Start up and grow in space with the UK Space Agency Accelerator

The UK Space Agency Accelerator, delivered through a partnership with the UK Space Agency, Entrepreneurial Spark, and Exotopic, offers multiple opportunities for intrepid entrepreneurs to develop their businesses in the space sector.

“Effectively, the UK Space Agency Accelerator is a business support programme,” notes Portia Bircher, Business Support and Growth Manager, UK Space Agency. “It aims to attract innovative businesses with space applicable products/services, at all stages.”

The Accelerator gives entrepreneurs the tools that they need to be able to grow their business and, importantly, to thrive. The programmes are designed to help overcome the key barriers that have been identified when developing a successful startup, including access to finance, investors, and markets as well as issues unique to the space sector like regulation and technology development.

Here’s a breakdown of the programmes:


Explore is ideally suited for individuals venturing into the commercial space industry for the first time. If you identify as an ‘inventor’ eager to develop a scalable business, or if you're currently engaged in sectors like aerospace, law, quantum technology, farming, environmental engineering, or healthcare, yet see opportunities for your ideas in the space sector, Explore might be just what you're looking for.

Taking place over nine weeks, successful applicants get to work with business growth and space experts and a cohort of like-minded entrepreneurs to lay the foundation for building a high-growth, scalable space business.

The Explore programme includes:

  • Access to new business growth tools to prioritise your focus areas
  • 1:1 support from entrepreneurial growth experts and technical commercialisation gurus
  • A five-week action sprint to help you learn and make progress on a daily basis
  • Regular drop-ins and group sessions to tackle key challenges
  • A 90-day planning process to ensure you leave with a clear path and the right network to support you on the next stage of your journey

To apply for the programme you must:

  • Be an early-stage business – anywhere from idea stage through to proof-of-concept
  • Be either in the space sector, in another sector using space technology, or exploring how you can enter the space sector
  • Have a desire to start a growth business/social enterprise, not a lifestyle business or research project
  • You may have some early revenue of customer engagement, but this is not a requirement
  • You, as the entrepreneurial leader, are based in the UK

The next Explore programme will start in April 2024.


Leo is tailored for entrepreneurs who are ready to embark on their business journey, having already established a proof-of-concept. It's best suited for those either within the space or an adjacent sector who have space applicable products or services and are eager to elevate their entrepreneurial ventures and business ideas to new heights.

Taking place over six months, successful applicants will have the opportunity to work with experts to build a high-growth, scalable space company and cement relationships with a cohort of like-minded people. It’s designed to fundamentally change the way you grow and lead your business.

The Leo programme includes:

  • Welcome Boot Camp to introduce you to the programme, set the pace and for you to get to know your fellow cohort members
  • Access to the Canvas – a business growth tool to help you prioritise your focus areas
  • Fortnightly enablement 1:1’s with entrepreneurial growth and technical commercialisation enablers
  • Fortnightly interactive workshops targeting areas that you as the entrepreneur need to move you and your business to the next level
  • Acceler8 – mid-programme in person get together with the cohort, funders and wider support eco-system designed to propel your business to the next level
  • Regular Tech Drop-In's with technical enablers
  • Regular Pitching sessions with enablement team to ensure you are able to confidently pitch your business
  • Networking events with alumni, current cohorts, mentors, and partners – an opportunity to really grow your network in the space sector
  • Access to expert mentors that support in areas such as raising VC investment, product development road mapping, IP, leadership development, and much more
  • One year’s startup membership to the UK Space, the civil space Trade Association

To be eligible for the Leo programme, you must:

  • Have a UK registered business and intend to operate in the UK
  • Be an entrepreneur in the space sector, in an adjacent sector using space enabled technology, or exploring how you can enter the space sector
  • Have proof of concept in place, ideally one of the below:
  1. Grant or seed funding from a third party (not friends or family)
  2. Customers or users for your product/service
  3. Commercial revenue
  • Have a desire to create a growth business or social enterprise, not a lifestyle business
  • Spend at least 50% of your time working on this business


Geo is ideal for businesses that have already gained market traction and are aiming to expand their reach and impact. This programme will select only five high-growth potential space companies, ensuring that each Geo entrepreneur is part of an exclusive and highly focused group poised for significant advancement.

Taking place over six months, successful applicants will work with experts to build on the foundations already laid, help you to evolve as a leader, and strategically position your business for sustained growth.

The Geo programme participants have access to the same benefits as Leo however the support to the Geo cohort is bespoke to the individual growth goals of the company. To be eligible for the Geo programme, you must:

  • Have a UK registered business and intend to operate in the UK
  • Be an entrepreneur in the space sector, or in an adjacent sector using space-enabled technology
  • Be working full time on the business
  • Have commercial traction in the space sector. This means:
  1. A minimum of either £500,000 of funding raised (investment, grants and/or debt) or £500,000 of annualised revenue
  2. Revenue projections of £500,000 will be accepted where there is a clear trajectory based on current and historic performance

Each of the programmes are designed with the founders in mind and the key aim is to develop that entrepreneurial mindset. Whether your goals are to raise finance, improve your company culture, prepare operations for growth, or recruit a team of skilled employees, these programmes will work with you to determine what is vital for you.

“We do that through what we call enablement,” says Bircher. “We’ve got business growth experts and technical experts … and we help entrepreneurs to understand what their growth goals are, and the enablers challenge them to take action and achieve them.”

The Orbit Series

At the heart of each programme is the Orbit Series, an online educational resource available throughout the duration of the accelerator. Orbit encompasses a wide range of topics, including business leadership, mindset development, technological advancements, and customer acquisition strategies. It serves as an ideal learning supplement, enhancing the experience and knowledge of participants in all of their accelerator programmes.

There are two types of sessions:

1) Short videos highlight the key questions and areas that need to be considered in that topic. An overview of the topic is presented by an expert on a range of topics from establishing business plans and raising finance in the space sector to growth mindset and understanding the sales and marketing process and gives the entrepreneur the opportunity to find out more by signing up to one of the deep dive sessions.

2) Deep dives offer in-depth exclusive access to expert partners in a live 90-minute session where they can explore and discuss topics in greater detail and benefit from expert’s experience.

There is also a series of in person events called Trajectory, designed to enhance opportunities for entrepreneurs within the UK Space Agency Accelerator Community. These events focus on connecting entrepreneurs with a broader network, including local space ecosystems, potential customers, suppliers, and investors.

To infinity, and beyond

“We want to contribute as much as we can to make the sector more diverse,” said Bircher. “We’ve set ourselves an objective to support more entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds and, something that is very close to my heart, is trying to encourage more female entrepreneurship.”

With every cohort, the UK Space Agency Accelerator is expanding its community and bringing them into a collaborative UK wide space ecosystem.

“This is one of the main reasons why I would encourage any startup looking to apply – they will gain access to this growing network,” concludes Bircher.

This article originally appeared in the January/February issue of Startups Magazine. Click here to subscribe