The first start-up has signed up to a new innovation hub at the £100 million Space Park Leicester.
Dr Nkeiruka Nneti Onyia, who has a PhD from the University of Leicester, and Lensa Etefa Jotte, a PhD researcher at the university, have formed LENKÉ Space and Water Solutions which uses space data to look at water supplies in different parts of the world.
They will move into the space park’s European Space Agency Business Incubation Centre UK when it opens later this year.
The pair use satellite data to improve water management in areas where fresh water is scarce.
One part of the world they have been looking at includes the Central Rift Valley, which runs down the eastern edge of Africa into Kenya and Ethiopia.
The first phase of the space park, which is led by the city university, is now going up in the shadow of the National Space Centre in Leicester.
When finished, it could become a world leading manufacturer of satellites and a centre for processing the data they provide – providing room for companies of all sizes and contributing in the region of £750 million a year to the economy.
Aerospace and technology giants that have already signed up include Hewlett Packard, Airbus and even Amazon. It could lead to 2,500 jobs.
The new incubation centre will provide support and funding for start-ups to gain a competitive advantage in the space sector, with successful applicants given access to industry-leading business coaching and technical support, as well as legal advice, funding and office space at the new Space Park Leicester site.
Dr Nkeiruka Nneti Onyia, co-founder and chief executive of LENKÉ Space and Water Solutions Ltd, said: “Our focus is on water management and optimising harvests for local farmers, so we are in the process of developing a tool called SWIFT – our Soil Water Index Focus Tool – which helps predict the soil water index order to help farmers decide on the best time to harvest their products and to help decision-makers in the allocation of resources.
“But we are a space company, so we are open to providing solutions to any aspect of the environment by using space data.
“Space Park Leicester is a great platform to bring research and academia together with business, so it’s a really good feeling to be in the centre of where academic science meets industry.
“The fact that we are going to be a part of that, and venturing into the industry itself, is really exciting. Space Park Leicester gives us the support system we need to succeed in our objectives.”
Follow company co-founder and director Lensa Etefa Jotte said: “We have previously worked closely with the university’s Innovation Hub, and Space Park has been interfacing with that, so we’ve always been aware of Space Park and the benefits it will bring in coming to Leicester.
“But we were especially excited about the ESA BIC competition and part of that is being welcomed into the collaborative space at Space Park to work alongside other start-up companies.
“We’re really excited about becoming one of the first members to be part of the new space.
“The fact that we are even in this space, and will find ourselves surrounded by people with similar ambitions who are interested in solving similar problems, can only open our eyes to different opportunities.”
Grant Bourhill, chief executive of Science Parks at the University of Leicester, said: “Providing effective access to, and management of, scarce water resources is crucial and is only going to become more important with increasing impact from climate change.
“I am delighted therefore that LENKÉ is working on providing tools and services to provide a solution to this global problem and look forward to welcoming them into the growing Space Park Leicester community.”