Leading-edge innovation taking place in Norfolk and Suffolk was hailed as world leading by Science Minister George Freeman as a new space tech cluster was launched at the Connected Innovation Conference.
Representatives from Innovate UK, the Satellite Applications Catapult, BT, UK Space Agency, Tech East and other organisations addressed the showcase event at Adastral Park near Ipswich to highlight the exceptional research and innovation activity across businesses, innovation hubs and research institutes.
George Freeman, Minister of State at the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology and MP for Mid Norfolk, delivered the keynote address on a day when he personally visited Freeport East, Adastral Park, Norwich Research Park and Hethel Innovation. His visit was part of a tour to highlight the UK’s nationally significant innovation clusters.
Mr Freeman praised New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership’s Connected Innovation Programme which links together 24 innovation hubs, universities, research institutes and business clusters across Norfolk and Suffolk.
The programme is creating a regional innovation super cluster which facilitates collaboration, drives cross-sector innovation and better connects the support available to businesses.
Mr Freeman said the New Anglia Innovation cluster was hugely important to the UK and was now recognised by Government as a key cluster, with leadership in agri-tech, energy and ICT digital. He said it was important to recognise the strength of innovation in the East of England beyond Cambridge.
The conference on Friday 10 March saw the launch of an Innovation Prospectus – which profiles and showcases a range of our innovation centres, research institutes and technology hubs, helping to raise our profile nationally and internationally – as well as the launch of Space East, the new space cluster for Norfolk and Suffolk following the confirmation of funding from the UK Space Agency.
A panel session highlighted the cross-sector innovation opportunities this will bring to our key sectors and the ambitions the region has to be a leader in space tech.
Julian Munson, Head of Innovation and Enterprise Zones at New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “This was a hugely inspiring event which showcased the incredible innovation taking place in this area and the strong sense of community that exists between businesses and organisations here.
“From small businesses to research institutions, there is some world-class work being done which demonstrates that Norfolk and Suffolk are at the forefront of next generation technology and the space cluster represents an exciting opportunity to support our innovative businesses.”
Dr Paul Bate, Chief Executive at the UK Space Agency, said: “We are investing in a wide range of space activities all over the country, from satellite communications to missions exploring our Solar System, so it’s fantastic to see a new hub of space organisations come together to highlight the brilliant science and engineering skills in Suffolk, Norfolk and surrounding areas in the East of England.
“The UK space sector is worth £16.5 billion to the UK economy, employing 47,000 people, and it’s growing rapidly thanks to the exciting work taking place across our space clusters from the South West, to the North East, and across Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. We look forward to working with colleagues in the New Anglia cluster to unlock market opportunities, develop STEM expertise and create more jobs.”
Adastral Park, which hosted the conference, has 4,000 people on-site and is the home of the UK’s largest Communications and IT cluster, as well as the hub for Innovation Martlesham and BT’s Global Research & Development headquarters. It also has extensive satellite ground station facilities.
Lisa Perkins, Adastral Park & Research Realisation Director at BT Group, said: “I’m delighted that BT is part of the Suffolk and Norfolk ‘Space East’ cluster. A fast-growing key sector in its own right the space sector is also hugely important to other sectors such as energy, communications and transport.
“BT’s Adastral Park is at the heart of research and innovation and is a thriving ecosystem within which the inclusion of ‘Space’ as a theme is a natural fit. I am excited to see how the ecosystem evolves and to see the purposeful innovative solutions that will materialise.”
To find out more about Space East, visit https://spaceeast.co.uk/