The UK Space Agency (UKSA) announced Monday, April 17 that they’re launching a £20 million fund, called the “International Bilateral Fund” (IBF), in order to build and strengthen the UK’s space-focused international partnerships.
Announced at this week’s Space Symposium conference in Colorado Springs, the fund is intended to “harness the UK’s national strengths, support new space capabilities and catalyse investment.”
The UKSA Guidance on the Fund elaborated that they have three main objectives for the IBF:
- Build stronger relationships with priority countries and become a trusted space partner of choice.
- Increase UK space sector inward investment and exports.
- Develop UK capabilities in collaboration with our international partners.
According to the UKSA’s release, the fund will be providing £2 million to “help strengthen the space sector’s partnerships with other space nations.” This first tranche of funding, UKSA said, will support “approximately 30 projects” with up to £75,000 each, and will be overseen by the UKSA in collaboration with the Science and Technology Facilities Council. More funding will be made available over the next two years. These projects will, the UKSA said, “build relationships between UK organizations and international counterparts and stimulate knowledge exchange, engagement and collaboration.”
This initial period will be split into two phases. Phase 1, the Concept Call, will be inviting proposals “for up to 4 months in duration.” The UKSA Guidance on the fund detailed that these Phase 1 projects aim to:
- Build or enhance relationships between UK entities and international counterparts.
- Stimulate knowledge exchange, engagement and collaboration between international partners.
- Demonstrate or validate the feasibility of technologies or capabilities, as appropriate, to support full stage applications for phase 2 funding.
- Support the development of detailed proposals for the second tranche of IBF funding.
- Scope the viability of potential projects to be submitted to the IBF.
- Produce a Final Report highlighting the outcomes and achievements of the projects, alongside a key deliverable of a full application for review ahead of Phase 2.
The UKSA said that “we are particularly interested to receive bids involving the USA, Canada, Australia and Japan, but will consider opportunities from elsewhere in the world.” Phase 1 funding will be “awarded to the lead UK entity,” who will distribute funding to international partners “subject to due diligence checks.” Projects are to start “no later than 1 August 2023.”
As to the assessment of the proposals, the UKSA said that they would be judged on “to what degree does the proposal establish or strengthen long-lasting international partnerships with key strategic countries,” whether there’s “benefit to the UK and catalysing investment,” its “relevance to UK strategy,” and the “strength of the proposal including background, experience and track record of the team, the credibility of the proposed project delivery plan, and the extent to which all project costs are fully justified and reasonable.”
Phase 2, the Implementation Call, will invite a select number of Phase 1 participants to submit a larger proposal where, according to the release, “up to £1.5 million will be available for a period of 12 months to catalyse innovation across international partnerships.” Phase 2 projects are “expected to include an element of funding from international partners.”
In the release, UKSA Chief Executive Dr. Paul Bate said that “This new fund will help unlock cross-border innovation, promote the exchange of knowledge, and strengthen the UK space sector’s relationships with strategic partners. Together we can maximise the vast potential of space to benefit people and businesses on Earth.”
Phase 1, the Concept Call, closes at noon on June 9th, 2023. Applications can be made using the form available on the UKSA Guidance site, where they go into much more detail involving the details of the grants, the documents involved, and the granting process.