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Edinburgh - A Space University

Last month, between 4th–10th October, over 96 countries celebrated the annual World Space Week. With more than 8,000 events throughout the world celebrating this year’s theme was “Satellites Improve Life.”

World Space Week is as an international celebration of science and technology, and its contribution to the betterment of the human condition.

Space Data Capital of Europe

With a growing and expanding list of key colleagues across the University working on space-based projects, The University of Edinburgh is a Space University. Our researchers work in an extraordinary range of space-related activities: engineers are exploring the management of fire risk in space, and developing rocket fuel pods; chemists are developing clean-burn rocket fuels; and astronomers are tracking the skies for space debris. We even have teams developing deep-space probes, and others writing literature about space.

The dedicated Space and Satellites Innovation Programme is pulling together a team of DDI Space and Satellites Chancellor's Fellows and Business Development Executives as well as consultants with the goal to establish Edinburgh as the Space Data Capital of Europe by 2030.

This is just the beginning of the ground breaking space-based work arising from the University of Edinburgh, and the space ecosystem generally. Scotland is on its way to being a space nation and the University has a vital part to play in that journey. I am unimaginably excited and proud to work in this field and to drive our progress forward. Who says the sky is the limit?

Kristina TamaneSpace Business Development Executive, Space and Satellites Innovation Programme
Space & Satellites Infographic

SENSE CDT – Centre for Satellite Data in Environmental Science

The Centre for Satellite Data in Environmental Science (SENSE) is a new research centre – in collaboration with the University of Leeds, the National Oceanography Centre, and the British Antarctic Survey – which uses satellite data and artificial intelligence to tackle global environmental changes.  The Centre - worth £5million - will deliver 50 PhD students uniquely qualified to address emerging climate change problems using AI/ML.

After 18 months of funding applications, planning, advertising and recruitment, we're delighted to have welcomed our first 17 students to SENSE this October. They've been very busy, all meeting their supervisors (mostly in person, suitably distanced of course), presenting their projects at a kick-off event including senior representatives from our main funders, NERC and the UK Space Agency, and now starting 4-weeks of intensive full time training. This training, organised by the University of Edinburgh and involving staff from the Schools of GeoScience, Engineering and Maths (the three schools where Edinburgh SENSE students are based), has been broadened beyond our cohort so another 20 students will benefit from attending one or more of the weeks.

The projects the SENSE students are working on are highly diverse, ranging from looking at changing ice volumes in Antarctica, the spread of algae in the Caribbean sea, through to forest change mapping in Scotland - however all have a common theme of using dense stacks of satellite data and advanced Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning techniques. We are also very excited that all projects have the involvement of a company, for example Space Intelligence which is contributing funds towards two projects. These companies provide real-world relevance for the topics, and real-world experience for the students, who will spend 3 months of their second year embedded in the company.

Professor Ed MitchardChair of Global Change Mapping & Co-Director SENSE Centre for Doctoral Training

Space Start-ups

Start-ups may be small companies but they can play a significant role in economic growth. They create more jobs which means more employment, and more employment means an improved economy. Not only that, start-ups can also contribute to economic dynamism by spurring innovation and injecting competition.

The University of Edinburgh have a variety of start-ups, some of which are based at the Bayes Centre, working to establish Edinburgh as the Space Data Capital of Europe by 2030.

Space Intelligence

Space Intelligence supports Nature Based Solutions to Climate Change, by providing information from satellite data analytics. Founded in 2018, the company has grown rapidly in this important market, working with the private and public sector to deliver high-value projects that will tackle humanity's defining challenge of the 21st Century.

Our vision is a world where accurate information from satellite data analysis creates the confidence for a massive increase in the finance flowing into sustainable land management, and particularly forest conservation and reforestation.  The role of Space Intelligence is to create the best-in-class products and services that enable this vision to be realised.

Dr Murray CollinsCEO Space Intelligence

Earth Blox

Earth Blox democratises the power of planetary scale satellite data and intelligence. Earth Observation data provide fascinating insights into our world and how it’s changing. Until now manipulating the data hasn’t always been easy. Your tech skills had to match your interest. Or your budget. Earth Blox brings you petabytes of data and processing power in a code-free yet customisable way.

