Government Minister discovers region’s cutting-edge research and innovation in space

Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government visits Leicester to find out more about pioneering plans for Space Park Leicester.

The Rt Hon. James Brokenshire was in Leicester yesterday (Thursday 3 January), visiting the National Space Centre and viewing the Space Park Leicester site to see first-hand how the region is at the cutting-edge of space research and innovation.

The Secretary of State is the Ministerial Champion in driving forward the government’s ambitious plans to fire up the Midlands as an engine for growth in the UK.

The visit coincided with the announcement from the Secretary of State that Space Park Leicester had been awarded £50,000 funding as part the new and innovative East Midlands Manufacturing Zones. The East Midlands Manufacturing Zones aim to reduce planning restrictions to allow land to be used more productively and provide certainty for business investment.

As part of the tour, Mr Brokenshire met Professor Emma Bunce and Dr Suzie Imber from the University’s Department of Physics and Astronomy who shared a model of the Mercury Imaging X-ray Spectrometer (MIXS) instrument, which is aboard the BepiColombo mission to Mercury that launched in October 2018.

The instrument was partially developed and built in Leicester and Professor Bunce is the instrument’s Principle Investigator. BepiColombo continues the University’s heritage in having an instrument in space every year for more than the past 50 years. The MIXS instrument will provide the first ever opportunity to get X-Ray images of Mercury.

The Minister also attended a presentation about Space Park Leicester - a partnership between the University of Leicester, Leicester City Council, the Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership (LLEP) and the National Space Centre - a global hub and collaborative community for businesses, researchers and academia based on space and space-enabled technologies.

Mr Brokenshire was able to discuss and ask questions about the vision to create Leicester as the space city in the UK, benefiting the regional economy by an estimated £850 million and 2,500 jobs.

The visit was a great success with the Minister genuinely impressed both with the University’s pioneering research in space and the city’s ambitious plans to develop a brand new hub for the analysis and commercialisation of space-enabled data and space mission development.  

President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leicester, Professor Paul Boyle CBE said:“We were pleased to welcome The Right Honourable James Brokenshire to discuss the University’s credentials in space and our vision for Space Park Leicester.

“Our Space research is world-leading and we are proud of our ambitious plans to transform Leicester into the UK’s space city.”

City Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby said:“Space Park Leicester will be a major asset locally and nationally - it provides a huge opportunity to make Leicester the UK capital of space-related research, innovation and skills development.

“By working closely with the University of Leicester, the LLEP and the National Space Centre, we can create high value jobs, attract investment and enhance research.

“Space Park Leicester is a launchpad for success and I am delighted that the Minister is seeing for himself the huge potential we have to contribute to future economic growth and to foster talent.”

Mandip Rai, Director of the LLEP said: “The Minister’s visit provided us with a great opportunity to showcase the research, innovation and manufacturing capabilities that we have locally.

“The investment received through the Manufacturing Zone pilot will accelerate the development plans for Space Park Leicester.  The LLEP has committed £12.88m of Local Growth Fund to develop phase one of the park and the project will be a key priority in our emerging Local Industrial Strategy.”