The UK Space Agency announced a £20 million funding pot to support the development of future telecommunications technologies and aerial connectivity projects, the biggest investment made into such services to date.

Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology Chloe Smith announced the funding package during the opening of a new European Space Agency conference centre at the Harwell Space Cluster, a campus based in Oxford which houses more than 100 space organisations.

Companies are able to bid for the funding to develop aerial services and technologies to support a range of industries, for example drones delivering medical supplies to hospitals, providing dedicated connectivity for emergency services and bringing internet access to rural areas.

Smith said the government’s £20 million investment will serve to further strengthen the UK’s fast-growing satellite communications industry, which she claims contributes more than £10 billion to the economy and supports more than 26,000 jobs.

“It will improve our health and security too, and support our plan to level up every part of the UK,” she added.

Projects that could be in line for funding include developing connectivity for aerial platforms with hybrid capabilities to seamlessly switch between satellite and terrestrial networks, or traffic management for innovative vehicles such as so-called “flying taxis”.