As "Lego for Earth Observation data processing", EarthBlox enables the creation of customisable geospatial & satellite applications with unprecedented power and ease. This is particularly important in today's Covid-19 world where travels and boots-on-the-ground are limited.

Space-data enables users to reach anywhere. Now with Earth Blox, anyone can create powerful applications, without a need for coding skills or satellite analytics expertise

Dr Genevieve PatenaudeCEO, Quosient Ltd. trading as Earth Blox

Earthwave

Earthwave are a satellite data science company and have created a number of operational products for the European Space Agency efficiently delivering reproducible scientific research and algorithm development using a wide range of satellite and Airborne data. Earthwave’s novel approach to structuring spatial data allows fast slicing through space and time, providing the easy retrieval of Analysis Ready Data. This enables the fast fusion of large datasets, facilitating machine learning and other intensive computations. Using our Earth Observation and Artificial Intelligence knowledge, we are now developing an AI model to improve the accuracy of real time and 1 to 3 hour power availability forecasts for wind farms and to converting climate change scenarios into physical risks, enabling financial firms to model the risks of their portfolio for different scenarios, meeting financial regulatory requirements.

Edinburgh is buzzing with space and satellite activities, high-quality training and great academia-business partnerships. Earthwave as a University start-up founded by alumni is a great example of what can stems from such an ecosystem. With the increasing part that Earth Observation and data science plays in various sectors of activity we are excited about the future.

Dr Noel GourmelenCo-founder and Scientific Director

Asteria

Asteria is made up of some of the most experienced and dedicated engineering, computer science and physics students the University of Edinburgh has to offer. Supported by the Chancellor's Fellow for Space and Satellite Analysis, the team is also linked with academics in the Schools of Geosciences and Engineering, members of the European Space Agency, and the private sector.

Many universities around the world have their own dedicated satellite development facility. From a scientific standpoint, it’s very valuable, making space research – which can have overarching implications on life on earth - more accessible to academics and students. From a learning standpoint, there’s no question; satellites teach students not only about engineering, but regulations, funding, legal standards, and much more.

I'd like to see Asteria provide students and academics increased access to space, and to grow to the point of having a dedicated facility and system at the University where academics and students can propose missions and put hardware into space. This would be invaluable for knowledge’s sake as well as building the backbone of a developed space economy in Edinburgh,

I hope that Asteria’s achievements plant seeds and inspire other students to contribute to space, whether it be satellite companies, rocket companies, or who knows?

Ani VasudevanCo-founder, Managing Director

Space Partnerships

Scottish Enterprise

Scottish Enterprise is Scotland's national economic development agency. We’re committed to growing the Scottish economy for the benefit of all, helping create more quality jobs and a brighter future for every region.

Scotland’s innovative and growing space cluster is best known for its contribution to the commercial space market. It’s one which is agile and driven by the value that space-data has on our everyday lives.  Scottish Enterprise is proud to have supported the growth of the Scottish space industry largely driven by our home-grown talent setting up companies in Scotland to exploit the new commercial market opportunities and from international companies such as Spire Global and Celestia Technologies recognising that Scotland is a strategic location of choice in the marketplace. The sector will play a key role in supporting Scotland’s economic recovery as well as in tackling future challenges such as climate change.

Karen WilsonSpecialist for Space

SPRINT Network

The University of Edinburgh is a key partner for the SPRINT Network which is the Space Research and Innovation Network for Technology. It is a UK wide network which engages space SMEs to allow them to grow and strengthen the UK space economy.

SPRINT has been massively successful as a Network and some of our biggest achievements include:

  • Enabled £6.2m research and development
  • 38 Space Data projects
  • 33 Space Tech projects
  • 9 Space Transfer projects
  • £77.5k average project value

To learn more, please visit www.sprint.ac.uk

Further Information

Below you can find links to each of the items mentioned within this news item.

Asteria

Bayes Centre

DDI

Earth Blox

Earthwave

School of Geosciences

Scottish Enterprise

SENSE

Space and Satellites

Space Intelligence

SPRINT