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NPL and University of Surrey in 'Earth Observation' collaboration

22 February 2012

The National Physical Laboratory (NPL) and the University of Surrey have signed a strategic agreement to work together in the area of Earth Observation. The partnership strengthens the UK's role in space technology and brings together two of its leading players. The partnership specifically addresses the huge potential for increased use of earth observation from space as a result of its rapidly reducing cost.

Shown here, Dr Brian Bowsher and Professor Jonathan Seville (seated), signing the agreement
Shown here, Dr Brian Bowsher and Professor Jonathan Seville (seated), signing the agreement

Underpinning all these uses is the availability of low-cost high-performance satellites, a long-standing strength of the University of Surrey, and accurate thoroughly-referenced measurement techniques, a speciality of NPL. This development provides significant opportunities to underpin economic growth in the UK and NPL and Surrey intend to build on this relationship to establish a joint centre for applied Earth Observation.

Dr Brian Bowsher, NPL's managing director said: "The current economic climate requires new ways of operating, more partnership and alignment of research priorities to achieve maximum impact for investment in science, including capital. This partnership with the University of Surrey puts this model into practice in a challenging scientific area."

Professor Jonathan Seville, dean of Surrey's Faculty of Engineering & Physical Sciences said: "Surrey is the leading UK university in the engineering of satellites, and a rapidly growing presence in the application of satellite observation techniques. This agreement marries Surrey's capability in space with NPL's internationally leading measurement capability. Low cost earth observation will revolutionise many areas of industry and commerce. We aim to be pioneers in establishing what's possible."

Although the impact of climate and its mitigation and adaptation will be a key focus, the development of more consumer-focused services will also ensure that the UK becomes recognised as a strong innovator in this sector; building on the successes of world leading companies such as Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd, a University of Surrey spin-out.

The initial science priorities are still to be defined but will include: the development of 'low cost' space and terrestrial deployable technologies and strategies to enable guaranteed delivery of Quality Assured data; techniques to fuse multiple data sources synergistically (including different observation technologies such as optical and synthetic aperture radar); and methods for assigning robust and understandable quality metrics to derived information.

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