SCIENCE minister Lord Drayson set his eyes firmly on the stars last night as he launched the UK Space Agency as part of efforts to expand the country’s satellite industry.
He said the new agency aimed to build on a space and satellite sector that supports 68,000 posts and contributes £6.5 billion a year to the economy.
Drayson said the “bureaucracy-busting” agency would replace the British National Space Centre (ADVERTISEMENTBNSC) and would draw together six UK government departments to oversee space activities and “enhance efficiencies”.
The Met Office, Technology Strategy Board and two research councils will also be involved in the new project.
Space has been one of the nation’s “unsung economic success stories” in recent years, noted Drayson, who claimed the sector had grown in real terms by about 9 per cent a year since 1999-2000, more than three times faster than the economy as a whole.
“Our space sector hasn’t missed a beat during this recession,” he said. “This is the classic story of outstanding UK science and entrepreneurship continuing to create jobs and achieve exceptional growth.
“The new space agency is about making sure that the UK fully exploits its competitive advantage in satellites, robotics and related technologies.”
Drayson’s announcement was welcomed by companies already working in the sector.
Mike Ramsay, managing director of Scotland Electronics International Limited (Seil), said the creation of the agency would give a good advantage to companies operating in the sector.
Seil, which is based at Forres, in Moray, has made components for clients such as the European Space Agency and the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
Richard Peckham, chairman of industry body UKspace, added: “The new space agency will create a stronger focus for the better delivery of services (for firms] in both the public and private sectors using space and will enable a far greater return on the country’s investment in the space sector.”
Meanwhile, Unilever yesterday launched a partnership with the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s Daresbury Laboratory for research and development on its personal care products.
Scientists at the laboratory will help the firm to develop software that will predict how different ingredients will interact.
Dr Richard Blake, director of computational science and engineering at the lab, said: “The personal care products we all use every day, such as shampoo and toothpaste, are actually very hi-tech and are made up of a number of complex, structured materials.
“We hope the results of this research will pave the way for advances in materials chemistry that will benefit consumers, the environment and the economy