News & Events

UK Government commits close to £400 million to Earth Observation research and industry projects

The National Centre for Earth Observation (NCEO) welcomes this week’s news of major UK investments, signalling recognition of the value of our Earth Observation (EO) community who are working to use space assets to protect our planet. 

The UK Government have announced a significant investment of £380 million in funding to invest in the UK Earth Observation sector. The funding has been pledged to enable the UK EO sector to remain at the forefront of Earth Observation technology and knowhow, protect the future of UK talent and industry in Earth Observation and mitigate the impact of ongoing delays to UK participation in the EU Copernicus programme.

Observing our planet from space has been recognised as playing a vital role in science and commercial services. The government is focused on investing in projects which can meet the huge challenges faced from climate change, whilst creating economic opportunities. Over half of our climate data comes from space and EO plays a critical role in understanding and tackling climate change.

The investments have two components. First, the UK has contributed £315 million to the European Space Agency EO programmes through the Council of Ministers meeting, held in Paris this week including major contributions to TRUTHS, Aeolus-2 and ClimateSpace. Second, the UK is providing £66 million in funding to national projects, including strategic funds for UKRI’s Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC).

Professor John Remedios, NCEO Executive Director, said:
“This is an important step in the right direction for the UK Earth Observation science community. The funding maintains strong international collaborations despite challenges with the Copernicus programme. It initiates foundational projects in the UK that we have never had before in the form of EO climate data services and data infrastructure. The support will enable UK science and industry to lead EO satellite missions, deliver world-class climate information and grow business for the benefit of all in the UK and worldwide.”

The UK is the home of world-leading EO academic and industrial organisations and a well-founded reputation for excellence in EO. For example, in climate science, leading UK research institutions have been measuring sea and land surface temperature from space for over three decades. NERC’S National Centre for Earth Observation scientists at the Universities of Leicester, Reading, Oxford and RAL Space, have been investigating global temperature change and extremes of heat to further understand the impacts of our changing climate. RAL Space has designed and implemented the most accurate instruments for this purpose, starting with the UK-built Along Track Scanning Radiometers. EO data is used by meteorological and oceanographic agencies around the world, including the Met Office, to improve weather forecast accuracy.

NCEO is excited that the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) will be receiving over £19 million of funding for key EO and climate services, data facilities and skills. Two new investments will support UK scientists in producing new and more accurate climate data from space and unique facilities for data access and processing. These will advance the fight against climate change with space technologies, a focus of the National Space Strategy.

UK EO Climate Information Service (UKEO-CIS) – will produce new climate data, provide more accurate insights into national and international impacts of the climate crisis and help guide the UK towards greater resilience to the effects of climate change.

Professor Chris Merchant, leading NCEO climate data expert at the University of Reading, said:
“The UKEO-CIS will enable many talented scientists all across the UK to work together, creating information needed to respond to the climate crisis. The new climate data from UKEO-CIS will be used to better understand growing climate risks and how to respond to them. We’ll see new and better climate data from space, for the UK and the world. And we’ll see innovation around getting that information readily into the hands of people who need to use it.”

EO Data Hub – will build a next generation data platform to give the UK a single portal for accessing and processing satellite data to develop new applications and environmental insights. The EO Data Hub is a consortia project between NCEO, RAL Space, the National Physical Laboratory and the Satellite Applications Catapult who will deliver it, with inputs from industry and government. It represents a new UK capability enabling access to diverse satellite data sets for the benefit of UK industry, academia and government, particularly for applications in climate, finance, carbon services and agriculture.

Phil Kershaw, Head of CEDA at RAL Space and NCEO Data Services Lead, said:
“The Data Hub provides a unique opportunity to bring together the collective expertise of industry, the public sector and academia to build a collaborative infrastructure to facilitate the exploitation of a range of data – from satellite-based observations to climate models – to develop new and innovative applications.”

These new UK services and infrastructures align with our investments in the EO programmes of the European Space Agency, including the UK-led TRUTHS mission and the upcoming EarthCare, BIOMASS and FORUM missions. The investments will enable the UK to expand its world-class contribution to Earth Observation science and technology while developing new and innovative international collaborations.

The UKRI statement on the UK national projects can be found here