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'Platforms in space' to help businesses

Space researchers and enterprise experts from the University of Leicester have teamed up to offer a new business facing service that harnesses space technology for earth-bound benefits.

A Space Technology Exchange Partnership G-STEP- has been established in order to support business and public sector organisations use state-of-the-art Earth Observation information technology.

The Partnership will be launched on 19th June 2009 at the University of Leicester by the head of the EU GMES bureau Dr Valere Moutarlier, Dr Steven Briggs, Head of Earth Observation, Applications and Future Technologies at the European Space Agency and Dr. David Williams head of the British National Space Centre. The knowledge-exchange hub is co-funded at 1.86 million by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), EMDA (East Midlands Development Agency), the Leicestershire Economic Partnership (LSEP) and the University of Leicester.

Researchers from the University's Chemistry, Geography and Physics and Astronomy departments have teamed up with the University's enterprise and business development office to provide the new service.

Professor Paul Monks, Director of G-STEP, said: "The exploitation of this technology is expected to have a major impact on business operations and competitiveness. We are being pro-active and going-out to the business community and saying, what are the issues you would like solving, then using a model of innovating, partnering or brokering the solution from our knowledge base. In practical terms, we will work with business partners to develop value-added services that exploit environmental data from the GMES system. In this way, we will be promoting EO businesses rather than competing with them"

He went on to say "A practical example of this is using space data as part of an air pollution forecast system, similar to a weather forecast, to deliver vulnerable people messages to their mobile phones reminding them to take their medication with them. This helps people particularly those suffering from asthma as well as having the potential to reduce hospital admissions."

G-STEP will exploit innovation opportunities made available by the flagship 1.4 billion Euro EC/ESA Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) programme. The GMES programme applies data from satellite, aerial and ground-based earth observation to information and decision-making products and services.

Dr. John Remedios co-director said "The biggest barriers to wide use of satellite data in the UK are knowledge, ease of access and solutions which are actually relevant to a given business or public service sector. Now that the European Commission and European Space Agency have commissioned the GMES programme, there is a paradigm shift in the accessibility of satellite services which gives a real opportunity to overcome previous obstacles. EO data will become a revolutionary environment information technology, delivering a new, at-your-fingertips "view of your world" in a similar way to GPS for transport and forecasting for weather services. We at Leicester will be using our considerable experience of Earth Observation to build new partnerships and broker existing solutions which can bring this into reality."

Dr. David Ward of the enterprise and business development unit said "G-STEP will exploit GMES technologies and the wider R&D base to advance business innovation and economic competitiveness in the East Midlands, nationally and internationally. G-STEP seeks to connect with businesses and organisations to support them to pioneer GMES product development (sourcing business) and utilising GMES services in commercial and business applications (supporting business). The project is the first GMES accelerator initiative in any UK region/administration."

David Wallace, Director of Innovation at East Midlands Development Agency (emda), said: "This is another example of the way that the East Midlands is at the forefront in looking at innovative ways in which space technologies can be used to benefit our businesses. We already have GRACE, the GNSS Research and Applications Centre of Excellence based in the region, and the establishment of G-STEP will further enhance the reputation of our universities as pioneers in the exploitation and application of space and satellite technologies."

A G-STEP office is currently being established on the University of Leicester campus. It will serve as the delivery hub for the project, utilising the capabilities of the University and its core Partners. Prospect Leicestershire is represented on G-STEP through its Chairman, Nick Carter, who sits on the steering group.

The physical base will provide meeting space, a design facility, and logistics for service and application development.


Contact: Professor Paul S. Monks
University of Leicester

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