Leicester experts lead space industry talks at Conservative Party Conference

From left: Dr Simon Kaye, Director of Policy at Reform; Rt Hon Lord Willetts; George Freeman MP; Professor Suzie Imber and Professor Richard Ambrosi.

The University of Leicester’s key role in the growth of the UK space industry was outlined at a high-profile panel discussion at this week’s Conservative Party Conference.

A capacity audience of space sector leaders and policymakers heard from two Leicester space experts at the event, which was hosted by the independent non-party think tank Reform, in Manchester, on Monday 2 October.

The audience heard how the domestic space sector can expand, and the vital role played by regional clusters, including the University’s Space Park Leicester – the UK’s first science and innovation park to be entirely focused on the sector.

Representing the University were Professor of Space Physics, Suzie Imber, and Space Park Leicester Executive Director, Professor Richard Ambrosi. They were joined on the panel by George Freeman MP, Minister of State for Science, Research, and Innovation, and former University of Leicester Chancellor, Rt Hon Lord Willetts.

Professor Ambrosi highlighted the importance of Space Park Leicester’s role in bringing together industry and academia to grow the space economy and address global challenges.

He said: “The University of Leicester is at the forefront of space research and innovation and it was pleasing for Prof Imber and I to be given the platform to lead the UK space sector policy debate at such a high-profile event.

“The discussion generated a number of solutions as to how the UK’s space sector can continue to thrive and I am excited to see the future of the industry grow in the next few years, thanks to the synergy between industry and academia.”

Professor Imber outlined her role in the BepiColombo Mission to Mercury and stressed the importance of enhancing and diversifying the space workforce through outreach and widening participation. She also told the audience about two space degree apprenticeships, designed to provide technical routes into the sector, which were unveiled at Space Park in July.

She said: “It was an honour to be on the panel. I was able to demonstrate the value of educational and technical routes into the industry and why a diverse space workforce is crucial to its success.

“The event really helped to bolster the University of Leicester’s reputation for innovative space research and education.”

The event, which took place in Manchester Art Gallery and was sponsored by the University of Leicester, was titled ‘Winning the space race: Boosting the UK space sector for growth and innovation’.

The UK has made impressive strides in the space sector, contributing significantly to the nation’s economy, accounting for 15 per cent of economic activity in 2020.

It has steadily progressed towards becoming a global superpower in this domain, with technologists and astrophysicists consistently achieving ground-breaking discoveries. Furthermore, the commercial space sector has achieved noteworthy international milestones in satellite communications and earth observation technologies.

This discussion is of paramount importance as attention shifts toward harnessing the success of the British space sector and leveraging innovation in science and technology to address domestic challenges.