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Space-based solar power projects share £4.3m funding

Grant Shapps reveals £4.3m for space-based solar projects at London Tech Week.
Image credit: George Simister / UKTN

Eight UK startups and universities will share £4.3m in government funding to develop space-based solar power technologies to harness energy “day and night” to help meet net-zero targets.

Around half of the emission reductions required to meet the 2050 net zero targets need to come from technologies not yet fully commercially available, the UK’s energy security secretary, Grant Shapps, said on Tuesday at London Tech Week.

“With the climate clock ticking, innovation has never been so important,” he said.

London’s Queen Mary University, which is working on a wireless system to transfer energy to the Earth, will receive over £960,000.

Cambridge University, which is developing “ultra-lightweight” solar panels to withstand radiation, will receive £770,000.

Didcot-based Satellite Applications Catapult is receiving just under £1m for an experiment to “test the electronical steering and beam quality” for its space satellite antenna technology.

Other recipients of the funding include the University of Bristol, MicroLink Devices UK, Imperial College London and EDF Energy R&D UK Centre.

Space-based solar power is an area the UK “simply cannot afford to ignore”, Shapps said, and could produce as much as 10 gigawatts of electricity before 2050.

He added that it would be enough to power approximately three-quarters of the country’s residential homes.

“We need clean energy to move up to six times faster in terms of development from where it is today,” Shapps added.

“And although the sun is a vast nuclear power station right on our doorstep, solar power still only accounts for 3.6% of global electricity production.”

This morning Keir Starmer, leader of the Labour Party, told delegates at London Tech Week said the UK needs to “fast forward” on regulating AI.

On Monday, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he wants to make the UK the “geographical home of global AI safety regulation” amid warnings that the technology could pose a risk to humanity alongside pandemics and nuclear war.

The UKTN team is reporting from London Tech Week throughout the event. Subscribe to the daily newsletter to stay up to date.