/ News / Why The Sky’s Not The Limit For Lancashire

With World Space Week starting today, LEP Chair Debbie Francis wants Lancashire businesses to start thinking seriously about the opportunities which lie beyond the stratosphere.

Today sees the start of World Space Week, a global initiative backed by the United Nations which runs annually every October 4th-10th.

Established in 1999, Space Week brings together national and international space agencies, the aerospace sector, schools, universities, planetariums, science museums, and astronomy societies, from around the world, to celebrate space-related achievements and breakthroughs.

As you might expect, much of the focus is on scientific and technological activities, but there is also always an overarching humanitarian element to the programme which is aligned to wider UN principles.

For example, this year’s theme is Space and Sustainability, and there will be a focus on how space technology can be used to help identity and diagnose some of the major environmental challenges we face down here.

So, what’s all this got to do with Lancashire’s local economy you might be thinking.

Well, according to an in-depth report focused specifically on the North West’s space and satellite economy – undertaken last year by PwC on behalf of the government-backed North West Space Cluster – Lancashire is incredibly well-placed to benefit from a growing demand for the secure gathering, transfer and analysis of ‘space-derived data’.

This includes us having the experience, capacity and resources to analyse information and images gathered by satellites – including data relating specifically to the environment, climate change and sustainability – for both governmental and industrial use.

The same report also explores how Lancashire’s advanced manufacturing and aerospace businesses can maximise other regional sector strengths to pursue new space-related opportunities.

Our capabilities in chemicals and polymers, nuclear energy, electech and food production were credited here, as was our expertise within the maritime industry, offshore structures, and coastal management. Further, PwC identified several cross-cutting offers where Lancashire could take a strong lead. These included cyber and cybersecurity, and emerging sectors like quantum computing.

Much of Lancashire’s potential is attributed to both existing commercial space activities (such as the work being undertaken by the likes of BAE Systems, Carlisle Interconnect, Forsberg and AWOL TV) together with the world-leading R&D being generated by our universities.

Examples include Lancaster University’s research across material science, environmental monitoring, quantum technologies, astrophysics, and cybersecurity, while UCLan’s specialisms in space meteorology, advanced engineering, wearable robotics, and industrial lubricants, were also cited.

Edge Hill University, which already has an impressive track record of working closely with the aerospace sector, was also highlighted as having several programmes which could support space-related activity.

In addition, the University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre NW at Samlesbury was described being able to translate Industry 4.0 processes into ‘new technologies aiding application and diversification into the space sector’.

The report concluded with a ranking exercise which assessed all of the North West’s different region in terms of key space economy drivers, and the pre-conditions needed for future growth.

Across four criteria, and with a total maximum of 20 points available, we came joint second with 14 alongside the Liverpool City Region, while Greater Manchester came out overall on top with 17.

What’s really encouraging to me about that score is that for somewhere as large as Lancashire – with many of our economic and R&D activities spread widely across the county – we’ve successfully developed the supply chains, the integrated ecosystem, and the culture of collaboration, needed support a dynamic space industry cluster.

Combine that with Lancashire’s great reputation for innovation, and our enduring entrepreneurial spirt, and you can really begin to appreciate the fantastic opportunities which the space economy could offer many of our businesses. Or in other words, with the right level of ambition, the sky is no longer the limit to what we could achieve.

To find out more about World Space Week visit www.worldspaceweek.org. To read the full PwC report on the North West’s space economy click here

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