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National Centre for Earth Observation lands top space award for global collaboration project

National Centre for Earth Observation lands top space award for global collaboration project

A leading environmental centre that has been collaborating with international researchers to use satellite imagery to search for deforestation has been awarded with a renowned space award.

National Centre for Earth Observation (NCEO) picked up the Space Innovation Award during the 2023 LeicestershireLive Innovation Awards ceremony on Thursday, February 17.

The pioneering earth information centre was presented with the highly sought-after accolade for co-developing the Forest Alerts System with the University of Leicester and the Kenya Forest Service.

The rapid deforestation monitoring system sends out alerts every five days if a forest cover loss is detected. Using Copernicus Sentinel-2 images at 10m spatial resolution, the system is able to detect even small-scale logging.

According to Professor Heiko Balzter, who is a Director of the Institute for Environmental Futures, University of Leicester and a member of NCEO, the Forest Alerts System sends out information to rangers in the field faster than any other system in the world.

By using this new technology, forest rangers in Kwale and Kilifi in Kenya have been able to tackle almost 400 cases of illegal logging.

Professor Balzter said:

“I am honoured that my team in the National Centre for Earth Observation has won the Innovation in Space Award. The forest alert system has been a real team effort, and I am grateful to all my colleagues, funders and partner organisations who have helped us get to this point.”

He added:

“The innovation award will help us with the commercialisation process of the system. My hope is that the forest alerts can contribute to halting global deforestation by 2030, as was agreed by world leaders at the Climate Conference in Glasgow.”

NCEO provides the UK’s Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) with national capability in earth observation science – monitoring the health of our planet through satellite instruments and with world-class capability in interpreting this data. It is made up of more than 130 scientists from top universities and research organisations across the UK, with Professor John Remedios leading the centre at the University of Leicester.

The LeicestershireLive Innovation Awards showcases the very best technology, services, digital advances, and creative thinking that the region has to offer.

The Innovation in Space Award celebrates this fast-growing sector, and the dozens of small, medium and large companies in the region working on ground-breaking research and technology. Previous finalists have shown innovation in satellites, mapping, air quality management.

Other finalists for the Innovation in Space Award 2023 were Omnidea, which is based at Space ParkLeicester, and Carbon Keepers, which is the latest company to join the ESA BIC programme based at the state-of-the-art research hub.

Leicester and Leicestershire’s aerospace and satellite technology sector has the potential to be worth £500 million by 2030.

Major investment in research centres, such as Space Park Leicester, is bringing in sector giants from across the world.

Space Park Leicester has been designed to support increased collaboration between University of Leicester researchers and educators and the private sector, creating high quality knowledge-based jobs, building the skills base through training, and contributing to economic growth and resilience of the economy.

The project is led by the University of Leicester in partnership with Leicester City Council and the Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership (LLEP).


To find out more information about Space Park Leicester visit:

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