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Written Statements

Volume 738: debated on Wednesday 18 October 2023

Written Statement

Wednesday 18 October 2023

Science, Innovation and Technology

Position, Navigation and Timing Resilience: Government Policy Framework

Position, navigation and timing services are vital for the UK economy, Critical national infrastructure sectors and wider society. Nearly all PNT services in the UK are provided by global navigation satellite systems, including the US global positioning system (GPS).

In the 2021 integrated review of security, defence, development and foreign policy the Government committed to strengthen the resilience of the PNT services on which our CNI and economy depend. The loss of PNT services also features in the 2023 national risk register, the external version of the national security risk assessment (NSRA), which is the Government’s assessment of the most serious risks facing the UK.

I can today announce a Government policy framework for greater PNT resilience to meet this commitment in the Integrated Review.

National PNT Office: establish a National PNT Office in the Department of Science, Innovation and Technology—to improve resilience and drive growth with responsibility for PNT policy, co-ordination, and delivery.

PNT crisis plan: retain and update a cross-Government PNT crisis plan to be activated if GNSS-provided PNT is lost and identify and implement short term mitigations.

National timing centre: develop a proposal for a national timing centre—to provide resilient, terrestrial, sovereign, and high-quality timing for the UK (UTC(NPL)), including sovereign components and optical clocks.

“MOD Time”: develop a proposal for “MOD time” creating deeper resilience through a system of last resort and use NTC-provided timing to support MOD.

eLORAN: develop a proposal for a resilient, terrestrial, and sovereign enhanced long-range navigation (eLORAN) system to provide back-up position and navigation.

Infrastructure resilience: roll out resilient GNSS receiver chips, develop holdover clocks, and consider options for legislation on CNI sectors to require minimum resilient PNT.

UK SBAS: develop a proposal for a UK precise point positioning satellite-based augmentation system (SBAS-PPP) to replace the UK’s use of the European geostationary navigation overlay service (EGNOS), monitor GNSS and enable GNSS-dependent high accuracy position for autonomous and precision uses.

PNT skills: explore options for centres for doctoral training in timing and PNT and review PNT skills, education, and training for long term sovereign PNT capability.

Growth policy: develop a PNT growth policy, including R and D programmes, standards and testing, to drive innovation for PNT based productivity.

Next generation PNT: deploy existing R and D funding into a UK quantum navigator and investigate possible options for a UK sovereign regional satellite system.

This policy framework builds on the previous work in Government on PNT, including the 2018 Blackett report, “Satellite-derived Time and Position: A Study of Critical Dependencies” and the work of the UK Space Agency’s space-based PNT programme, which started in October 2020. The policy framework was produced by the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, which worked with the lead Government Departments responsible for the CNI sectors in the UK to develop this agreed cross-Government position on national PNT resilience. Experts on PNT, both within and outside Government, and representatives of the PNT industry were involved with and consulted as part of the work to develop this policy framework.

This policy framework sets out, for the first time, what Government plan to do to improve the resilience of PNT services and support the economic opportunities that they enable. For those actions that require additional spending commitments, the newly established National PNT Office in the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, point 1 of the policy framework, will work with other Government Departments over the coming months to develop business cases for this extra resource for consideration at the next spending round.

This PNT policy framework also supports the March 2023 UK science and technology framework and the UK becoming a science and technology superpower by 2030. It will lead to strategic advantage for the UK, create opportunities for greater international collaboration on PNT resilience, lead to greater investment in R and D and build PNT skills in the UK workforce.

As a first step to taking forward this policy framework I can also announce today that the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology reallocated £14 million of existing funding at the end of the last financial year to the National Physical Laboratory’s national timing centre research and development programme, which will now run until March 2025. This programme is the precursor to, and key building block of, developing a national timing centre, as outlined at point 3 of the policy framework.

The deployment of existing R and D funding into UK quantum navigation, in point 10 of the policy framework, is part of funding announced previously. This includes £8 million to fund 12 projects exploring quantum technologies for PNT that I announced during London Tech Week in June 2023, and a further £8.8 million for a specific quantum navigation project.

The UK Space Agency has also published today two documents from their space-based PNT programme: a summary of the technical concepts developed under the programme and an updated report on the economic impact to the UK of a disruption to global navigation satellite systems. I am placing a copy of both documents in the Libraries of both Houses.

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