Northumbria University announces £50m UK space skills and R&D centre

Northumbria University has announced a total of £50m in funding for a ‘world-leading’ space skills and R&D centre, with investments from Lockheed Martin and the UK Space Agency.

An initial artist's impression of the North East Space Skills and Technology Centre building
An initial artist's impression of the North East Space Skills and Technology Centre building - Northumbria University

The North East Space Skills and Technology Centre (NESST) is expected to support the creation of over 350 jobs and inject over £260m into the North East economy over the next 30 years.

Announced during the UK Space Conference (November 22, 2023), the UK Space Agency has awarded £10m for the development of NESST, the largest of all the projects funded and the maximum amount that could be granted under the organisation’s new Space Clusters Infrastructure Fund (SCIF).

Lockheed Martin committed a further £15m to work with Northumbria’s experts on collaborative research, technology development, in-demand skills provision and STEM engagement activities over a 10 year period.

Northumbria University has match-funded the investments with a further £25m. The centre, due to re-open in 2025, will sit at the heart of its city campus in Newcastle.

The University said that NESST will put the UK at the forefront of research and innovation in areas including optical satellite communications, space weather and space-based energy, as well as providing specialist education and training for the UK space sector.

In a statement, Andrew Griffith MP, minister of state at the department for science, innovation and technology, said: “Making Britain a space superpower means backing brilliant ideas up and down the land and harnessing the full potential of talent in our growing sector – from Dundee to Newcastle, Cornwall to Snowdonia.

“By investing with the private sector in research and facilities across the UK, we are ensuring they become home to global industries that support the growth of our £17.5bn space sector, create hundreds of new jobs and build dynamic businesses across the UK.”

Northumbria University said they have received significant funding in recent months, including £5m from the UK Space Agency to build a new laser-based satellite communications system and £2.6m from the Science and Technology Facilities Council to fund studies into the Sun’s activity and its impact on Earth, and to create a new Centre for Doctoral Training in the field of data intensive science.

Lockheed Martin previously invested £630,000 into collaborations with the University, including creating machine learning algorithms to detect and record nanojets, as well as developing the use of space-based solar power.

Professor Andy Long, vice-chancellor and chief executive of Northumbria University, said: “This catalytic funding from both the UK Space Agency and Lockheed Martin recognises the world-leading excellence in all aspects of space research at Northumbria University.

“NESST will be a game-changer for the whole of the North East, ensuring the region becomes a major hub for innovation in the global space economy.”