Supported by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) it will use Government funding to bring together expertise and businesses to explore how to take maximum advantage of the commercial space race.
The money will be used to assess current space capabilities and develop action plans for how to accelerate the growth of the hub.
Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands, said: “This is an immensely exciting avenue to explore, which could potentially create more jobs, improve skills, and boost the West Midlands’ economy.
“Exploration of the global space technology sector is especially welcome at this challenging time as we start plotting our region’s economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.
“The West Midlands has a proud past as a hotbed of innovation and the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution. This is the place to create, innovate, and build for the future.”
The West Midlands space hub will be led by City-REDI of the University of Birmingham, and supported by the WMCA and Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP).
Tim Pile, chair of GBSLEP, said: “We welcome lift-off for the development of a space hub here in the West Midlands region led by City-REDI, University of Birmingham.
“This is an exciting opportunity to come together to create a strategy to identify industries in our region working in the space sector and to explore new market opportunities. Our purpose at the GBSLEP is to create inclusive, economic growth in partnership with the public, private and academic sectors. We have a vast network of supply chains in the region and this first step towards a space hub will also enable us to examine how we can support businesses to contribute to the commercial space age.”
In the last decade, space has transformed into one of the UK’s fastest growing sectors. Trebling in size in 2010, at the last count the UK space industry now employs close to 42,000 people in all corners of the country and generates an income of nearly £15 billion every year.
Professor Simon Collinson, deputy pro-vice-chancellor for regional engagement and director of the West Midlands Regional Economic Development Institute (WM REDI) and City-REDI, said: “This is an important national initiative to both enhance the UK’s position in the global space technology sector and promote regional growth.
“We are immensely pleased that City-REDI at the University of Birmingham has been awarded funding to work with our local partners to help develop these industry hubs. These will translate leading R&D into applied technologies and better job opportunities for the regions.”
Cllr Ian Brookfield, WMCA portfolio lead for economy and innovation and leader of Wolverhampton City Council, said: “I’m delighted that the West Midlands has been chosen for funding to explore the region’s space technology businesses. Our region has a lot to offer and this is an opportunity to demonstrate our expertise, business acumen and workforce.”
Funding has been made to six other regions in Great Britain to ensure space is a priority for regional economic growth and to attract commercial investment from space companies. The UK Space Agency will also support Space Leadership Forums in the West Midlands and the other regions, bringing together local government, business leaders and academia into a representative body that can drive forward this work and champion the sector.
Science Minister Amanda Solloway said: “The UK’s space sector has shown incredible resilience to the coronavirus pandemic and will continue to play a key role in our recovery – from creating high-quality jobs to finding unique ways to support our NHS.
“This funding will arm local leaders up and down the UK with the tools they need to put their local areas at the front of the commercial space race, while refuelling the tank of the UK economy and helping Britain realise its ambitions as a global space superpower.”