UK Chancellor Vows To Increase Funding For Space Projects
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports – Your Universe Online
The UK will contribute an additional $95 million (£60 million) in the European Space Agency (ESA) over the next two years, and will be investing more than $475 million (£300 million) in space-science research over the next five years, various media outlets have reported.
The funding increases were announced by Chancellor George Osborne on Friday, during which he also announced that the ESA had agreed to allow the UK to once again host its telecommunication satellite headquarters, according to The Telegraph.
That will create approximately 100 new technology-related jobs and will complete development of a “major space hub” in Oxfordshire, the newspaper added.
Speaking at the Royal Society in London, Osborne called the space program one of eight different tech-related fields in which he hoped to see the UK emerge as a world leader, reports Alok Jha, a Science Correspondent with The Guardian.
The Chancellor said that he intended to meet a challenge, issued by physicist Brian Cox, to take Great Britain into the top place in the world for scientists to ply their trade.
“We are now at a watershed where space is transitioning from a celebration of science endeavor into a capability that impacts on our everyday lives,” he said, according to Jha. “Live transmissions of news and sports are driven by satellite telecommunications, and satellites are bringing broadband to rural communities across the UK, while providing enormous export opportunities.”
Osborne admitted that some of the reasons for the renewed interest in scientific and space-related funding were financial in nature, The Guardian said. Despite economic struggles throughout the UK and increased competition from China, India, and other nations, space-related industries throughout Great Britain have experienced growth of approximately 8-percent over the past several years, according to reports.
Currently, they contribute over $14 billion (£9 billion) to the nation’s economy, and during his speech, Osborne said he hoped to increase that figure to $48 billion (£30 billion) within the next 18 years.
That phenomenon helped Science Minister David Willetts persuade the Chancellor to commit to the funding, according to BBC News. As he told science correspondent Pallab Ghosh, “We have underestimated the strength of our space industry. In fact, we are a global player in satellite and telecommunications technology. This additional investment is a signal to ESA and commercial companies that we are going to continue to support space science and technology.”
The seven other areas highlighted by Osborne during the speech include computing, synthetic biology, regenerative medicine, agricultural science, energy storage, robotics and advanced materials (including nanotechnology and metamaterials).