Space Week reveals a constellation of opportunities for West Cumbria

4th July 2023

SPACE sector opportunities and funding are now within reach for West Cumbrian businesses following the success of the Industrial Solutions Hub’s first Space Week.

The business events on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday highlighted the similarities between the nuclear industry and the space sector and showcased some of the exciting projects companies here could potentially get involved in. The schools and community events caught the interest of the next generation, showing them the possible future careers available on their doorstep.

Miranda Kirschel, iSH Regional Representative, said: “Overall it has just been wonderful, something really different. Our next steps are to collate all of the information and feedback from the sessions with a view to running a research and development project. 

“There have been offers of funding which is always nice from those who came to speak so hopefully we can get a feasibility study going. We are looking at starting small, building on the buzz and hopefully we’ve created enough excitement to do it bigger and better next year.

“We were able to show how the space sector is already a part of what we do here. National Nuclear Laboratories are harnessing a byproduct of nuclear waste in the form of Americium 241 on the Sellafield site to power space batteries. Alan Cross, North West Space Cluster Development Manager, described this as finding gold at Sellafield. Imagine the possibilities there alone. 

“We are also leaders in  robotics and digital technologies. Now, we will look at how we grow this capability and see what parts of the space sector may compliment what we already do.

“There’s funding available for those who want to diversify and pivot into the space sector. It was great to hear too about the really exciting projects like the micro reactor that Rolls Royce are designing and the solar farm that Frazer-Nash are designing.

“And it is always so inspiring when we’ve got schoolchildren who are interested and enthusiastic. The kids all wanted to ask questions and get involved. The planetarium was the winning feature of the day on both Wednesday and Thursday.”

Adrian Bull, Chair in Nuclear Energy and Society at The University of Manchester, opened up the second day’s session at Lakes College, Workington, on “How expertise in the Nuclear Sector can translate into the Space Sector”.

Adrian invited attendees to look through four lenses during the event: Nuclear; Space; West Cumbria; and UN Sustainable Development Goals, including working in partnership to deliver action.

Adrian said afterwards: “West Cumbria is about high tech innovation and we looked at how all those activities can serve the space sector the way they have served the nuclear sector for 70 years.

“It’s a huge opportunity, building on the heritage of West Cumbria, making the connections, building on what we have started today and creating the economic landscape of the 22nd Century, which is not as far away as we might think. We are already almost a quarter of the way through the 21st Century.

“It was brilliant to see how engaged everyone is. In many years of attending events it’s the only one I have ever been to where when the coffee break was announced not one person stood up! It’s fantastic to see how engrossed all the workshop attendees were in the discussion and planning the real action which can come out of this. It’s very exciting to be involved.”

More than 300 school children attended Space Week on Wednesday and Thursday. Claire Murray, a teacher from Thornhill School in Egremont, said: “It has been such a brilliant experience for the children. It shows them what is possible on their doorstep and gives them insight into what they could do in the future.

“They were particularly enthralled by the planetarium, it was great to see them listening and learning. And they’d like a Spot the dog robot for school!”


Editor’s notes


iSH (Industrial Solutions Hub) is an initiative of regional, national and international significance which will create jobs, opportunities for businesses and organisations to collaborate, enhance skills, provide business support, and bring a range of economic and social benefits to the community through projects which will have a positive impact on people, the economy, and the environment.

Facilitating a diverse commercial cluster that harnesses the unique skills of the region, iSH creates sustainable opportunities for the direct benefit of the people of Cumbria and the UK economy.

Supported by Cumberland Council, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, Sellafield Ltd and Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership, iSH provides an investment climate that drives networking, fuels collaboration and promotes innovation which acts as a catalyst for sustained business growth. It also expands the breadth of the regional economy, anchoring diversification towards new markets, sectors and industries.

iSH Space Week was supported by Cumberland Council, Sellafield Ltd, Jacobs, National Nuclear Laboratory, Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, Whitehaven Town Council, and the Beacon Museum.