UK-Africa Space Technology for Sustainability Lead Customer Programme

Innovate UK Global Alliance Africa is investing up to £180,000 for three innovation projects (£60,000 per project) in a multilateral UK-Africa space sector towards improvement of space technology for sustainability in South Africa/Kenya/Rwanda and/or the UK.

Opportunity Details


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The Space Technology for Sustainability Lead Customer Programme provides funding for up to three £60,000 projects to allow a combination of businesses from the UK, South Africa, Kenya and/or Rwanda to collaboratively develop and deploy technology-based solution to address challenges within the sector.


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About the competition

The aim of this competition is to accelerate innovations needed to create new or improved technologies for the sector through UK-African partnerships.

Your project must focus on one or more of the following:

  • Optimising access to and quality of geospatial data
  • Cross-sector earth observation applications

Innovate UK Global Alliance Africa

Innovate UK exists to connect innovators with new partners and new opportunities beyond their existing thinking – accelerating ambitious ideas into real world solutions. Innovate UK is delivering the 6-year (2019 – 2025) UK International Development funded, Global Alliance Africa project, which aims to build new and stronger UK-African partnerships to maximise the creation of inclusive market access, funding, and investment opportunities through innovation knowledge transfer between the UK, Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya and Rwanda.

The project aligns with the UK’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) objectives by building stronger local innovation ecosystems and enhanced UK-Africa collaborations that lead to self-sustaining economic growth in Rwanda, Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa, by harnessing the potential of innovation to meet current and future socio-economic challenges. The project is focused around three key pillars, one of which focuses on ‘Connected Innovation’ where Global Innovation Networks will be forged to facilitate UK, African and International networks to deliver collaborative research, innovation and funding solutions that address key global innovation challenges.

In South Africa, one of the key sectors identified where the UK can add and extract value from is Space Technology for Sustainability. This is due to South Africa’s rich history in the sector, and world-leading engineering skills that are currently being lost to other economies. Kenya and Rwanda are also on the map for being the fastest growing space-technology sectors in Africa, which poses a unique opportunity to join forces in assisting market access for the UK, and market growth in the respective African countries.

UK-Africa Space Technology Lead Customer Programme background

The African space ecosystem is growing rapidly. In 2021, Africa’s space economy was valued at £15.9 billion and is projected to grow by 16.16% to £18.5 billion by 2026. The sector currently employs over 19,000 people across the continent, leaving much opportunity for future job creation. Satellite communication is expected to play an essential part in bridging the connectivity gap in Africa, while Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) services and the satellite TV segment remain the most significant contributors to the African space economy. As of 2022, 13 African nations have manufactured 48 satellites, with their CubeSats specifically manufactured locally at competitive rates. There is a paradigm shift from large to small satellites in Africa, primarily due to lower entry barriers and over 272 New Space companies are charting the course of space democratisation on the Continent. [Space in Africa].

Space technology is a unique opportunity for many African countries to accelerate technology development in-country, use data effectively to solve community issues, foster diplomatic relations, and learn from other countries who have broken boundaries in this sector. To date, the Global Alliance Africa project has undertaken activities to help strengthen connections between the African and UK space economies to foster innovation and enable positive impact on the ground using this cutting-edge technology. These activities included:

  • The NextGen Space challenge in partnership with the South African National Space Agency and Digital Earth Africa, which identified rising talent in South Africa with regards to budding space enthusiasts.
  • A UK-Africa space technology knowledge exchange tour where leading space specialists from South Africa, Kenya, and Rwanda were handpicked to tour the top space companies across the UK.

A Lead Customer is a UK/Kenyan/South African/Rwandan supplier, company or a top-tier end-user that shows support or commitment to the proposed innovations by presenting demonstrable deployment routes. The Lead Customer must provide a Letter of Endorsement with your application.

Funding Type and Project Size

Innovate UK will fund 70% of a total project value up to £60,000 per project. An in-kind contribution of 30% is required from the project partners. Higher in-kind contributions by project partners are encouraged to boost the scale of the projects, and will be viewed favourably in the selection process.

A project must involve at least three countries, comprising one UK partner and two partners from Kenya, South Africa and/or Rwanda.

Rewards & Benefits

  • Technology Testing & Validation, 6 month project: Grant funding of pp to £60,000 for the UK/African lead registered organisation per project (subject to T&C).
  • Technology Demonstration & Scale-up, 6 month project: Grant funding of pp to £60,000 for the UK/African lead registered organisation per project (subject to T&C).
  • Access to international collaboration and innovation through UK-South Africa-Kenya partnership.
  • Support in facilitating industry engagement to seize future commercialisation opportunities and enhance market access.
  • Sector expertise support from Innovate UK and Lead Country Partners.

Before you start:

Related Events and Recordings


Global Alliance Africa Lead Customer Programme Briefing Webinar

10.00 - 11.00 GMT+1 | Online

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Related programmes

Global Alliance Africa

Global Alliance Africa

This Innovate UK Global Alliance Africa 6-year (2019-2025) project funded by UK International Development aims to build new and stronger UK-African partnerships to maximise the creation of inclusive market access, funding and investment opportunities through innovation knowledge transfer between the UK, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa.

Collaborative R&D Funding

Collaborative R&D Funding

Collaborative R&D activities will leverage funding, networks and expertise in order to facilitate UK-Africa R&D partnerships in key thematic areas of mutual interest.


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