Four innovative space entrepreneurs shaking up the space industry in 2023

11/04/2023
Myles Harris, Nic Ross, Portia Bowman and Ashley Johnson

FROM simulations and sustainability to propulsion and a circular space economy, four innovative entrepreneurs are amongst those welcomed to the UK Space Agency’s accelerator programme this year. 

Aiming to develop a thriving ecosystem of high-growth space entrepreneurs in every corner of the UK, the programme has selected a cohort with very different backgrounds and areas of expertise. These four have joined other participants for the agency’s first Explore programme as they take their first commercial steps into the UK’s flourishing space industry.  


The entrepreneurs are Myles Harris founding CEO of Space Health Research, Nic Ross founding CEO of Niparo, Ashley Johnson founding CEO of Applied Atomics and Portia Bowman, founding CEO of Growbotics Space Ltd.  

Myles Harris, founding CEO, Space Health Research based in London 

Myles trained as a nurse and has worked as a senior nursing lecturer for a number of years. During his PhD he founded a research group in 2020 that led to the first UK analogue mission (that is, field tests in locations with physical similarities to the space environment); and he continued this work going on to found Space Health Research. Space Health Research specialises in providing analogue missions that simulate the exploration of space. Deploying their analogue mission design to remote environments around the world, Space Health Research provides services such as testing technologies and products, scientific research, and leadership teamwork training. Space missions can be time consuming and costly; but Space Health Research’s analogue missions are significantly less expensive than space missions, enabling clients to revolutionise and therefore optimise their product, research, and training. 

Nic Ross, founding CEO, Niparo based in Edinburgh 

Having always had a love for space, Nic followed his dreams completing a PhD in Astrophysics at Durham University. After hearing more about space sustainability, Nic founded his own space sustainability business, Niparo, in 2020 and since graduating has focussed entirely on its success. Niparo is focussed on making the UK space sector more sustainable, by encouraging strong environmental regulations and discourage greenwashing.  In the short term, Nic is building a suite of software that will help companies comply with and complete their environmental requirements for UK spaceflight licensing, as well as a tool to measure their carbon footprint. Longer term, Nic is keen for Niparo to play a pivotal role in the sector’s journey to net zero. 

Portia Bowman founding CEO of Growbotics Space Ltd based in South East England 

Portia Bowman has 10 years of experience in the space sector having initially studied physics before pursuing a masters in space systems engineering. She worked as an engineer on ESA (European Space Agency) and NASA missions before landing a business leadership role. Portia always had an entrepreneurial mindset, first co-founding spacecareers.uk in 2015 before founding Growbotics Space Ltd in 2022.  

Ashley Johnson, founding CEO, Applied Atomics based in London 

After studying Aerospace Engineering and constructing a plasma propulsion lab in his bedroom, Ashley Johnson founded Applied Atomics in 2022 during his master’s degree – and his passion hasn’t stopped since. A pioneer looking to break new ground, Ashley wants to achieve the impossible whilst driving a society of space exploration. Applied Atomics is a UK space propulsion start-up which is developing a new breed of propulsion system. The business is creating a novel, innovative and sustainable propulsion system for satellites and spacecraft. This system enables advanced in-orbit manoeuvres, deep space interplanetary missions and is driving the next generation of space exploration by providing best-in-class performance, efficiency, and cost.  

Growbotics is a company dedicated to developing the tools, components, and processes necessary for a circular space economy.  Satellites are currently single use by design; Growbotics aims to disrupt the traditional approach to space manufacturing and is leading the way by developing technology to re-use components on orbit, thereby reducing waste and promoting a circular economy. But her vision goes beyond environmental sustainability. Portia is passionate about creating an inclusive sector that values diversity and promotes innovation, where everyone is empowered to contribute and collaborate toward a common purpose.   Portiabelieves Growbotics Space Ltd is well on its way to becoming a leading force in the space industry, where profits and purpose are equally important. 

Chris McQuire Head of Local Growth at the UK Space Agency, said: “The UK space industry is growing, and it is essential for us to inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs, and equip them with that vital knowledge that will stay with them throughout their careers. This is where the accelerator comes in, providing brilliant opportunities to entrepreneurs through resources and exposure to industry professionals. 

“We wish our new cohort the best of luck throughout their accelerator journey and look forward to seeing the unique offerings they bring to the industry.” 

With the UK Government’s National Space Strategy focussing on unlocking growth, the UK Space Agency Accelerator gives entrepreneurs support to grow a sustainable space business for the future. The accelerator has three programmes – Explore, Leo and Geo – to attract a variety of entrepreneurs to the space sector.  From nurturing a business idea to supporting seasoned entrepreneurs, each accelerator programme provides intensive business support. This includes 1-2-1 mentoring with growth and commercialisation experts to group action learning, the programmes ensure the UK’s space sector is at the centre of global space entrepreneurship.  


The UK Space Agency Accelerator is currently accepting applications for its Leo and Geo programmes until 21st April. A live Q and A webinar on the two programmes is taking place on Monday 17th April with Mike Stephens, CEO at Entrepreneurial Spark. 

If you are an entrepreneur with a space business, or using space technology in another sector, find out more and apply now at www.ukspaceaccelerator.co.uk 

Applications for the next Explore cohort will open in May. 

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