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South West Centre of Excellence for Satellite Applications Cornwall

South West Centre of Excellence for Satellite Applications

Telecommunications plays a crucial role in modern life, allowing people and businesses around the world to connect with one another almost instantly.
Unbeknown to some, Cornwall is home to some of the world’s leading satellite facilities that enable this connectivity, and has been at the forefront of this communications revolution.

The region is part of the South West Centre of Excellence for Satellite Applications (SWCoESA), a partnership led by the University of Exeter with Goonhilly Earth Station Limited and Falmouth University, Plymouth University, Plymouth Marine Laboratory, Rothamsted Research and the Met Office.

This diverse and expert collaboration is funded by the Satellite Applications Catapult, an Innovative UK initiative, and is part of a network of five regional centres across the UK. The partnership works to stimulate the use of satellite technology in businesses, particularly amongst technology-led SME’s. With its thriving business community, superb digital infrastructure and world-class facilities Cornwall has the ideal environment for entrepreneurs to capitalise on the initiative.

We met with Cathrine Armour, Director of the South West Centre of Excellence for Satellite Applications to get her view on how the project is strengthening Cornwall’s offer as the leading region for technology-led businesses.

“Cornwall has a thriving business community of digital entrepreneurs applying technologies such as GNSS, GPS and satellite communications. The SWCoESA can, therefore, serve as a fantastic resource for encouraging best practice and innovation thinking through knowledge transfer and collaboration to develop new satellite-centric concepts.”

Cathrine Armour, Director

Under the UK Space Agency’s Incubation Initiative, Cathrine with Partners, SETsquared and GES Ltd recently won additional funding, enabling the team to set up its own Spacetech Incubation Initiative, designed specifically for entrepreneurs using satellite enabling technology. The programme has supported the development of three businesses through its first cohort, offering information and support from the SWCoESA’s network of investors, technical and business specialists that would not have been available through other non-satellite specific programmes. Businesses have the option of basing themselves at Aerohub Enterprise Zone Goonhilly which brings with it the benefits that come with its Enterprise Zone status including up to 100% business rate relief, as well as the option of 12 months fully subsidised ‘grow-on’ space. Goonhilly is also home to the established satellite communications facility run by Goonhilly Earth Station Limited and communications satellite operator Avanti Communications Limited.

Because of its geography, up until now, the UK has relied on the installation of terrestrial infrastructure for digital connectivity. As consumer expectations shift towards increasing connectivity, so does the cost of maintenance and installation. According to Cathrine, satellite technology is only going to become more pervasive. “The demand for satellite-based services hasn’t moved as quickly as in other countries like Africa where there’s no terrestrial infrastructure, but with the increasing need for remote, data-driven services I believe that the UK market and its international offering is only going to grow. The global space-enabled market is forecasted to reach £400bn by 2030. The UK Space Growth Action Plan targets UK Space industry to achieve 10% of this global market and an interim target of £19bn by 2020.”

Cathrine’s prediction is already a reality in areas such as healthcare and agriculture and again, Cornwall based companies are embracing this next generation approach to improving well-being and productivity. “Satellite needs to be viewed in the same way as electricity: an enabling technology that allows other systems or services to happen. Cornwall has a wealth of resources and facilities to draw upon from the new Future Farm at Duchy College to the existing Wave Hub in Hayle, the SWCoESA is in place to help entrepreneurs navigate this landscape and find the most effective application of satellite technology for their business.”

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