The UK’s space sector took a significant step forward on Monday with the opening of a new Buckinghamshire-based multi-million centre to further scientific knowledge of the outer reaches of the universe.

The 1,200 square metre complex incorporating engineering workshops, offices and meeting rooms is an expansion of the facilities at Westcott Venture Park seven miles from Aylesbury.

Currently the centre accounts for an investment totalling £35m by government and industry.

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Over the next 10 years, the hope is that a further £380m will support the cash flow.

The opening of the new Westcott Innovation Centre was watched by 200 invited delegates and dignitaries.

No photographs were taken for a historic record of the occasion.

No-one was actually there.

Due to the virus, it was a virtual event.

Even so it attracted a full turn out, albeit remote.

Stuart Martin, CEO of the Satellite Applications Catapult, cut the virtual ribbon.

Catapult is described on the web as ‘one of a network of UK technology and innovation companies which aim to drive economic growth through commercialisation of research.’

Mr Martin said: “Westcott is the UK’s newest space cluster and is growing fast with 20 new space businesses using the site in the last year alone.

“The innovation centre provides much needed space for these businesses to grow from designing concepts to prototyping and testing their technologies and services.

“This is all made possible by the unique way the Catapult works with stakeholders to deliver on local and national Government aspirations to support businesses and grow the UK space sector.”

Greg Smith, MP for Buckingham, was among the guests.

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Like the others he watched the launch of the new facility online.

Bucks Free Press:

Those who work at the Westcott Innovation Centre

He said: “Westcott represents one of the most exciting economic opportunities in my constituency.

“It has the potential to help lead innovation for years to come in the fields of space propulsion and drone technologies.

“The investment by the Buckinghamshire LEP [Local Enterprise Partnership] and the Satellite Application Catapult in the new Innovation Centre is to be welcomed.

“It will help attract many new innovative businesses creating high value jobs for my constituency and beyond.”

Richard Harrington, chief executive of Bucks LEP described the latest initiative as world class.

He said: “It is an important step towards delivering a world-leading hub for the space sector in the heart of Buckinghamshire.

“We are pleased to provide local growth funds and support from the Aylesbury Vale Enterprise Zone.

“It opens up the next stage in the evolution of the Westcott site to facilitate the growth of businesses currently here as well as attracting new business and investment.”

Prior to Monday’s official opening of the centre, a new £2m roundabout was opened earlier this month to improve traffic flow into the park.

Work on the link road from the roundabout started in January.

It provides direct access into the park from the A41, replacing the previous T-junction.

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The new approach road has been named Wellington Drive as a nod to the history of the immediate area as a base for training aircrew for Wellington bombers.

Unfortunately, the building of the new road necessitated issuing an eviction order to 100 newts that had resided there.

A spokesman assured the BFP: “They’ve been moved to a more peaceful area in the park.”

The roadworks were funded through a partnership between Buckinghamshire Council, Wescott Venture Park and Buckinghamshire and Aylesbury Vale LEPs.