Since the EU won’t share all its toys, UK Space Agency fires up fund to support more international collaboration

The UK Space Agency has opened a new lunch fund designed foster to “international space collaborations”.

Some £5m of taxpayer’s cash is available for the project, which the agency hopes will support UK outfits seeking to buddy up with some of the world’s major space players, such as the US, Japan, and France.

The agency pointed to space robotics, debris, and disaster relief as potential areas for linking arms with others, and has offered the fund to both business and academia. Interested parties have until 29 October to make an application.

A spokesperson for the agency told The Register that grants are expected to be issued from December.

They will range from £250k to £2.5m, although those hoping for free cash will be disappointed. The grants, the spokesperson told us, “are subject to the Agency’s match funding terms”.

The themes of the proposals will vary depending on the international partners involved. Linking up with Canada (supplier of the Space Shuttle and International Space Station’s robot arms) could mean robotics; getting friendly with France (one of the winners in ESA’s recent Copernicus awards) might lean things toward Earth observation and climate science; and so on. Alternative areas include general space science and safety.

It follows an earlier call for a National Space Innovation Programme aimed at using space technology to tackle climate change or increase connectivity. £10m was allocated back in July in an effort to make Britain a more competitive prospect.

The UK remains a part of ESA, but its withdrawal from the EU club has meant the local space sector has had its snout forcibly removed from the trough regarding some of the more mouthwatering contracts. The Galileo project springs effortlessly to mind, as does the snub delivered over Copernicus.

While a drop in the ocean compared to what the UK space sector has already missed out on as a result of the Brexit adventure, the international goals of the fund are perhaps laudable.

The UK has already signed deals with Australia, and building more relationships on top of the UK’s ESA membership will go some way to maintaining the country’s status on the world stage, at least as far as space technology is concerned. ®

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