ESA provides a business boost for Space Park Leicester

Space Park Leicester has been selected as a new centre to offer the successful business incubation programme for start-ups in the UK, run by the European Space Agency (ESA).

The European Space Agency Business Incubation Centre (ESA BIC UK) supports innovative start-up businesses using space technologies or data, enabling them to gain a competitive advantage in today’s global market place.

Building on the growing list of companies at Space Park Leicester, from start-ups to multi-nationals, organisations joining the ESA BIC at Space Park will gain access to the University of Leicester’s renowned research and development capability across a number of areas including earth observation and environmental monitoring; high performance computing; data science; AI and space engineering. 

Grant Bourhill, Chief Executive of Leicester Science Parks and Interim Director Research & Enterprise at the University of Leicester, said: “Leicester has consistently been recognised as one of the best cities in the UK for start-ups and the ESA BIC at Space Park will offer access to state-of-the-art facilities and equipment, partnership working with our academic and student talent, as well as colocation with other companies. 

“The space sector already underpins burgeoning commercial markets in communications, location based services and earth observation, and the ESA BIC will support new entrants to these and other space-enabled markets. This is an exciting step forward for the East Midlands.”

Opening in early 2021, Space Park Leicester is a landmark international initiative being developed by the University of Leicester in collaboration with partners, including Leicester City Council and the Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership, to create a world-leading cluster for innovative research, enterprise and education in space, earth observation and space-enabled sectors.

The space sector globally is forecast to grow substantially during the next decade. A £15bn industry nationally, employing more than 40,000 people within the UK, it supports approximately £300bn towards GDP. 

William Wells, Head of Research & Enterprise Partnerships and Acting Commercial Director at the University of Leicester, said: “Successful ESA BIC applicants will join a community of innovative space and space enabled companies at Space Park Leicester. They will benefit from a rich community of researchers and students whose ideas and talents will fuse with their growth ambitions.  Businesses will have the opportunity to access financial support, technical expertise and facilities to address the acceleration of product and service development.”

The addition of Space Park Leicester marks the first ESA BIC UK location beyond the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s (STFC) national sites, joining a UK-wide programme alongside the Harwell Campus in Oxfordshire, Sci-Tech Daresbury in the North West and the Royal Observatory in Edinburgh. 

Dr Sue O’Hare, Operations Manager at the ESA BIC UK and Science and Technology Facilities Council, said: “UK start-ups are increasingly using space technologies to create game-changing products, and new technologies that can reduce the cost or increase the functionality of spacecraft and satellites. However, taking a product from initial idea to manufacture and market is a massive challenge.

“The UK is the leading funder in Europe for space business applications, and the addition of Space Park Leicester to our business incubation programme, with its successful track record in space research and industrial collaboration, provides an exciting opportunity to widen our support for start-ups across the vibrant and growing East Midlands space cluster and beyond.”