• Laurence Russell

SPRINT awards funding for new collaborative space technology and research projects

The national SPRINT (SPace Research and Innovation Network for Technology) business support programme has awarded grants to three new UK space research projects following a National Space Strategy sandpit event held in Leicester in April.

Sandpits bring together researchers and companies to discuss a specific topic or problem. They are intensive forums where free thinking is encouraged to explore the highlighted challenges and work together to uncover innovative solutions.


As a result of the sandpit, three new collaborative projects will receive UK Space Agency funding of approximately £10,000 each to enable them to progress their ideas, develop and validate their proposed solutions. Funding has been awarded to Interstellar Space Technologies Ltd, Polychord, and Viridian Logic Ltd and Omanos Analytics to develop feasibility studies around National Space Strategy themes. The funding will enable these SMEs to collaborate with Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) including the University of Hull, University of Southampton, University of Edinburgh, York St John University, University of Portsmouth and University of Surrey.


The projects aim to address challenges faced by the space sector including reuse and repurposing of end-of-life assets in space, supporting accurate forecasts of aircraft induced clouds, and using Earth Observation technologies and data for nature-based land management solutions.


Dr Rain Irshad, Head of the national SPRINT programme said: “Through ongoing support from the UK Space Agency, we have been able to award three new grants to these projects involving Higher Education Institutions across the UK. The funds will enable the SMEs to actively engage with the SPRINT programme and benefit from the collaborations with academic research expertise and facilities. “In doing so, the SMEs will be able to accelerate their product and service offerings, whilst broadening their own networks and strengthening their expertise.”


Christopher Mcquire, Head of Local Growth at UK Space Agency, said: “We are pleased to help develop these projects, which support some of our key Earth observation goals. Being able to monitor the impact of aircraft on cloud formation, provide nature data for land management, and recycle space products are all important to helping us build a more sustainable future.


“Engaging with programmes such as SPRINT allow us to identify and invest in UK science and engineering, supporting the growth of the UK space sector. We look forward to seeing the results of these projects as they develop.”


The three new projects funded by SPRINT are:


Interstellar Space Technologies Ltd with the University of Hull, the University of Southampton, the University of Edinburgh and York St John University Project: Green Toolkit for a New Space Economy

This project explores the design of a Toolkit for the UK space sector that promotes a circular economy model and incorporates socio-cultural values into traditional environmental impact assessments.


It brings together academic collaborators in Law, Physics, History and Indigenous Studies, and Cybersecurity and User Design from the Universities of Edinburgh, Southampton, Hull, and York St John. In partnership with Interstellar Space Technologies Ltd, the Toolkit will help space industry (SMEs in particular) navigate the regulatory landscape, and nudge businesses towards choices that reduce their adverse socio-cultural and environmental impact. It will promote environmental and social equity in a format familiar and legible to business and regulatory audiences, while also providing a tool to help SMEs become more competitive by accrediting their socially responsible choices.


Via a unified platform that integrates a range of complex standards across agencies, industries and civil society, the Toolkit will encourage the adoption of a circular economy model in the design and operation of space activities, paying special attention to reuse and repurposing of end-of-life assets.


Polychord with the University of Portsmouth Project: FLight Optimisation using Contrail Knowledge (FLOCK >) preparatory study

FLight Optimisation using Contrail Knowledge (FLOCK >) addresses identifying ice super-saturated regions (ISSR) in the upper atmosphere. FLOCK will devise an observing concept to support accurate forecasts of aircraft induced cloud (AIC). The goal is to use risk forecasts to inform airline flight path planning thereby mitigating the significant net global warming impact of contrails. This SPRINT preparatory study will:

  1. inventory existing data sources

  2. make a preliminary definition of an observational concept

  3. analyse data modelling needs

Viridian Logic Ltd and Omanos Analytics with the University of Surrey Project: Space for Subsistence Farming (SfSF)

There is a desperate need for agriculture to become more climate resilient whilst increasing production. Therefore, in this project we will seek to understand the value of Earth Observation technologies and data availability to enhance and advance the application of nature-based solutions for land management first for a specific area. This literature review is expected to lead towards a novel approach which will be used in a follow-on pilot project, which is not part of this feasibility study.