News story: UK satellites to help lead the fight against climate change

  • new government-backed virtual satellite data centre will analyse the impact climate change is having on the UK, help shape policies on reducing carbon emissions, and contribute to reaching net zero targets
  • 50 new PhD researchers and £5 million investment to enable use of satellite images to better predict future weather trends and protect communities from flooding and pollution
  • Earth Observation experts from the Universities of Edinburgh and Leeds will work with 18 businesses on pioneering work to monitor the impact of climate change

Ministers today (30 December) announced backing for ground-breaking research analysing satellite images that will better predict the future impact of climate change in towns and cities and inform future government action.

A new £5 million satellite data centre involving the Universities of Edinburgh and Leeds will use cutting-edge satellite technology to help combat climate change, including helping lower the risk of people being affected by flooding. The data centre will bring together 50 of the UK’s brightest and best PhD researchers to help solve climate change.

Measurements from satellites on rising sea levels, greenhouse gases and shrinking glaciers and forests will help provide policy makers, government and industry with the data and knowledge they need to better understand the impact of climate change and make future predictions.

This knowledge and data could lead to the adaptation of preventative measures for vulnerable areas such as installing flood defences to protect coastal towns, identifying areas increasingly at risk of flooding and monitoring pollution levels in towns and cities.

Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom said:

The UK is leading the world in tackling climate change and we have set the bar high, as the first country to legislate to eliminate our contribution to climate change by 2050, and the fastest in the G20 to cut emissions.

This new satellite data centre will give us instant images showing us the true impact of climate change and in doing so, help us develop innovative new ways of tackling it.

Dr Anna Hogg, co-director of the centre in the School of Earth and Environment at the University of Leeds, said:

Earth observation satellites collect hundreds of terabytes of data per day, delivering important information about how fast glaciers flow, the size of forest fires in the Amazon, and the quality of the air that we breathe.

We have a fantastic opportunity to grow the community of researchers with the skills and knowledge to measure the how our environment is changing.

Dr Edward Mitchard, centre leader at the University of Edinburgh, said:

We are looking for outstanding candidates from environmental science, maths, physics, engineering and computer science disciplines to undertake a PhD in this exciting and innovative centre.

The students will belong to a happy, inclusive and stimulating research environment, with supervision from world-leading earth observation scientists.

The 50 new PhD researchers will work closely with experts from UK universities at Leeds and Edinburgh as well as leading Earth Observation scientists and industry-leaders.

The Centre for Satellite Data in Environmental Science (SENSE), is a virtual academic collaboration and is being established with funding from the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and the UK Space Agency (UKSA). It will work with 18 businesses and partners, including Airbus and Unilever, who will co-fund, co-design and co-supervise 42 of the PhD research projects.

Professor Duncan Wingham, Executive Chair of NERC, said:

The researchers will support cutting-edge scientific discovery, new data-based products and new Earth observation technologies that will provide benefits to society.

Working with the UK Space Agency gives students unique opportunities to engage with the wider community.

Beth Greenaway, Head of Earth Observation and Climate at the UK Space Agency, said:

We are at the forefront of innovative new technology for measuring our planet from space.

We have many of the world’s leading scientists and academics who can use this data for new discoveries, and we have a commercial sector able to build the space missions and create services for the public and private sector.

The rapid growth of the Earth Observation sector means we need to attract thousands of people with the right skills over the next 10 years.

Notes to editors

The new centre will be funded by £2.3 million funding over 3 years from NERC’s core grant with money from UK Space Agency for specific student activity support. This is matched by £3.4 million additional funding from business/industry as well as the universities own funds.

The independent ‘UK space industry: size and health report’, published in January 2019, showed that, compared to the 2016 survey Earth Observation services, such as data for monitoring land use and agriculture, is a significant growth area, supporting £92 billion of GDP and growing at a rate of 25% per year.

At the 2019 European Space Agency Ministerial Council in November the UK Space Agency committed over £200 million of investment in Earth Observation, including a UK-led TRUTHS mission to help tackle climate change and the ESA Copernicus Space Component, which runs to 2028.

(Image credit: Contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2016 to 2018), processed by ESA, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO).

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Published 23 December 2019

NDA completes transfer of plutonium from Dounreay

Dounreay site in Caithness, the UK’s former centre of fast reactor research and development

Dounreay site in Caithness, the UK’s former centre of fast reactor research and development

This means that all significant UK stocks of this material are now held at Sellafield – the centre of excellence for plutonium management.

NDA Chief Executive, David Peattie, said:

The successful conclusion of the work is another clear demonstration of the NDA delivering its mission – to clean up the UK’s nuclear sites safely, securely and cost-effectively with care for people and the environment.

The safe and secure management of civil separated plutonium is a priority for the UK government and an important part of the NDA’s strategy. This is a major step forward in decommissioning and cleaning-up the Dounreay site in Caithness, the UK’s former centre of fast reactor research and development.

The NDA’s Programme Manager, Phil Edge, added:

Successfully achieving this milestone has only been possible because of the co-ordinated efforts of a committed team of extremely skilled people, working across several organisations. This includes the UK Government, our regulators, the police services in both Scotland and England, Dounreay, Sellafield and our specialist transport companies – Direct Rail Services and International Nuclear Services.

