Business Secretary in talks with Saudi Arabia to enhance commercial co-operation in British space solar

  • Business Secretary Grant Shapps met with the Chairman of the Saudi Space Commission and Minister of Communications and Information Technology, His Excellency Abdullah Al-Swah in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA)
  • Ministers discussed UK-KSA cooperation in space, including a potential joint investment in space solar energy which could help unlock significant commercial opportunities for UK companies
  • builds on the long-standing bilateral relationship between the UK and Saudi Arabia based on trade, investment, defence, security and energy

The UK and Saudi governments discussed ambitious plans for co-operation in space and innovation yesterday (Thursday 12 January), including the potential to invest in the development of space solar energy.

Business Secretary Grant Shapps met with His Excellency (HE) Abdullah Al-Swaha, Chairman of the Saudi Space Commission and Minister of Communications and Information Technology from Saudi Arabia this week, to discuss a potential deal that could help unlock significant commercial opportunities for British companies.

A collaboration between UK-based Space Solar Ltd and NEOM – a new Saudi city being built in Tabuk province to incorporate smart city innovation, world-class technology and data intelligence – could see each nation make significant investments in space solar development energy (SBSP) in the coming years.

SBSP sees solar energy collected using a very large satellite in geostationary orbit with solar panels, and broadcasting the energy to a fixed point on earth using radio technology. Its main advantages over wind and ground-based solar energy are its ability to deliver clean energy, day and night, year-round and in all weather conditions. Interest in the technology has grown in recent years as costs fall rapidly.

Early investment in the UK could leverage significant private investment and development SBSP in the UK could provide significant benefits to the domestic space and technology sector, through the creation of valuable intellectual property, jobs and industrial contracts. This space collaboration follows the business secretary’s extensive support to the space sector.

Business Secretary Grant Shapps said:

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is on an ambitious path to modernize its economy and society, opening up a host of opportunities for growing UK businesses, exporting British expertise that could transform the global approach to renewable energy, including space-based solar.

Collaboration at a global level is an essential part of achieving the UK’s science and innovation ambitions, which is why I’m excited to be here in the Gulf – where we now play a key role in influencing energy transition plans – to develop our bilateral relationship with a country so open for business and with such great aspirations.

The UK already has strong and significant links with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – with ŠABIĆ (Saudi Basic Industries Corporation) and Alfanar are committing to invest a total of £1.85bn in decarbonisation and clean energy technology in Teesside.

The UK and Saudi Arabia have a long-standing bilateral relationship based on trade, investment, defence, security and energy, and we intend to maintain our relationship with the country based on vital national security and economic interests.

Saudi Arabia’s ‘Vision 2030’ is showing encouraging signs of change – as well as social reforms and improved human rights, there is plenty of opportunity for the UK economy, with opportunities for space solar collaboration being just one example.

Any future financing in cooperation with Saudi Arabia will be subject to a value for money analysis and investment security check.

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