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A major boost for space skills and research in North East England
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A major boost for space skills and research in North East England
by Sophie Jenkins
London, UK (SPX) Nov 24, 2023

In a significant development for the UK's space sector, Northumbria University, Newcastle, has announced the establishment of a new space skills, research, and technology centre, dubbed the North East Space Skills and Technology Centre (NESST). This initiative represents a substantial investment in the region's future in space technology and education, with the centre poised to become a key player in the UK's expanding space economy.

The creation of NESST is bolstered by a substantial funding pool of 50 million pounds, sourced from a combination of government and private sector contributions, along with match funding from the university itself. The UK Space Agency has committed 10 million pounds to the project, a testament to its confidence in Northumbria University's vision and capabilities. Lockheed Martin, a leading name in the global aerospace sector, has furthered the initiative with a 15 million pounds investment. These funds are matched by an additional 25 million pounds from Northumbria University, reflecting its commitment to advancing space-related research and education.

NESST is set to be a transformative force, expected to support the creation of over 350 jobs and contribute more than 260 million pounds to the North East economy over the next three decades. This aligns with the government's broader levelling-up agenda and is anticipated to act as a catalyst for further development in the UK's space sector, particularly in the North East region.

The centre will be located at the heart of Northumbria University's Newcastle city campus, transforming the Wynne Jones building into a modern, state-of-the-art facility. Scheduled to reopen in 2025, this iconic building will house world-class laboratories, teaching spaces, and collaborative areas. The development is not just limited to the building itself; the surrounding public spaces are also set for extensive regeneration, creating an attractive and vibrant environment for innovation and learning.

NESST's focus areas include cutting-edge fields like optical satellite communications, space weather, and space-based energy. These domains are crucial for the future of space exploration and utilization, positioning the UK at the forefront of space research and innovation. Furthermore, NESST will play a vital role in providing specialized education and training, ensuring the UK space sector is equipped with highly skilled professionals in the years to come.

Lockheed Martin's partnership with Northumbria University, initiated in 2022, has already yielded promising results, including the development of machine learning algorithms for nanojets detection and accelerating the use of space-based solar power. The aerospace giant's continued investment in NESST, with funds allocated evenly between capital equipment and research and development, underscores the strategic importance of this collaboration.

The UK Space Agency's award to Northumbria University under its Space Clusters Infrastructure Fund (SCIF) is the largest among all funded projects, signaling strong confidence in the university's ambitious space-related endeavors. Northumbria University's burgeoning reputation as a leading institution in space and solar physics is further solidified by this development, following its recent accolades in the Research Excellence Framework and being named Times Higher Education's University of the Year 2022.

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