Date archives "May 2020"

Remote [Common] Sensing for climate resilience

A dictionary definition of common sense says it is “The basic level of practical knowledge and judgment that we all need to help us live in a reasonable and safe way”. And that is at the heart of what one project in the IPP portfolio – ‘CommonSensing’ – is doing in partnership with the Pacific island nations of Fiji, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.

Among many others, these Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are at the frontline of the devastating effects of climate change; indeed, as I write this, Pacific SIDS are being savaged by Severe Tropical Cyclone Harold. Therefore, the immediate threat posed by climate change requires a global effort to not only help them recover from such devastating weather events in the short term, but also to become more resilient in future.

‘CommonSensing’ is using satellite remote sensing technology to help Fiji, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu with improved food security, disaster risk reduction and better access to international climate finance. Led by the United Nations’ Institute of Training and Research’s (UNITAR) Operational Satellite Applications Programme (UNOSAT), and with a consortium of partners including the Satellite Applications Catapult, Commonwealth Secretariat and University of Portsmouth, the project is in its third year, has provided technical training to a large variety of government representatives (policymakers), and is on track to deliver the agreed satellite and geospatial solutions.

In November, a small project team, accompanied by UKSA representatives, capitalised on being in-region for the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) Ministerial in Canberra by adding on a visit to meet with ‘CommonSensing’ stakeholders in Fiji. The weather was typical for that time of year – warm but rained heavily most days – so the delegation had a taste of how severe weather events suffered by so many SIDS (Small Island Developing States) around the world, exacerbated by climate change, can devastate infrastructure, crops and livelihoods.

UKSA and CommonSensing Team Visit to Fiji

The team met with a variety of stakeholders, including the British High Commissioner and a press conference hosted by the Permanent Secretary for Economy, to discuss climatic issues faced by Fiji (and other SIDS) and how ‘CommonSensing’ data will provide their government with more reliable information for better decision making, ultimately enhancing their probability of securing international climate finance. But what really struck us was how every person we met – from taxi drivers and hotel staff to senior government officials – was gravely concerned about rising sea levels and hugely valued the support being provided through programmes such as IPP.

We also visited two coastal villages and were invited to join traditional ‘kava’ ceremonies at each, during which the elders informed us of the issues faced on a daily basis due to rising sea and rainwater levels, and the defensive work being done to avoid these longstanding communities having to leave their homes permanently and move inland. We saw two different types of flood gates in place which seem to be highly effective in holding back seawater. However, such installations require significant national/international investment and are not always as extensive as they need to be; in one of the villages visited the local school was just metres from the beach and totally open to the elements. It was clear that further funding and better data to inform government planning are in urgent need.

Coastal Defences in Fiji

The visit was also an opportunity to meet with the Fijian in-country representative (‘CommonSensing’ has recruited one for each of the targeted SIDS in addition to Climate Finance Advisors). Having such resource in place is a major advantage for IPP projects as they provide local knowledge and expertise, ensure ongoing engagement with key stakeholders and, through this, can often open doors which would not be accessible by the external project team.

Pacific SIDS are involved in another IPP project – ‘RE-SAT’ – which is delivering a Renewable Space Analytics Tool. IPP’s third competition also included a strategic call targeting Pacific SIDS in partnership with Australia and news on that will be released soon.

UK Space Agency – Covid-19 Sector Awareness Survey & Fortnightly Webinar

UK Space Agency – Covid-19 Sector Awareness Survey & Fortnightly Webinar

This an update on the UK Space Agency’s plans to support the space sector to mitigate and recover from the impact of COVID-19. This is our highest priority, and several dedicated teams are now working across the Agency to provide immediate business support and develop a longer-term recovery plan.

Weekly Sector Awareness Survey

We have partnered with UKspace to understand how space companies are being impacted by COVID-19 through a regular weekly survey, open to all UK-based space organisations. It is vital we capture the full breadth of the sector through this process, so we can understand how severe the impact is, specific issues that you are encountering, and what additional support we can provide.

As the government moves its thinking from crisis response to long-term recovery, it will allocate support to those sectors that can clearly articulate what they require.  This weekly survey will be the route through which the UK Space Agency can advocate on behalf of the space sector, and inform what targeted support and funding we can directly offer to industry.

This survey is open to all UK-based space organisations and takes ten minutes to complete, once a week. Please register for access through UKspace’s COVID-19 Portal.

COVID-19 Fortnightly Webinar

A series of COVID-19 Webinars will provide an update on how UK space companies and academia are being impacted by the pandemic, as well as the latest advice, information, and resources available. You will also have the opportunity to engage directly with senior leadership from government and industry and share how COVID-19 is impacting your organisation.

They are open to anyone working in a UK-based space sector organisation. The next webinar takes place on Thursday 14 May from 2.00pm. Please click here to register.

These webinars are hosted in partnership between the UK Space Agency, the Department for International Trade, UKspace, the Satellite Applications Catapult, ESA, ADS and the Satellite Finance Network.

Additional Queries

If you have any additional queries, please use one of the channels below:

In addition to the channels above, you can always the IPP inbox ( with any programme/project enquiries.

Covid-19 and the International Partnership Programme

As a funding agency, it is necessary for the UK Space Agency (UKSA) to assess the impact of COVID-19 on all our programmes.

We have initially focused on ensuring that UKSA has the necessary staff, capacity and processes in place to continue to offer a service in terms of monitoring projects and funding our programmes; in parallel the International Partnership Programme (IPP) team has engaged with project leads (primes) to fully understand the challenges they are likely to face over coming months (3, 6, >6-month period) and impacts on respective project progress.

Based on these early discussions, UKSA remains committed to the continuation of IPP and collaboration with partner countries during this unprecedented period. As a result, the IPP team is adopting a ‘business as usual’ approach for the next 3 months.

The IPP team is working flexibly with respective project Primes and partners (who have diverted efforts to home-based tasks and virtual meetings) to address any COVID-related issues/delays.  All projects are being asked to inform the IPP team as soon as any issues arise to discuss options.  This applies to Call 3 projects too, where the IPP team is working closely with Primes to understand any issues with a view to placing grants as soon as possible but accepting there will be delays due to COVID.  Due to these delays it is unlikely we will be releasing a public statement in May confirming which Call 3 projects have been placed on grant; however all Call 3 projects who have been selected are already working with IPP, and all unsuccessful Call 3 applicants have been made aware and have received feedback on their proposals. 

Additionally, please note that the UK Space Agency is working in partnership with the space sector’s trade body, UKspace, to collect information on how the sector is being affected. If you are encountering any difficulties or require more information, please click here:

With thanks for your cooperation, and best wishes to you all,

IPP team