A GOVERNMENT grant is to boost Hampshire businesses which are venturing into space.

The Enterprise M3 area has been picked as one of seven “space hubs”, where business and local government will come together to take advantage of the commercial space race.

The UK’s Space Agency has awarded £70,000 to grow the space and satellite cluster in the area.

The money will go to the Enterprise M3 (EM3) Local Economic Partnership area, which covers most of Hampshire outside Southampton and Portsmouth, as well as neighbouring Surrey.

The EM3 network of space and satellite businesses is currently valued at £9 billion and has more than 180 companies engaged in high-tech work, employing more than 3,000 local people.

Over the next six months the LEP, local government, industry experts and business leaders will come together to look at how the area can take advantage of the opportunities of commercial space programmes.

Science minister Amanda Solloway said: “The UK’s space sector has shown incredible resilience to the coronavirus pandemic and will continue to play a key role in our recovery – from creating high quality jobs to finding unique ways to support our NHS.

“This funding will arm local leaders up and down the UK with the tools they need to put their local areas at the front of the commercial space race, while refuelling the tank of the UK economy and helping Britain realise it’s ambitions as a global space superpower.”

Rob Dunford, EM3’s director of business delivery, said: “This support for EM3’s Space Cluster from the UK Space Agency is a great opportunity to highlight a real hidden gem of our region with a global reach.

“The EM3 space ecosystem is the focal point for a very strong sector in the wider area and underpins other major priority sectors, like 5G, immersive technology, clean growth and life science and will play an ever-increasing role in bringing new jobs and re-skilling opportunities for people in our area.”

Dr Colin Baldwin, head of local growth strategy at the UK Space Agency, said: “Space has gone from a nice-to-have sector to a heavyweight industry in the UK over the past decade – trebling in size and now employing over 42,000 people.

“We know that space will help put fuel back in the tank of the economy as it recovers from the pandemic and are determined this growth will be felt in all corners of the country.”

EM3 is business-led and brings together the private, public and not-for-profit sectors in a joint endeavour to drive prosperity. It bids for money from government and uses it to generate private sector investment.