Ross Clark

The European Space Agency has just chosen Leicester to host its startup hub. Why has no one reported that?

The European Space Agency has just chosen Leicester to host its startup hub. Why has no one reported that?
Space Park Leicester, the site of the European Space Agency’s new Business Innovation Centre. Image: University of Leicester
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Imagine if a European agency had just announced that it was to close a site in the Midlands, withdrawing from Britain and taking jobs of scientists with it. It isn’t hard to work out where that would feature on BBC news – up top. It would be presented as another cost of Brexit, another result of the foolish decision the country made in 2016 to leave the EU. Interviewees would be dredged up to tell us we had condemned ourselves us to become a deskilled economy.

Now imagine that a European agency had actually just announced that it is to open a new base in the Midlands. You won’t have known about it by reading the BBC website, but that is exactly what has just happened. The European Space Agency (not part of the EU) has announced that it is to open a ‘space tech incubation unit’ in Leicester to help start-ups access the expertise they need, whether it be from university research to large corporations. Among the private sector organisations already to have signed up for space at the park are Lockheed Martin, Thales Alenia Space, Hewlett Packard, Airbus and Amazon. The first projects to be supported will concentrate on the are of Earth Observation, such as measuring land use changes from space.

Why do we hear so little about positive things such as this? There was a time when industrial investment always featured prominently in the news. Now, investment like this doesn’t even seem to feature on the BBC’s science pages – although there was room yesterday for a story about Nasa naming its HQ after its first black female engineer and one about Greta Thunberg saying that climate change ‘is as urgent as coronavirus’. To be fair to the BBC, though, no newspaper seems to have carried the story, either. True, we are still in the middle of one of the biggest stories for decades. But otherwise, all news outlets seem so obsessed with woke and culture war issues that we don’t get to learn about important pieces of investment. No wonder we end up constantly thinking that Britain’s economy is going down the pan – when the opposite is true.