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Space Academy Launched by Science and Innovation Minister - Thursday 2 October 2008

03 Oct 2008

The country’s first Space Academy will be launched by Science and Innovation Minister, Ian Pearson MP, to young people from schools and colleges throughout the East Midlands thanks to a £990,000 grant from East Midlands Development Agency (emda). The Space Academy has been set up at the National Space Centre in Leicester, with partners at the University of Leicester, the University of Nottingham, the Regional Science Learning Centre for the East Midlands and STEMNET.  Click here to view BBC East Midlands Today clip

The Space Academy provides education programmes, summer space schools, roadshows and conferences, built around schools’ curricula in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) using space as the inspirational hook.  It is aimed at students from 9-19 years of age, and their teachers, in the East Midlands and beyond. It encourages and supports them to consider the benefits and challenges of careers in these fields. It will draw on the skills and reputations of universities in the region, which are international leaders in space-related subjects, and employers who need scientists and engineers.

Dr James Carpenter of the European Space Agency says; “The programme is a fantastic way for A-level physics students to develop and stretch their skills in the inspirational context of Solar System exploration.”

Prof Alan Wells, Emeritus Professor at the University of Leicester, who led the Space Academy bid, says; “I am excited at the prospect of the Space Academy providing young people, and their teachers, with unique insights of the role of space in modern life; science, technology, the environment, history, human issues, even artistic creation. The response from the students who participated in Space School UK, the first activity Space Academy has supported, has shown that this programme has and will continue to inspire and make tangible differences to students within the East Midlands and Nationally. The Partnership is grateful for emda’s vision and support”.

Jeff Moore, Chief Executive,  emda, says; “The Space Academy is a terrific initiative and is testament to the globally renowned skills we have in the East Midlands in space research, education and communication.  We are delighted to support such an imaginative programme to help increase the number and quality of scientists and engineers available to business in the East Midlands and the UK.”      

Ian Pearson MP, Minister for Science and Innovation says; “Space plays an important part in enthusing a new generation of young people to take up studies of science, engineering, maths and technology subjects. It is exciting, accessible and it really captures the imagination of young people.”
“The new Space Academy will tap into this excitement by providing interactive, hands-on programmes that uses space to inspire 14 to 19 year olds to learn more about science and related subjects. It offers an exciting new resource for both teachers and students in Leicester and beyond and I urge schools to make use of the interactive programmes available to them.”

The focus of the Space Academy is to:

• deliver space-related STEM education programmes linked to the national science curriculum for learners from secondary school up to college and university;
• link with employers, with particular focus on the space and aerospace sectors in the region;
• provide educational resources and training opportunities for teachers and educators that fit the national STEM agenda and the new STEM curriculum.


The National Space Centre has pioneered the use of space in science education since opening in 2001 with over 50 000 school children and 2000 teachers annually undertaking short education visits to the Centre. The Space Academy will  build on  these existing programmes by providing progressive, sustained curriculum support for 14-19 year olds and their teachers whilst sharing with them the excitement and discoveries of space scientists from our region’s world leading space universities. 

Other leading institutions in the Space Academy Partnership include:

The East Midlands Development Agency- Funding support of £990K over three years -Space Academy is a major plank in the Agency’s wider STEM Skills agenda.

  • emda is one of nine Regional Development Agencies in England, set up in 1999 to bring a regional focus to economic development.
  • Working in partnership with public, private and voluntary organisations the aim is to deliver the 2006 Regional Economic Strategy (RES) ‘A Flourishing Region’, which sets out regional priorities until 2020.
  • The RES, coordinated by emda, highlights the themes of productivity, sustainability and equality and builds on the previous two strategies; ‘Prosperity Through People’ and ‘Destination 2010’.
  • In early 2007 the National Audit Office announced emda had received the highest possible grade of 'performing strongly' in an independent assessment of our work - scoring 22 out of 24.
  • For more details visit

University of Leicester - The University of Leicester has been shortlisted for University of the Year for the past 4 years and is ranked as a top 20 university in the UK.  The Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Leicester houses some of the world's leading research in space, planetary and astrophysical science. The Department has a vibrant undergraduate degree programme in these areas and also carries out a wide-ranging outreach activity in schools and the wider community. Space School UK, an annual residential summer school and an important part of the Space Academy plan, has been a feature of this for 10 years.

University of Nottingham - The University of Nottingham is Britain's University of the Year (The Times Higher Awards 2006). It undertakes world-changing research, provides innovative teaching and a student experience of the highest quality. Ranked by Newsweek in the world's Top 75 universities, its academics have won two Nobel Prizes since 2003. The University is an international institution with campuses in the United Kingdom, Malaysia and China.

Science Learning Centre East Midlands – based at the School of Education, University of Leicester, the Centre provides a programme of innovative Continuing Professional Development for all those involved in science education including primary, secondary and FE teachers as well as technicians and classroom assistants. The courses are presented by leading academics, scientists and educationalists who set out to bring cutting-edge research and innovative pedagogy into schools.

STEMNET aims to ensure that more young people in the UK make a choice to enter science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) related careers at all levels, and future generations are properly informed about the science and technology that surrounds them.

With the support of its partners, STEMNET achieves this in two ways:

  • By bringing science, technology, engineering and mathematics activities, experiences and excitement  into classrooms throughout the UK, enhancing and enriching the national STEM curriculum. 
  • By linking those companies and other organisations that employ STEM educated people, and schools, in such a way that young people can get a clear idea of the diverse and exciting range of careers available to them
  • For more details visit