UK Space Agency - Funds for Solving Global Issues
Five projects combining business expertise with academic knowledge received funding from the UK Government through the UK Space Agency earlier this year. With the help of University of Southampton, University of Leicester and University of Edinburgh, the projects will integrate satellite data with other techniques such as machine learning capabilities in an attempt to solve global issues.
SPRINT: Combining Business with Academia
The five project collaborations supported by the UK Space Agency are part of the Space Research and Innovation Network for Technology partnership, otherwise known as SPRINT. The government-funded programme brings together top UK space-focused universities, industry experts, government agencies and investment bodies alike, with the aim of enabling and supporting small to medium enterprises (SMEs), dedicated to the development of new products and services via the commercial use of space data and technologies.
While nurturing collaboration and knowledge exchange between academics and industry experts, one of the aims of the programme is to accelerate the development of cross-industry products by integrating space technologies across distinct sectors. As a result, the programme has previously assisted 87 cooperative projects with 70 businesses that use space data and hardware in order to develop products dedicated for both space and non-space usage. As an illustration, the previously supported projects cover sectors such as agriculture, environment, construction or medical technology among many others.
The Head of the National SPRINT Programme, Ross Burgon said the following in regards to the UK Space Agency support:
We’ve spent the last two years building and demonstrating the efficacy of our approach and this new partnership with the UK Space Agency is a great milestone for us to further our mission to support business growth through university collaboration. The SPRINT approach makes it much easier for both companies and academics to build successful, productive and collaborative partnerships that are focused on growing the space sector and that also demonstrate the increasing benefits of space sector knowledge in addressing challenges across many other sectors.”
The UK Space Agency Funded Projects
ArchAI Ltd – University of Southampton
One of the projects benefiting from the UK Space Agency support led by the University of Southampton will use LiDAR and satellite imagery in combination with AI algorithms, in order to automatically detect probable archeological sites. The successful product will have implications for both historical preservation efforts as well as for the construction industry, by lowering the time and costs associated with obtaining a planning permission, and thus speeding up Environmental Impact Assessments on construction projects.
Iris Kramer, CEO of ArchAI said the following in regards to the project:
“This project will help us increase the training data of known archaeological sites and validate our AI across the country to detect unknown sites. […] We'll also be able to improve our solution on satellite imagery which will help us scale globally.”
Absolar Solutions Ltd – University of Southampton
The other supported project led by the University of Southampton will be developed in conjunction with Absolar Solutions Ltd., a spin-off company of the leading university with the aim of addressing climate related challenges. In brief, the project will provide a tool able to analyse the energy performance profile of a building, while developing action plans towards achieving Net-Zero carbon emissions and consequently reduce each building’s energy costs. Additionally, the carbon action planning software will track and report the progress of each organisation. To achieve its goals, the software package will integrate multiple data sources with satellite data, solar radiation and LiDAR images.
Phil Wu, CEO of Absolar Ltd., said the following:
“The support and collaboration will ultimately mean organisations benefit from an enhanced stepby-step understanding to achieve net-zero carbon emissions across their property portfolios and save energy costs at the same time.”
XCAM – University of Leicester
Two projects led by the University of Leicester have also been awarded funding through the UK Space Agency. One of the projects will use machine learning capabilities in order to develop an efficient particulate fall out monitor, which will enhance the monitoring accuracy in cleanrooms and during the launch of space vehicles. Additionally, the technology will be able to detect and report any potential issues in real time, as avoiding contamination in cleanrooms is critical for the optimal operation of vital equipment built for the space industry. The project will be jointly developed with XCAM, a private enterprise specialising in imaging systems.
Redshift Associates Ltd – University of Leicester
The second Leicester-based funded project will be developed in collaboration with Redshift Associates Ltd. and it is aimed at tracing and reducing carbon and pollution emissions of shipping fleets within coastal and high seas areas. The results will be obtained from the rapid processing and analysis of AIS data (automatic identification system). Furthermore, the project builds upon previous work performed by the two organisations in regards to shipping vessels pollution in Ports and Harbours.
Trade in Space – Geospace Agricultural – University of Edinburgh
The University of Edinburgh School of Geosciences is partnering with Trade in Space and Geospace Agricultural to create land-use classification maps, which aim to help the development of sustainable agriculture within high-potential agricultural regions of Malawi. By using satellite generated data, the product will illustrate how the land is presently being used, as well as enable the planning of large-scale agriculture in the country, following the ‘Jacoma Estates’ mega-farm model.
Robin Sampson, Founder and Managing Director of Trade in Space, said the following for the The Herald:
“SPRINT and the UK Space Agency have given us a fantastic opportunity to create the tools to achieve real positive impact on sustainable agricultural productivity in Malawi. […] We’re also excited to have the opportunity to continue to work with strategic partners Geospace Agricultural and the School of Geosciences at the University of Edinburgh.”
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- Liddell, E., 2021. Two Southampton Projects To Benefit From £200K In Funding. [online] Daily Echo. Available at: https://www.dailyecho.co.uk/news/18991750.two-southampton-projects-benefit-200k-funding/ [Accessed 12 January 2021].
- Settle, M., 2021. Edinburgh University Researchers To Use Space Tech To Help African Farmers Maximise Land-Use For Crops. [online] HeraldScotland. Available at: https://www.heraldscotland.com/news/18988492.edinburgh-university-researchersuse-space-tech-help-african-farmersmaximise-land-use-crops/ [Accessed 12 January 2021].
- SPRINT.n.d.SPRINT - Space Research And Innovation Network For Technology. [online] Available at: https://sprint.ac.uk/ [Accessed 12 January 2021].