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In partnership with Innovate UK KTN, RIIS and the Research and Innovation Systems for Africa (The RISA Fund) ideated and organised a UK-Africa space technology knowledge exchange tour to the United Kingdom. The tour connected space agencies and private sector players from Rwanda, Kenya and South Africa to key industry players in the United Kingdom with the aim of fostering avenues for collaboration and space ecosystem growth.

The African participants were able to gain direct information about the UK experience of space ecosystem building, while exploring those challenges – both unique and common – that are faced in the different regions.

Imraan Saloojee, an executive at RIIS, says, “The aim of the knowledge exchange tour was to expose African space agencies and private sector players to innovation ecosystem thinking, and to provide them with the opportunity to see firsthand how developed space ecosystems are organised and implemented around good practice. Further to this, the tour provided an opportunity for participants to find synergies, potential partnership and investment opportunities, and to deepen their respective networks.”

The tour also sought to enhance an understanding of the value that technology and innovation ecosystems can bring to the development of nascent space industries; and the opportunity to gather insights into policy, regulatory and sustainability mechanisms that enable space ecosystem growth.

The participants were hosted at leading space companies and institutions within the United Kingdom. This included a visit to the Royal Aeronautical Society, where discussions around sustainability in space were led by the Earth Space Sustainability Initiative (ESSI), the UK Space Agency and selected space start-ups. These start-ups shared information around the initiatives in which they are engaged, such as tracking space debris and designing new ways of access space to limit the impact of carbon in space (resulting from satellites and rockets). The role of policy is highly critical to ensuring robust space innovation ecosystems. UK Space Agency’s space policy is at the frontier of policy frameworks and provided a best practice that African space agencies could leverage.

To learn more about space investment opportunities, the team were hosted at Seraphim Space, a VC firm that manages the world’s largest space tech fund, thus occupying a key role in the provision of risk-adjusted capital to fund space activities.

As well as the above, the tour included information-sharing discussions at the Leicester Space Park, the National Space Centre, the University of Strathclyde, Skyrora Ltd, Space Applications Catapult, Open Cosmos, the ESA Business Incubation Centre, Space Scotland and a visit to the Scottish Parliament.

Following on from the success of the knowledge exchange tour, it is anticipated that future tours will be held in 2024. For more information, contact