Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts has signed an agreement with Japanese officials for greater collaboration on space research and technology.
The partnership was signed with the Japanese Economy Minister Motohisa Furukawa and will seek to identify commercial opportunities for industry to act on.
One of the key areas for collaboration is on earth observation technology, such as the NovaSAR programme to fly radar satellites around the Earth or the Disaster Monitoring Constellation that takes images of natural disasters, both of which are run by Surrey Satellite Technology.
The partnership comes after the Disaster Monitoring Constellation project provided vital data to assist with rescue efforts and damage assessment in the aftermath of the Japan earthquake and tsunami.
The UK already has a record of scientific collaboration with Japan on solar physics. This includes the most recent Japanese solar mission Hinode, on which one of the three science instruments is from the UK.
Visiting Japan with the Prime Minister David Cameron and a trade delegation, David Willetts said: “The UK space industry is a true success story, employing tens of thousands of highly skilled people and contributing around £7.5bn to economy annually. However space is a global market and the UK’s success is dependent on international collaboration, so it’s vital we forge strong partnerships with countries like Japan that lead the way in technology.”
Willetts added: “Today’s agreement paves the way for future space research and commercial cooperation between our two countries. This will drive growth by opening up opportunities for both the UK’s innovative companies and leading researchers.”
Today’s agreement will help the UK reach ambitious targets to grow its share of the world space market to 10 per cent by 2030. It is part of the wider work in the UK to make satellite data more commercially available, led by the UK Space Agency working closely with International Space Innovation Centre at Harwell in Oxfordshire.