Cardiff-based scale-up Space Forge, which is pioneering space-based advanced materials manufacturing and return technology, has been awarded almost £8 million from the Space Clusters Infrastructure Fund (SCIF) administered by the UK Space Agency.
With a total project value of £13 million, which will be reached through match contributions, this significant investment will enable Space Forge to establish a first-of-its-kind National Microgravity Research Centre - driving advanced material research and production while fostering the growth of Wales’ space sector.
Space Forge's National Microgravity Research Centre will play a pivotal role in advancing in-space manufacturing research, with a primary focus on inorganic crystal structures grown in microgravity conditions for use in electronics.
The global semiconductor industry is anticipated to grow to US$1 trillion in revenues by 2030, doubling in this decade. This growth is expected to require investment in high-end advanced wafer manufacturing materials, equipment, and services. In-space manufacturing offers unique advantages, such as microgravity and vacuum conditions, that can lead to the creation of semiconductors with superior performance and reduced defects compared to those manufactured on Earth.
The project's advanced material research will encompass two key areas: the development and optimisation of payload semiconductor growth tools to enhance growth conditions for various advanced compound semiconductor substrates; and the creation of post-processing capabilities aimed at maximising the potential of materials returned from low Earth orbit missions.
In addition to research and development facilities, the centre will offer open access and support for space companies, establishing itself as a central space hub for the burgeoning space industry in the area.
Space Forge's commitment to fostering innovation and collaboration within the space industry is exemplified by its "pathway to space" initiative. Through this program, space companies will gain access to the centre’s state-of-the-art equipment, clean rooms, electronics labs, and payload bays - providing a platform for advancing research and development efforts.
Space Forge will guide companies through the entire mission journey - from design and development to testing and end-mission support - with a particular focus on return missions. In addition to these resources, participants in the "pathway to space" initiative will benefit from Space Forge's extensive network, including investors who have committed to providing face-to-face support to nurture and accelerate business growth.
Joshua Western, CEO and Co-Founder, Space Forge:
“This is a significant milestone for Space Forge. With the establishment of our National Microgravity Research Centre, we are poised to drive innovation, research, and production of advanced materials. This endeavour strengthens our presence in the UK' and has incredible potential for the sovereign supply chain. We are excited to provide a platform for space companies through our 'pathway to space' initiative, and we can help start-ups not far behind us accelerate their microgravity research and hardware development - alongside helping them avoid some of the mistakes we’ve made along our journey."
Dr Paul Bate, Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency, said:
“A National Microgravity Research Centre in Wales is an exciting prospect for the UK’s growing space sector and our commitment to using space to benefit life on Earth. By building on Space Forge’s expertise in developing technology to manufacture materials in space and bringing them safely back, this project will help support the delivery of increasingly ambitious missions and valuable new capabilities.
“The Space Clusters Infrastructure Fund highlights the government’s commitment to space and will help deliver the goal set out in the National Space Strategy to build one of the most innovative and attractive space economies in the world, developing new skills and creating jobs.”
Economy Minister, Vaughan Gething:
“It’s a very exciting time for the rapidly growing space sector and it has been a pleasure to watch the hugely talented team at Space Forge develop as part of the journey.
“The Welsh Government is determined to ensure Wales is at the forefront of the space industry, which is why we have supported organisations like Space Forge through our SMART Flexible Innovation Support Programme. This latest significant investment proves once again why this world-leading business is a shining example of the type of company we want to invest in for growth in Wales.
“We will continue working with partners such as the UK Space Agency and Innovate UK towards our aspiration for Wales to be a leading, innovation-based nation."
Space Forge's receipt of this funding is a testament to its dedication to advancing the UK's space capabilities, enhancing international competitiveness, and creating new opportunities for growth and innovation.