Published 23 December 2019

News story: Global Britain to attract more top scientists with fast tracked entry

The Home Secretary has announced that the number of eligible fellowships which can offer accelerated endorsement for visas for scientists wanting to conduct research in the UK will double from 62 to over 120.

This builds on the announcement made by the Prime Minister in August 2019, which outlined how a wider pool of world leading scientists and researchers will be able to benefit from a fast-track process to obtain entry into the UK.

In line with the current process, individuals who receive these fellowships will only need to provide a letter from the relevant funding organisation, which will see them fast-tracked to the Home Office / UKVI visa application stage where immigration checks will be carried out.

This will ensure that world leading scientists can come to the UK as soon as possible to begin their innovative work.

The Home Secretary, Priti Patel, said:

The UK is already a world leader in science, with some of the most exciting and innovative research being undertaken here in this country.

We want to make sure the UK continues to be at the forefront of innovation, so we need an immigration system that attracts the sharpest minds from around the globe.

As part of this ambitious plan, we are taking decisive action to boost the number of top scientists and elite researchers who can benefit from fast-tracked entry into the UK.

Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom said:

We want the UK to be a global science superpower, and continuing to attract the world’s top scientists and researchers to join us in the race to solve the great challenges of the future – from clean energy and advanced storage to solving antibiotic resistance – is an important part of realising that ambition.

Organisations joining the expanded list include world renowned research fellowships such as Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions, Human Frontier Science, European Research Council and the European Molecular Biology Organization. A number of additional awards from UK Research and Innovation and its research councils will also be added, allowing the UK to attract a wide range of elite researchers and specialists.

The revised list of fellowships will be added to the existing Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) route, which is the beginning of a wider package of measures to welcome the brightest and best researchers to the UK.

As announced in August 2019, the Home Office will be bringing forward the plans to abolish the cap on the numbers under the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) route and an accelerated path to settlement who arrive under this scheme. The Home Office is working to implement these changes early in the New Year.

The full fellowships list will be published in due course. The current fellowships list is available.

Notice: Proposed acquisition of Cobham PLC by AI Convoy Bidco Limited: Deed of covenant and undertaking

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News story: Government update on the proposed acquisition of Cobham PLC by Advent International

On 19 November 2019, the Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom announced that she was consulting on steps to address the national security concerns raised by the proposed acquisition of Cobham, a UK defence company, by Advent International, a US private equity firm. This government consultation on the undertakings offered by the companies to address the concerns identified ran until 17 December 2019.

After meetings with the parties, advice from the Defence Secretary and carefully considering the consultation responses, Ms Leadsom has made the decision that the undertakings offered by the parties mitigate the national security risks identified to an acceptable level. She has therefore accepted the undertakings that were consulted on, rather than referring to the Competition and Markets Authority for a Phase 2 investigation and cleared the merger to proceed.

Under the Enterprise Act 2002, the Business Secretary has the power to intervene over any future sale of Cobham that raises national security concerns.

Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom said:

This decision has been meticulously thought over, and I have taken advice from the Defence Secretary, the Deputy National Security Adviser and government officials across multiple departments. I have also met with both of the companies on several occasions, as have several senior members of my Department.

Having considered the consultation responses and further advice from the Defence Secretary, I am satisfied that the undertakings mitigate the national security risks identified to an acceptable level and have therefore accepted them and cleared the merger to proceed.

While trade and investment play an important part in the UK economy, when intervening in mergers on national security grounds, I will not hesitate to use my powers to protect national security, if it is appropriate to do so.

Separately, the companies have given a legally binding commitment that there will be significant protection of jobs and have also agreed with the Takeover Panel that Cobham’s headquarters will remain in the UK, that the Cobham name will continue to be used and that there will be a guaranteed level of R&D spend. This will secure the future of Cobham and the important role it plays in our world-leading defence sector and economy.

The undertakings to mitigate the national security concerns, which came into force today, are:

  • ensuring that sensitive Government information continues to be protected
  • honouring the terms of existing contracts and notifying the Government if there is a material change to the ability to supply key services
  • requiring prior notice to the Ministry of Defence and Home Office if there are plans to sell the whole, or elements of, Cobham’s business

In agreement with the parties, a number of non-material amendments to the undertakings were made.

Separate to the public interest intervention and the mitigation of national security concerns, the discussions about the economic implications with the parties have concluded. The parties have made post-offer undertakings to the Takeover Panel to:

  • maintain Cobham’s headquarters in the UK for each of its each of its Communications & Connectivity, Aviation Services UK and Missions Systems UK businesses
  • continue the use of Cobham as a registered name in the UK
  • ringfence the level of research and development spend in the UK
  • the parties have made a further legally binding commitment to the Business Secretary to significantly protect jobs. (This commitment has been made through a deed, published alongside this announcement.)

The UK greatly benefits from foreign direct investment (FDI) being the top destination in Europe for inward investment. The UK’s merger regime is an important part of this and is characterised by transparent rules and administered consistently by independent institutions. Each merger is judged on a case by case basis on whether it raises national security concerns, irrespective of the country acquiring or investing in a transaction in the UK.

Read the decision notice.

Decision: Proposed acquisition of Cobham PLC by AI Convoy Bidco Limited: decision notice

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Research and analysis: Low carbon heat: progress on developing a sustainable market

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Corporate report: Contracts for Difference and Capacity Market scheme update 2019

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Corporate report: Statutory security of supply report: 2019

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