STFC welcomes Space Park Leicester to national business programme for start-ups


The world’s largest space incubation programme for space tech start-ups will extend to the new Space Park Leicester in the East Midlands, in a drive to support the vibrant, growing regional space clusters across the UK.

The European Space Agency Business Incubation Centre United Kingdom (ESA BIC UK) supports start-ups using space technologies to develop new products and services or developing technologies for use in space, enabling them to gain a competitive advantage in today’s global market place.

Managed by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) in collaboration with ESA, and partly funded by STFC and the UK Space Agency, this programme has so far helped 87 start-up companies turn their brilliant ideas into viable products and services. Of these, 73 of these companies have graduated from the centre, and have collectively raised over £72 million in investment to date*.

Due to open in 2021, the new £100 million Space Park Leicester is a state-of-the-art facility, managed by the University of Leicester.  Companies joining the ESA BIC UK at Space Park Leicester will gain access to the University of Leicester’s established research excellence in astrophysics, space research and engineering, combined with its expertise in data science and AI, and successful track record in working with industry.

STFC’s Dr Sue O’Hare, Operations Manager at the ESA BIC UK, said: “I’m thrilled to welcome Space Park Leicester to the ESA BIC UK, which is a significant milestone for the programme.  UK start-ups are increasingly using space technologies to create game-changing products, as well as technologies for use on spacecraft and satellites. However, taking a product from an initial idea to manufacture and market is a massive challenge. The UK is the leading funder in Europe for space business applications, and the addition of Space Park Leicester to our business incubation programme provides an exciting opportunity to widen our support for start-ups across the vibrant and growing East Midlands space cluster and beyond.”

Grant Bourhill, Chief Executive of Leicester Science Parks and Interim Director Research & Enterprise at the University of Leicester said: “We are delighted that the European Space Agency and STFC have selected Space Park Leicester as the next UK centre for the ESA business incubation programme.

The space sector already underpins burgeoning commercial markets in communications, location based services and earth observation, and the ESA BIC will support new entrants to these and other space-enabled markets.  Leicester has consistently been recognised as one of the best cities in the UK for start-ups and the ESA BIC at Space Park will offer access to state-of-the-art facilities and equipment, partnership working with our academic and student talent, as well as colocation with other companies.  This is an exciting step forward for the East Midlands.”

Space Park Leicester joins a UK-wide ESA BIC programme, alongside the Harwell Campus in Oxfordshire, Sci-Tech Daresbury in the North West and the Royal Observatory in Edinburgh.  Each location is firmly associated with world leading specialisms that companies joining the programme can benefit from. The addition of Space Park Leicester marks the first ESA BIC UK location beyond STFC’s national sites.

Part of the ESA Space Solutions network of successful ESA BICs across Europe, the ESA BIC UK provides up to 15 start-ups every year with a combination of funding and access to world leading technical expertise, facilities and business development support. This is in addition to the benefits that being part of a flourishing and unique network of science and innovation campuses can bring.

Further information about the ESA BIC UK and how to apply is available online.