NERC invests £23 million in Earth observation, supporting science and innovation, big data and space technology
20 October 2014
NERC is to fund the National Centre for Earth Observation (NCEO) for a further five years, signing a new contract worth £23 million with the University of Leicester, which began on 1 October 2014.
It will ensure continued success for the centre, which tackles some of the biggest environmental questions and drives innovation in the use of data in issues such as climate, pollution and transport to deforestation and fire detection systems.
NCEO, a partnership of close to 100 scientists based around the UK, was set up in 2008 to get the most out of satellite data for environmental science. It provides decision-makers in government and business with vital evidence to help them meet major environmental challenges. NCEO scientists have played a key role in understanding the current state of the climate, including changes in surface temperatures, concentrations of greenhouse gases and changes in the Arctic.
The centre has also been at the heart of efforts to develop new applications for satellite data. For example, its research is contributing to new environmental services, and is being used by businesses in urban development, the marine industry and geothermal energy. Satellite techniques developed by the NCEO for estimating carbon stocks are also being used commercially by small and medium-sized enterprises.
In future, the NCEO will provide scientists and public bodies with rapid access to data to help them respond to environmental incidents, such as floods, droughts and extreme weather.
The government has identified big data and satellites as two of the eight great technologies in which the UK is set to become a global leader. This investment underlines NERC's on-going and long-term commitment to the UK's capability in those areas. It will also ensure the UK environmental science community is ideally positioned to take full advantage of innovative new satellite data expected to emerge over the coming years.
Welcoming the announcement, Science Minister Greg Clark said:
Satellites and big data are two of our eight great technologies of the future that will propel UK growth for decades to come. This new investment enables the UK science community to exploit the growing opportunities from space, and also transform those into real commercial opportunities for British business.
The centre will be led by Professor John Remedios, head of Earth observation science at the University of Leicester's Department of Physics & Astronomy. He said:
NCEO will be leading a step change in the ability of the NERC community to characterise and understand global and regional environmental change.
It will do this by providing a coherent world-class capability which can strategically underpin the national science base, matching big data techniques with space technology to deliver new environmental information for both science and society.
NERC chief executive Professor Duncan Wingham said:
Over recent decades, satellite data has revolutionised our ability to monitor change on our planet. NCEO was set up to ensure that we get maximum value from that data for both the scientific community and society as a whole.
This investment will allow a stronger NERC response to environmental challenges and market opportunities, and enable us to deliver world-leading research and effective innovation relevant to our changing world.
President and vice-chancellor of the University of Leicester Professor Paul Boyle said:
It is an outstanding achievement for Leicester to have won the £23m contract for the National Centre for Earth Observation. This will further cement Leicester's world class reputation for research in this field, which will have a direct impact on our understanding of how the planet works and how we predict the temporal and spatial extent of environmental change.
Leicester now leads two internationally renowned centres that provide a focal point for Earth Observation in the UK, as the University is already the lead academic partner in the Centre for Earth Observation Instrumentation. It will be exciting to watch the synergies between these two centres develop over the next few years.
NERC media office
1. A podcast of Professor John Remedios talking about the new centre - external link was recorded by the University of Leicester.
2. NERC is the UK's main agency for funding and managing research, training and knowledge exchange in the environmental sciences. Our work covers the full range of atmospheric, Earth, biological, terrestrial and aquatic science, from the deep oceans to the upper atmosphere and from the poles to the equator. We coordinate some of the world's most exciting research projects, tackling major issues such as climate change, environmental influences on human health, the genetic make-up of life on Earth, and much more. NERC is a non-departmental public body. We receive around £370 million of annual funding from the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS).
Press release: 30/14