British innovators working on 5G and broadband coverage could be in line to secure up to £160m (US$204m) from a plan to deliver the next generation of high-tech satellites, the UK government has announced.

LEO satellites represent the next generation of space technology, offering unparalleled resilience and resistance to disabling attempts. Their vital importance was demonstrated during Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, when they ensured continuous and reliable connectivity.

The Connectivity in Low Earth Orbit scheme (CLEO) would build on the UK’s established and growing satellites industry by providing UK researchers and businesses with critical support to drive the development of new constellations.

UK’s satellite plan

This would include supporting smarter satellites with better hardware, using AI to make data delivery faster and connecting satellites together for improved connection – all creating interconnected networks serving billions worldwide. The proposed scheme would ensure UK businesses are supported in developing the next generation of low Earth orbit satellites, driving the UK’s thriving satellite industry towards global leadership.

The development would mark the UK’s most significant ever investment in satellite communications, unleashing the country’s potential to become global giants of the satellite industry.

This package would be complemented by a range of live 5G integration projects such as the 5G testing facility at ESCAT in Harwell, Oxfordshire, aiming to establish networks in underserved and remote areas, bringing high-speed internet and connections to every single part of the UK, while addressing a major priority to improve Future Telecoms, as laid out in the government’s Science and Technology Framework.

Science, Innovation and Technology Secretary, Michelle Donelan, said: “Tackling the digital divide is at the heart of empowering our citizens wherever they live, and by investing in the vital research and development that CLEO would facilitate, we can level up our country while growing the economy through high-quality jobs.

“This proposed record investment is also potentially a huge opportunity to harness our reputation as a world leader in innovation and R&D investment, supporting leading UK businesses to deliver the next generation of satellites and positioning the UK as true space superpower.”
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