The North East plays a vital role in the thriving UK space sector, according to a Government space industry leader who was speaking at a national conference held in Sunderland recently.

Claire Barcham, commercial space director with the UK Space Agency, the Government agency responsible for the UK’s civil space programme, was one of several speakers at the conference, which was designed to help businesses capitalise on the growing, multi-million pound space and satellite sector.

More than 100 businesses attended the free event, entitled Discover the Possibilities: Into the Blue, at Sunderland’s National Glass Centre to hear how companies could help solve problems facing the marine sector. They heard how satellite data could be used to help save the sea from pollution and global warming, in coastal monitoring and protection, and how we can maximise its use for food and energy.

Ms Barcham said: “The North East plays a vital role in the UK space sector and the latest figures show the region contributes £75 million to the total UK space sector income.

“I hope today’s conference will encourage firms in the North East to work with organisations such as The North East Satellite Applications Centre of Excellence – an initiative co-funded by the UK Space Agency – to find out how they can harness the opportunities offered by space launch to grow and develop their businesses.”

Other speakers at the conference included Sean McCarthy, head of market intelligence at the Satellite Applications Catapult, as well as North East businesses, which gave valuable insight into the industry.

They included Ralph “Dinz” Dinsley, executive director of Northern Space & Security (NORSS) in Northumberland, which provides expertise on space object tracking and space situational awareness, and Austen Atkinson, CEO of Durham-based Lexicon Science.

Said Professor Atkinson: “Last year’s conference raised awareness about the North East space and satellite sector, regionally and nationally. This year’s event has demonstrated how it is developing solutions to the big problems facing the Blue Economy. Developing new technologies that enable us to monitor shipping in real time will transform that economy.”

The North East Satellite Applications Centre of Excellence is delivered by Business Durham, the economic development organisation for County Durham, working on behalf of Durham County Council. The centre is one of five across the country and is based at the North East Technology Park (NETPark), in Sedgefield, County Durham.

Catherine Johns, innovation director at Business Durham, said: “It’s great to see so many North East businesses learning from UK space industry leaders and also from businesses in the region which are already making waves in the Blue Economy. Many more have important contributions to make in developing the hardware and technology for rockets and satellites and harnessing the valuable data gathered from space.”