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£50million to launch space skills and technology centre

£50m has been raised from Lockheed Martin, the UK Space Agency and Northumbria University to create a new space skills and technology centre in Newcastle.

NESST (North East Space Skills and Technology Centre) will be led by Northumbria University and based at its Newcastle city campus.

Described as a “game-changer” for the UK space economy, it’s expected to create more than 350 jobs and inject more than £260m into the North East economy over the next 30 years.

The UK Space Agency has awarded £10m to Northumbria University; and Lockheed Martin has committed a further £15m to work on collaborative research, technology development, in-demand skills provision and STEM engagement activities over a 10-year period.

Northumbria University confirmed it would match-fund that investment with a further £25 million.

Lockhead Martin will also become the first anchor tenant in NESST.

“NESST is one part of Lockheed Martin’s investment plans for our space business in the UK and will provide early prototyping and test facilities for new capabilities that could eventually be manufactured onshore,” said Nik Smith, Regional Director for UK and Europe, Lockheed Martin. 

“It will also be a reskilling hub, providing the pipeline of talent we will need to deliver national and even global programmes. With this investment, Lockheed Martin is thrilled to further our collaboration with Northumbria University and the UK Space Agency, and be a part of such significant initiatives for the region and the entire UK space sector.”

Lockheed Martin and Northumbria University first joined forces in 2022 to support the development of skills, research and technology in the space sector. Lockheed Martin has previously invested £630k into collaborations with the University on a number of projects, including working together to create machine learning algorithms to detect and record nanojets, as well as joining forces to accelerate the use of space-based solar power. 

Its award of £15m will be split evenly across capital equipment to be used in the centre and research and development work.

Dr Paul Bate, Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency said of its investment: 

“Our space sector has been concentrated in London and the South East, but in recent years we’ve seen the emergence of vibrant clusters across the whole of the country and significant investments from world-leading companies such as Lockheed Martin. This is a fantastic opportunity for Northumbria University to further propel the UK to the forefront of world-class research and innovation with the North East Space Skills and Technology Centre (NESST), helping us lead the way in optical satellite communications, space weather and energy research, education and training.

“It’s a brilliant example of the potential of our thriving space sector across the length and breadth of the UK to develop innovative infrastructure that helps us deliver increasingly ambitious missions and capabilities. The Space Clusters Infrastructure Fund highlights the government’s commitment to space and will help deliver the goal set out in the National Space Strategy to build one of the most innovative and attractive space economies in the world, developing new skills and creating jobs.”

NESST will be based at the University’s Wynne Jones building, which will be transformed into a “prominent, iconic home”. The building is due to re-open in 2025 and will feature a world-class laboratory, testing, teaching, collaboration and office spaces, and the surrounding public spaces will be extensively regenerated to create an attractive new environment.

“This is a pivotal moment, not just for Northumbria University, but for the wider North East region and indeed, for the UK space sector as a whole,” added Professor Andy Long, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive of Northumbria University.

“This catalytic funding from both the UK Space Agency and Lockheed Martin recognises the world-leading excellence in all aspects of space research at Northumbria University. Quite simply, NESST will be a game-changer for the whole of the North East, ensuring the region becomes a major hub for innovation in the global space economy.”

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