Official Launch of CEOI, October 2007

Science Minister launches UK Centre for Earth Observation Instrumentation

New projects to use space lasers to measure global vegetation and carbon cycle 

9 October 2007: Science and Innovation Minister Ian Pearson today officially launched a new centre to develop satellite instruments to observe the Earth from space.

The Centre for Earth Observation Instrumentation is developing new ideas and technologies for future space missions, to improve understanding of the environment and climate change. Speaking at the launch event in Westminster, the Science and Innovation Minister said: “The UK is at the forefront of space technology and instrumentation both of which are increasingly essential to our understanding of the way the climate is changing.  Combining the expertise and experience of the UK’s research councils, academia and industry will ensure the UK continues to play a major role in the fight against climate change.” In one of the new projects announced today, which will be funded by the Centre, the University of Edinburgh will lead  a study into the use of space-based lasers to measure the global vegetation cover and how it changes over time.  These measurements will enable climate scientists to improve their understanding of an important component of the ‘carbon cycle’ – how carbon dioxide, the major greenhouse gas, is taken up by plants and trees. The huge amount of ‘bio-mass’ in forests, which cover more than 40% of the Earth’s land surface helps the Earth to absorb and store some of the carbon-dioxide that mankind is generating as we burn fossil fuels.  These satellite-based lasers will monitor the changing nature of the world’s forests resulting from human activities, forest fires and desertification.  The UK has considerable expertise in the use of airborne lasers to monitor land cover and bio-diversity.  As well as the academic skills in the two universities, the projects will take advantage of expertise and technologies developed in UK industries for airborne and ground based measurements for military and pollution monitoring applications.  Astrium, which is leading the Centre, in partnership with QinetiQ, University of Leicester and the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory/Science and Technology Facilities Council, has more than 30 years experience developing space based Earth observation instrumentation. The Centre is jointly funded by the Natural Environment Research Council and the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills together with investment from UK industry.  


Marion O’Sullivan, Senior Press Officer, tel. 01793 411727

Dr Arwyn Davies, Director of Earth Observation,

NERC and BNSC, tel. 01793 411961 or 020 7215 1422


Rebecca Underhill, Senior Press Officer, science & innovation, tel. 020 7215 6403


Fiona Hatton, Press Officer, tel. 020 7215 0905


Dr Caroline Nichol, tel. 0131 650 7729

Astrium:Jeremy Close, Director of Communications, tel. 01438 773872

Notes for editors:

Start-up investment for the Centre for Earth Observation Instrumentation (CEOI) of £1.5 million over 15 months comes from the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS), with substantial investment from the CEOI industrial and academic partners.

Mick Johnson, who has been appointed Director of the CEOI, is based at Astrium Ltd.  Astrium, Europe’s largest space company and a route for application of the new technologies in future Earth observation (EO) and space science missions, has been appointed to lead the CEOI. They are in partnership with the University of Leicester as academic research partner, who will interface with the science and user communities to establish the requirements for future EO missions; the Science and Technology Facilities Council / Rutherford Appleton Laboratory who will provide the link between these requirements and technology developments; and QinetiQ Ltd. who will manage the technology projects. All partners will have major roles in the development of EO technologies through the Centre.

NERC funds world-class science, in universities and its own research centres, that increases knowledge and understanding of the natural world. NERC is tackling the 21st century's major environmental issues such as climate change, biodiversity and natural hazards. It leads in providing independent research and training in the environmental sciences.

The Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS) brings together functions from the former Department of Trade and Industry, including responsibilities for science and innovation, with further and higher education and skills, previously part of the Department for Education and Skills.

NERC and the DIUS are members of the British National Space Centre (BNSC) which is a partnership of ten Government Departments and research councils. BNSC co-ordinates space activities for the benefit of science, enterprise and the environment and represents the UK at the European Space Agency and at other international fora.

Astrium is a world leader in the design and manufacture of satellite systems, payloads, ground infrastructure and space equipment for a wide range of civil and military applications. The company, a wholly owned subsidiary of EADS, is a world-class specialist in Earth observation and meteorological systems, offering platforms, optical and radar instruments and ground segment equipment.  Astrium is a prime contractor to the European Space Agency for major space exploration programmes. In 2006, EADS Astrium had a turnover of €3.2 billion and 11,000 employees in France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Spain and the Netherlands. Its three main areas of activity are: the business units Astrium Space Transportation for launchers and orbital infrastructure, and Astrium Satellites for spacecraft and ground segment, and its wholly owned subsidiary Astrium Services for the development and delivery of satellite services.

Formed by Royal Charter in 2007 (by combining CCLRC and PPARC), the Science and Technology Facilities Council is one of Europe's largest multidisciplinary research organisations supporting scientists and engineers world-wide. The Council operates world-class, large scale research facilities and provides strategic advice to the UK government on their development. It also manages international research projects in support of a broad cross-section of the UK research community.

The University of Leicester is a leading UK university, delivering high-quality undergraduate, postgraduate and professional education, and research with international impacts.

QinetiQ is a leading international defence and security technology business that was formed in July 2001 from the UK Government's Defence Evaluation & Research Agency (DERA). QinetiQ has approximately 13,500 employees, who deliver technology-based services and exploit QinetiQ's strengths in technology research by selling systems solutions, products and licences to government and commercial customers in a spectrum of defence, security and related commercial markets.

Contact  David Bishop (Media Relations Manager) - 01252 394573 & 07920 108675