Insights UK Government to skyrocket satellite revolution with £160m funding boost


In a groundbreaking move, the UK government is exploring plans to unleash a £160 million scheme that promises to revolutionise satellite communications and drive the UK’s leadership in the thriving global satellite market. The Connectivity in Low Earth Orbit (CLEO) scheme is intended to propel the development of next-generation satellite technology and new opportunities to bridge the digital divide and foster economic growth. The CLEO scheme comprises grant funding of up to £100 million, with the possibility of an additional £60 million from the European Space Agency’s UK-backed Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems (ARTES) program.

Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites are increasingly seen as the future of space technology offering resilience and resistance to disabling attempts. There are by now many examples of LEO satellite networks providing crucial connectivity in challenging circumstances. Developing smarter satellites with better hardware and utilising AI to expedite data delivery will pave the way to create interconnected networks serving billions worldwide.

The CLEO scheme represents the UK’s most significant commitment to satellite communications to date and is a step towards fulfilling the UK’s long term ambitions in the space sector under its National Space Strategy. The scheme is intended to support UK leadership in critical areas for the next generation of LEO satellite communication technologies, such as using AI and machine learning, to bolster the UK’s communication infrastructure.

The scheme also complements a range of live 5G integration projects. These projects, such as the 5G testing facility at ESCAT in Harwell, Oxfordshire, aim to establish networks in underserved and remote areas, to further the UK Government’s Science and Technology Framework prioritising improving Future Telecoms and closing connectivity gaps.

The announcement follows the reintroduction of the UK Government’s National Space Council, co-chaired by the Science and Defence Secretaries. This council aims to coordinate government policy on space, ensuring the UK is well-positioned to seize the opportunities presented by the space sector, driving job creation and growing the economy. The government’s commitment to these endeavours aligns with one of the Prime Minister’s five key priorities for 2023.