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Durham University engages with the space sector principally through the Departments of Geography and Physics, both of which are highly placed in the UK (Complete University Guide 2022 – Geography 3rd, Physics 4th). Durham University shares facilities with several space-sector businesses at the North East Technology Park (NETPark), around 10 miles from the Durham University campus. The Centre for Advanced Instrumentation (CfAI) maintains extensive laboratories and clean rooms there.

Other academic departments with active engagement in space applications include Engineering, Earth Sciences, Computer Sciences, Mathematics and Archaeology. In addition, Durham University has several inter-disciplinary Research Institutes and Centres, which focus expertise around particular themes in order to tackle a variety of problems which include:

  • The Institute for Hazard, Risk and Resilience (IHRR) which uses Earth Observation data in research on earthquakes, landslides, flooding and deforestation
  • The Centre for Advanced Instrumentation (CfAI) which develops state-of-the-art instruments for a wide range of disciplines from astrophysics to medical and industrial microscopy and boasts regular, cheap access to space (40km altitude, which is above 99.5% of the Earth’s atmosphere) as a partner in NASA’s SuperBIT high-altitude balloon mission.
  • The Institute for Data Science (IDAS) which brings together our broad expertise in Data Science and caters to the specific needs for industrial growth in the North-East and beyond.
  • Durham Energy Institute (DEI) which focuses on downstream activities in a range of domains such as transport, offshore oil/gas/renewables and software development, often applying space technologies and expertise.

Durham University’s space expertise has also been deployed with industry partners outside the space domain, regionally, nationally and internationally.

For example:

  • The Airborne Instrumentation group has worked with agricultural businesses on projects to identify diseased crops via imaging equipment mounted on UAVs.
  • Cosmologists who have analysed galaxy formation data sets have used the same data science expertise to work with:
    1. An NHS Trust and a biotech company to identify patterns in test result data from patients with cancer of unknown origin, in order to better target treatment plans and improve outcomes.
    2. X-ray imaging and detection companies to improve image resolution and threat detection.