency is a government organisation sponsored by the UK’s Department for Science, Innovation and Technology. It commissions and funds UK businesses, universities and international organisations to undertake innovative research programmes which teach us new things about space, or give insight into the space industry.

You can read more about research at the UK Space Agency on GOV.UK

Find more information on the work of organisations related to space research on the websites listed below:

RAL Space

A national hub for space research and technology development, such as instrumentation for space missions. ​It is based in The Harwell Science and Innovation Campus in Oxfordshire.

Space Park Leicester

A space and earth observation cluster with close links to the University of Leicester, located in the English Midlands.

Centre for Satellite Data in Environmental Science

The centre is a leader in advanced data science and earth observation techniques. It is a partnership between the universities of Leeds and Edinburgh, the National Oceanography Centre and the British Antarctic Survey, which hosts the centre’s researchers.

Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics

A world leader in radio astronomy-related research and technology development. The centre operates e-MERLIN, the UK's national radio astronomy facility. Located in Cheshire in the North West of England, the centre carries out research across the electromagnetic spectrum and on theoretical topics.

National Composites Centre

The UK’s centre of excellence for composites research and development, located in Bristol in South West England.

National Physical Laboratory

Located in London, this is the UK’s national metrology institute. It develops and maintains the national primary measurement standards and collaborates with global counterparts to maintain the international system of measurement.

Glyndwr Innovations

Specialisms include the design of large optical telescopes and instrumentation, vacuum and cryogenic system design and integration, and high-performance structural engineering. Located in Wrexham, North Wales.

Astrophysics Research Centre

The centre uses both earth-based and space-based observatories to obtain remote sensing data (imaging, spectroscopy) and in-situ data (particles and fields). Located in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Thales Alenia Space - Propulsion Competence Centre

This centre in Belfast, Northern Ireland, has delivered the first all-electric propulsion modules designed and built in the UK, and the Spacebus Neo Xenon Propulsion System.

Higgs Centre for Innovation

An incubator in Edinburgh, Scotland, that supports small businesses working in the satellite, space and data-intensive sectors. Specifically designed for collaborative use by industry, academic and research institutions.

The National Manufacturing Institute for Scotland

Industry-led manufacturing R&D facilities in Paisley, near Glasgow. Space is one of its priorities, especially small satellite manufacturing.

Research resources

You can find out more about space research and its relation to defence, security and the economy, including all government policy updates, on GOV.UK.

You can view a list of UK space research organisations on the website of the Science and Technologies Facilities Council.

UK Research and Innovation’s Gateway to Research website gives information on current and past UK research projects, including publications, outcomes and contacts.

Konfer is an online tool that uses smart matching technology to connect UK universities and businesses.

Support and funding

National research schemes

Organisations and schemes such as Innovate UK and its parent body, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), can help you.  UKRI is the public body supporting research and innovation across all sectors. It also brings together the UK’s research councils, such as the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and the Science and Technology Facilities Council.

Find out more about UK Research Councils and discover funding opportunities on the UKRI website.

UK Research and Innovation’s Gateway to Research website gives information on current and past UK research projects, including publications, outcomes and contacts. ts.

Funding opportunities for space companies

The UK Space Agency lists its funding opportunities, plus those from the space sector, academic, education and community partners on GOV.UK

Funding for the Defence and Security Accelerator operated by the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory and the Ministry of Defence, on GOV.UK

Find out more about help for R&D in our guide to incentives, funding and support in the UK.

Private equity and venture capital

With a mature and highly sophisticated capital market, the UK is both a leading destination and source of capital investment for the space industry. The UK attracts the largest proportion of global space investment in Europe, and the second largest in the world only behind the US. It also listed the first space-specific investment fund.

Find out more about the different types of equity finance available in the UK in our guide Access to Finance.

Tax relief for innovative space companies

The UK tax system provides strong backing for entrepreneurs and their investors.

R&D tax reliefs

You can claim corporation tax relief if you are working on an innovative project in science and technology that meets the UK government’s definition of R&D.

There are 2 main types of R&D tax reliefs:

  • small and medium enterprise (SME) R&D relief, for companies with less than 500 staff
  • R&D expenditure credit, for larger companies

Get guidance on R&D tax relief on GOV.UK

Capital allowances

If your space manufacturing business is investing in plant and machinery, you may be eligible for generous first year tax reliefs of up to 100% of the cost of these.

Find out more about capital allowances and how to claim them on GOV.UK

Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) and Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS)

EIS and SEIS are UK government schemes that help you if you’re a younger, higher-risk businesses raising finance. They offer generous tax reliefs of between 30% to 50%.

Find out more about the Enterprise Investment Scheme and the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme on GOV.UK.

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