SAINTS was launched by the North East Satellite Applications Centre of Excellence
SAINTS was launched by the North East Satellite Applications Centre of Excellence
Richard Bell

North East businesses drive new programme to harness power of space data

Businesses in the North East are driving a new programme that uses data from satellites and Earth-based sensors to tackle the biggest problems facing communities, businesses and governments.

SAINTS, an acronym for Situational Awareness Information National Technology Service, will see experts from business, academia and the public sector using artificial intelligence (AI) to combine travel, business and satellite data and create solutions to challenges ranging from traffic congestion to UK border security.

SAINTS was launched by the North East Satellite Applications Centre of Excellence, which is operated by County Durham’s economic development organisation Business Durham. It is supported by the UK Space Agency and Satellite Applications Catapult.

Austen Atkinson, chief exec of Seaham-based technology agency Lexicon Group, believes the scope for data harnessed from satellites is “huge”.

Austen said: “We live in a massive data world but there’s no one really processing all this data for the UK, through artificial intelligence, and using it to help us all. That’s where SAINTS can come in.

“We focus on problems that actually mean something to people – problems that people struggle with in everyday life - and we come up with the solutions. SAINTS will be our “data-glue”, holding high technologies together.”

He continued: “There is amazing work going on in the North East. We’re delighted to be one of the innovative companies on board for the take-off of SAINTS, which will push the frontiers of technology.”

Other businesses involved include Durham’s Intelligence Fusion, which helps security companies and other businesses manage risk; Northumberland firm NORSS, which tracks and monitors satellites; and Belfast-based 3DEO, provider of earth observation, big data and 3D interactive visualisation services.

The organisations behind SAINTS will offer innovation and incubation support to commercialise new technologies and applications, as well as skills development and outreach to attract partners and investment from business, academia and government.

L-R: Catherine Johns (Business Durham), Andrew MacPherson (3DEO), Ralph Dinsley (NORSS), Michael McCabe (Intelligence Fusion), Austen Atkinson (Lexicon), Amy Nelson (Lexicon) and Shannon O’Neill (Satellite Applications Catapult)

Satellite Applications Catapult CEO Stuart Martin said: “We have only just scratched the surface of the information satellites can provide, especially when they are combined with new technologies like AI.

“I’m excited to see SAINTS accelerate the development of the next generation of situational awareness technology and its applications to help solve real-world problems.”

He added: “This programme will benefit the economy locally and nationally, and increase the attractiveness of the UK as a hub for new commercial space services.”

Business Durham innovation director Catherine Johns commented: “The democratisation of data ‘from space’ and ‘of space’ is a game-changer for further space and Earth operations.

“SAINTS will act as a rallying point to work together and capitalise on the tremendous capabilities that we have across the North East and the UK as a whole to provide solutions to the entrenched societal challenges around health, transport and social mobility that business as usual will not fix.”

Dr Graham Turnock, chief exec of the UK Space Agency, said the launch of SAINTS is a “welcome development” for the space industry and signals “the ambition of the North East’s fast-growing space sector”, adding: “The UK Space Agency funds business incubators in more than 20 locations to support startups across the country, and it is great to see new programmes that can help the UK thrive in the commercial space age.”

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