The UK government has announced an investment of up to £200m (US$242m) in the UK’s Earth observation (EO) sector, of which the Met Office will receive £11.7m (US$14.2m).
During the announcement, the government said that it recognized EO as a ‘vital science and a growing industry’. According to the Met Office, more than half of key climate data comes from space.
Professor Stephen Belcher, chief scientist at the Met Office, said, “The UK has a vibrant landscape of world-leading EO organizations and a well-founded reputation for excellence in the field. The Met Office welcomes the announcement as Earth observations are an essential element in allowing businesses and people to make better decisions to stay safe and thrive.”
The funding the Met Office receives will help support three initiatives:
- The development of satellite-enabled products to improve the UK’s national weather, air quality and maritime forecasts. The information gathered in space will enhance the capability of climate models, helping the UK to increase resilience to climate risks, as well as facilitating the potential for new satellite-enabled applications, potentially spawning new services and business opportunities.
- A project to support the rapidly developing area of environmental digital twins – computational replicas of the Earth, featuring climate, environmental and societal data. The new national capability enables the UK to blend analysis from machine learning and AI with Earth observations gathered in real time to address challenges such as climate change, biodiversity loss and air quality.
- The establishment of an international training and skills exchange program between the UK and the USA. This academy will support the development of the highly skilled workforce necessary to advance the UK’s Earth observation sector into the future.
Other beneficiaries cited in the announcement include the European Space Agency, the UK Space Agency, the Natural Environment Research Council, the Science and Technology Facilities Council and Innovate UK.