Small businesses looking to develop their expertise in the space sector are being offered a new funding package.
The £500,000 Westcott Accelerator and Incubation Programme delivered by the Buckinghamshire Enterprise Zone is designed to help start up and SME companies to grow and develop at Westcott Venture Park.
Firms can apply for grants of between £5,000 and £25,000 to help develop projects and they will also receive technical expertise and support in combination with the facilities and equipment at the Westcott Space Cluster.
The aim is to accelerate prototyping of the next generation of products and services for the space and related sectors.
The Satellite Applications Catapult (SAC) will run the programme through its existing facilities at the Westcott Space Cluster. These include the Westcott Innovation Centre, the Westcott Incubation Centre, the Living Labs, the Future Networks Development Centre and the In-Orbit Servicing and Manufacturing Centre.
The funding will enable firms to benefit from investments by Buckinghamshire LEP in cutting-edge equipment at Westcott, catalysing early use by the space industry. Successful applicants will have access to technical and business development expertise to evolve their product, or service, maximising their chances for commercialisation and further developing the network of space companies within Westcott Venture Park.
The Accelerator Programme grants will be selected competitively and 50:50 match funded by industry. The Incubation Programme grants for start-up companies will not require match funding.
The wider aim will be to publicise the capabilities and advantages of Westcott and attract companies to establish a presence on the site so accelerating the growth of the Westcott Space Cluster.
Richard Harrington, CEO of the Buckinghamshire LEP, said: “It is vitally important to support start-ups which are often the source of the most innovative and potentially transformative ideas. The Westcott Business Accelerator and Incubation Programme will help grow the scale of skills and business support available within the Enterprise Zone site at Westcott.
“The availability of specialist on site business and skills support will add to the attraction of Westcott as a key site for the UK space industry. The Programme is a sustainable way of supporting businesses to be successful. In doing so it nurtures the space ecosystem and allows us to showcase the value and benefit of being at Westcott.”
Significantly, the Programme aligns with the Government’s National Space Strategy which recognises the growing importance of the space sector for the UK economy and the need to stimulate major growth to compete successfully with other nations worldwide. It links directly to the UK National Space Policy and the Government’s commitment to developing new space clusters with LEPs and devolved administrations.
Alan Cox, Chief Commercial Officer at SAC said: “The Westcott Incubator and Accelerator comes at a time of crucial space cluster growth within the UK. The funding will bring new and innovative companies to the already successful ecosystem of space-related firms at Westcott, boosting the Buckinghamshire location as a fantastic hub of sector activity for the future of space.”
Start-up companies can participate in the Accelerator Programme but tailored incubator support will also be available to help them commercialise their innovations.
The package will include business ‘sprints’ delivered by SAC and other specialists, including Buckinghamshire Business First. These will focus on specific technical requirements and market positioning for start-ups.
Nigel MacKenzie, Development Manager at Westcott said: “This new Enterprise Zone funding package is a fantastic incentive to small businesses looking to develop their expertise in the space sector. We look forward to welcoming more start-ups to the well-established ecosystem of space sector business who have made Westcott their home.
“Westcott is a place for businesses to secure their future within a community of technology innovators and in a location that offers unrivalled security and space to grow.”
The Programme will build on the highly successful EU-funded Westcott Business Incubator Programme, that ended in August 2021, which nurtured several successful companies working in the propulsion, autonomous vehicle, and advanced communications fields.
It also links directly to the Government’s ambition to develop ‘world class space clusters’ - ten focus areas in the UK National Space Strategy highlighting how critical the space sector is to our economy, national infrastructure, communications, defence and security in the face of highly subsidised international competition.