Aurora Innovation Centre, Cambridge, UK

Lat. 52°12'44"N, Long. 0°4'50"E

 A new Centre for Innovation in Cambridge

The newly-opened Aurora Innovation Centre at the British Antartic Survey in Cambridge nurtures and enables cross-disciplinary research to tackle environmental challenges and increase real-world benefit of polar research.

Opened in July 2017 by Science Minister Jo Johnson, and funded by NERC, Aurora aims to generate new academic, business and policy partnerships that focus on excellent research and entrepreneurial activity in the areas of climate change, environmental stewardship and technologies for challenging environments.

Science Minister Jo Johnson arrives to open the Aurora

Aurora Innovation

We take an innovative approach to all our work, and seek to apply our expertise in new contexts. Through interdisciplinary collaboration we unlock the potential of polar science to benefit society and economy – ranging from new technologies, environmental data and its interpretation, to novel bio-products and -processes. Explore our Projects tab above to get a taster of what’s going on and become inspired to work with us.

The ORCHESTRA science project meeting at BAS Aurora Cambridge
The ORCHESTRA science project meeting at BAS Aurora Cambridge

Aurora Partnerships

We build partnerships with individuals, academics and businesses who share our values, and whose expertise and interests complement ours. Jointly we aim to address issues of global importance, helping society adapt to a changing world.

Our partners are global, national and local. From groundwater monitoring in Morocco to high resolution climate modelling in the Himalayas, from fisheries management in Brazil to understanding arctic sea ice loss, polar expertise is relevant from north to south, from east to west. Our polar operations provide a testbed for innovation under extreme conditions, whilst our understanding of polar biodiversity contributes to a sustainable bioeconomy. We are keen to talk to you and explore how our expertise can add benefit to your work. To find out more please email [email protected].

Aurora Spaces

The Aurora Conference Theatre, meeting rooms and collaboration spaces can be hired by external organisations who share our passion for the environment. To find out more about working collaboratively with BAS, or if you would like to use our spaces, please explore our Facilities tab above or email [email protected].

Take a quick look at our Conference Theatre

The upper exhibition space

Aurora Membership

Book individual flexible desk space in our Collaboration Space at Aurora and gain valuable networking opportunities to broad scientific expertise and like-minded people. Aurora Members receive reductions on venue hire within BAS. To find out more please email [email protected].

Holding a sea urchin


Getting to Aurora

There are many ways to reach the Aurora Innovation Centre, part of the British Antarctic Survey headquarters in Cambridge. For travel options please see here.

The British Antarctic Survey Aurora Cambridge building
The British Antarctic Survey Aurora Cambridge building

The unique environments at the Polar regions, combined with our scientific understanding and technological expertise, present exciting opportunities for innovation. Explore this section to get a taste of what is going on, and become inspired to work with us.

If you want to know more about any of the science and technology areas listed below, please contact Matt Polaine on [email protected]

Examples of BAS expertise for innovation

    1. Imaging from moving platforms
    2. Weighing on moving platforms
    3. Weighing ballistic masses
    4. Autonomous underwater observation
    5. Sensor platforms for challenging environments
    6. Remote survey of wildlife
    7. Remote measurement of water/ice levels
    8. Low power, low maintenance data collection


1. Imaging from moving platforms: the Ship Imager

Ship Imager

BAS scientists and engineers have developed ways to obtain long-exposure images from a rolling ship. We need these images to detect faint infra-red light emitted by gravity waves in the atmosphere – understanding how they transfer energy from lower to upper atmosphere improves global weather modelling and underpins safe space flight.

This technology uses the ship’s motion to scan the sky with three angled photo diodes. The ship-borne imager uses a novel system of 3 one-degree field of view imagers (radiometers) and the pitch and roll of the ship to scan the sky.  The imagers will be observing gravity wave perturbations in a layer of airglow at around 90km altitude.  Airglow is the term given to the weak emission of light by different gas layers in the atmosphere.  As gravity waves pass through this airglow layer they alternately compress and rarify it, resulting in a variation in the airglow emissions.  Using these observations it is possible to determine the characteristics of the gravity waves. If you are interested in this technology please contact Matt Polaine [email protected]


2. Accurate weighing on moving platforms: the Shipboard Balance

Krill, which need to be weighed accurately at sea

To assess ecosystem health and give advice for fishery management, BAS scientists need to weigh individual krill with high accuracy, no matter how much the ship is rolling and pitching. The shipboard balance uses matched loadcells and weights to mitigate for the forces created by the movement of the ship. If you are interested in this type of technology please contact Matt Polaine [email protected]


3. Weighing ballistic masses: the Penguin Weighbridge

Weighing a penguin on the weighbridge

How do you weigh a hopping penguin? This was a challenge facing BAS scientists monitoring penguin populations at Bird Island Research Station in South Georgia. To asssess the impact of environmental change on feeding behaviour, biologists needed to measure exactly how much individual penguins were eating.

