£20m For International Bilateral Fund From UKSA

17th Apr 2023
£20m For International Bilateral Fund From UKSA

Kicking off the 38th annual Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, the UK Space Agency (UKSA) has just launched a new fund to support British collaboration with other nations. Dubbed the International Bilateral Fund (IBF), the agency is pooling £20 million into the pot, with £2 million initially available for 30 proposed projects. The investment is focused on strengthening the sector’s partnerships with other nations that will ultimately draw inward investments and exports for the UK.

While the UKSA is open to any proposals for partnering with nations all over the world, the agency is particularly interested in collaborations with its closest space allies – the US, Canada, Australia, and Japan. Specifically, the agency hopes proposals will focus on Earth Observation, space debris, and space traffic control.

International Bilateral Fund funding, Round 1

The announcement marks the first dedicated fund focused on building the UK’s international relationships, the space agency says, and it will be available for industry, academia, and research organisations.

The first tranche will support 30 projects, which could receive from £50,000 to £75,000. The catch is that the projects will need to kick off on 1st August 2023, and be fully completed by the end of November next year. The successful Phase One proposals will then potentially bag a second tranche of funding of up to £1.5 million – with a period of 12 months to utilize the money.

George Freeman, the Minister of State at the Department of Science, Innovation, and Technology, said: “Backed by £20 million in government funding, these international partnerships will boost our commercial and scientific endeavours as we work with some of the world’s most dynamic space economies, creating more jobs and generating investment in the UK.”

Part of the 10-year UK space strategy

In September 2021, the UK Space Agency published its decadal space strategy and one of the key goals was to build global partnerships and trade. The UK already invests in several European missions and is also building on the UK-Australia Space Bridge launched in 2021. Now, this new funding is set to further encourage the commercial industry to engage with the overseas space sector.

Dr. Paul Bate, the Chief Executive of the UKSA said partnerships will likely “deliver new missions and capabilities” and show the “power of space” to the UK. Dr. Bate also said “this new fund will help unlock cross-border innovation, promote the exchange of knowledge, and strengthen the UK space sector’s relationships with strategic partners.”

Collaboration is crucial to growth of UK space industry

The goal of bolstering international collaboration in the UK space strategy is there for good reason. The space sector is highly reliant on overseas investment, and the more the UK builds relationships with other nations, the more there will be increased interest in what Britain can offer. The International Bilateral Fund should bolster this.

Despite its ultimate failure, the 9th January Virgin Orbit launch was a good example of international collaboration, according to Matt Archer, the commercial space director of the UKSA. In OT’s interview with Archer, the director highlighted that the event was to “demonstrate the best of British ambition and innovation”. Further, he said that while it was an American launch vehicle, many payloads onboard were from different countries, and the launch took place in the UK.

“You’re not going to please everybody, but we’ve run a programme to deliver the benefits that we set out in our business case. We’ve got to remember that this ambition was a mix of bringing in established companies and creating a sector that is attractive to launch companies the world over,” he said. “In the future, we will have a sector that offers homegrown solutions and will attract others that want to launch from here. I know that German companies in particular are looking to launch from the UK, which is a good thing. This generates jobs and investment in what are often quite rural communities.”

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