Space Park Leicester marks hugely successful first year as Space City launches

Copyright: Martine Hamilton Knight

Space Park Leicester, the city’s hub for space research and innovation, is celebrating a year of unprecedented successes as it marks the first anniversary of its opening.

It comes as a new ‘Space City’ cluster is launched today (14 March) in Leicester that will create one of the largest and most connected Enterprise Zones for space-related activities in the UK.

Spokespeople from Space Park Leicester and University of Leicester reflected on a hugely successful year for the pioneering £100 million space hub and gave a glimpse of its next phase of development.

Space Park Leicester, officially opened by British astronaut Tim Peake in March 2022, is a unique single-site science and innovation park dedicated to – and specifically designed for – space-related companies and researchers, covering enterprise, innovation and teaching. A strategically placed space sector cluster with a national and international focus, it is forecast to contribute £750 million a year to the UK space sector over the next decade.

During its first year, it has landed 5 major Foreign Direct Investments, created 125 new jobs and hosted more than 200 events and visits. Over 20 leading organisations with a wealth of experience collaborating with industry and public sector bodies, both in the UK and globally, now reside at Space Park Leicester, including Rolls Royce, Airbus, Northrop Grumman, Satellite Applications Catapult, CGI, EarthSense and Maxar. The NERC funded National Centre for Earth Observation also has its headquarters at Space Park Leicester.

Professor Richard Ambrosi, Executive Director of Space Park Leicester, said: “We are proud of the success achieved in this first year and since the opening of Space Park Leicester and look to the future. It is a testament to the talented team of people working tirelessly across science, engineering, operations and commercial functions. We continue to build on our heritage in the space sciences and look forward to increasing our collaboration with industry, national and international partners. Our ambition for the future is captured by our growing science portfolio and plans to physically expand into a commercially focused additional phase of Space Park Leicester called Digital Space Futures.”

Space Park Leicester will be a cornerstone of Leicester’s Space City cluster, dedicated to space research, production, manufacture and development, and will make Leicester a key part of the UK’s Space Spine. The cluster will also be home to non-space related knowledge economy businesses, those working towards decarbonisation, innovative start-ups and established businesses looking for grow on space.

Representing up to £233 million of investment, the Space City partnership includes Space Park Leicester, University of Leicester, DOCK, National Space Centre, Leicester City Council, and the Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership (LLEP). Space City is part of the Loughborough and Leicester Science and Innovation Enterprise Zone.

President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leicester Professor Nishan Canagarajah  said: “This is the launchpad for an exciting new chapter in our city’s space history. From its beginnings sixty years ago at the University, we have grown space activity to unlock its huge potential to advance learning, to stimulate inward investment, innovation and growth and to address the challenging problems of our time. Space City Leicester is exciting, it is bold and it is built upon a heritage of success. I would like to thank all our supporters, industrial partners, LLEP and the Leicester City Council for their steadfast commitment to this ambitious endeavor.”

Space Park Leicester builds on the University of Leicester’s 60-plus year heritage as a hub for the UK space sector and collaborator with international space agencies. Since the formation of the University’s Space Research Group, now the largest in Europe, it have been involved in more than 90 space missions and had at least one instrument operating in space in each year since 1967.

Professor Emma Bunce, Director of the Institute for Space at the University of Leicester, said: “The University of Leicester has a long history of excellence and innovation in the space sciences. We are home to world-leading space research in astrophysics, planetary science, and space-based observations of our own precious planet, and we have a long heritage in designing, developing, and building space instrumentation. We are leading interdisciplinary work bringing space-focused arts, humanities, and social sciences into dialogue with STEM disciplines for the first time, creating transformational opportunities for advancing knowledge and boosting the regional economy.

“We have sent a Leicester-built X-ray instrument to Mercury, we are taking a leading role in the international James Webb Space Telescope and we are patiently awaiting the launch next month of the European Space Agency’s Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer – known as JUICE – a mission which scientists here in Leicester helped to develop. Space City has the potential to be a launchpad for education, innovation, and exploration.”