The weighbridge captures the force profile of each bounce to measure the direction of travel and mass of individual tagged penguins pre- and post-feed. If you are interested in this type of technology please contact Matt Polaine [email protected]


4. Autonomous Underwater Observation: Gliders

A glider heading off on a mission

To make sustained underwater observations of moving targets, such as assessing ecosystem health to provide advice for fisheries management, we need to find, track and record key parameters of marine species such as krill with a high degree of autonomy. BAS scientists combine custom-built sensors mounted on long-duration, underwater gliders with advanced data processing techniques. If you are interested in this type of technology please contact Matt Polaine [email protected]


5. Sensor platforms for challenging environments: the Wavebuoy

To help users of polar waters plan operations and mitigate risk, it is necessary to measure wave power in icy waters,  and understand what influences the breakup of sea-ice. We have designed an autonomous sensor platform that survives crushing sea ice. Using accelerometers, inclinometers, GPS and a webcam, the movement of ice and water can be tracked remotely throughout the seasons. If you are interested in this type of technology please contact Matt Polaine [email protected]

Wavebuoy being deployed on sea ice


6. Remote survey of wildlife: UAVs

How can we survey wildlife without disturbing it? To assess ecosystem health and identify how population dynamics are affected by environmental change, we need to survey colonies without the animals being disturbed. Our multi-rotor UAVs are fitted with high resolution cameras that capture whole colonies quickly from a safe distance.

BAS staff deploying a UAV (small speck in sky) to monitor wildlife

Satellite images give us unprecedented access to large-scale information about wildlife that is difficult to survey. BAS scientists have developed algorithms to identify and count whales, penguins and large sea birds from satellite images. If you are interested in this type of technology please contact Matt Polaine [email protected]

7. Detecting boundary layers: Ice Radars

How can the boundaries between air, ice, water and rock be detected?  Answering this question allows us to determine how much freshwater is locked up in ice sheets and glaciers. For Antarctica and Greenland, this helps us predict maximal sea level rise through global warming. For the Himalayas and Andes, it underpins long-term water management and hydropower investment decisions.

Our lightweight, rugged time-of-flight radars detect the ice surface, the bedrock and the internal structure of the ice, allowing us to calculate ice volumes and the way the ice deforms.

Melting rates at the base of floating ice shelves help us predict how icesheets contribute to sea level rise.  Visibility of changes in groundwater levels underpin water management in arid regions. Our autonomous phase-sensitive radar can detect millimetre changes in layers that are tens to hundreds of metres thick. If you are interested in this type of technology please contact Matt Polaine [email protected]

8. Low power, low maintenance data collection

Much BAS research requires the ability to sustain data collection in harsh, remote environments. Our engineers develop ruggedised instruments with minimal power usage and maintenance requirements. If you are interested in this type of technology please contact Matt Polaine [email protected]

Instruments deployed remotely in the Antarctic have to survive the harshest conditions

Aurora Events

Events at Aurora British Antarctic Survey hosts events at its Aurora Innovation Centre in Cambridge to bring together thought leaders from industry, academia, and the entrepreneurial landscape. We focus on …

Aurora Membership

The Aurora Innovation Centre at the British Antarctic Survey headquarters in Cambridge features a Collaboration Space for members from business, academia, and policy who share our passion for natural resource …

Aurora Spaces

The new Aurora Innovation Centre at the British Antarctic Survey headquarters in Cambridge offers state-of-the-art conference and meeting facilities and exhibition spaces.  A key collaboration focus for Aurora is the …

Science Minister opens new Aurora Innovation Centre

21 July, 2017

The new Aurora Innovation Centre that will support cross-discipline research to tackle environmental challenges and increase the real-world benefit of polar research was officially opened today (Friday 21 July) by …


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