A company which is developing rocket technology powered by water has been shortlisted for an international award. URA Thrusters has been shortlisted in the top 50 finalists for the European Startup Prize for Mobility.

The company, based at Westcott Venture Park made the cut in the competition aimed at identifying Europe’s top clean mobility startups which attracted a record 700 entries.

Chief Operating Officer Emily Dingle said: “Electric and clean mobility has been a hot topic in the automotive and motor sectors in recent years. However, even more recently, the sector has been looking at how it can reduce the environmental impact of all modes of transportation, including air, sea and space.

“It is fantastic to have our efforts recognised and hopefully we can go further in the competition to highlight the extraordinary work we are carrying out in the UK space sector.”

The top 50 businesses will now demonstrate their technology in front of more than 50 European venture capitalists. The Top 10 will then benefit from a three-month remote acceleration and investment programme as well as benefiting from a pitch to the European Parliament in Brussels.

URA’s pioneering technology, developed in collaboration with the European Space Agency, was demonstrated earlier this year when it led a consortium of commercial enterprises and academics from the UK and Singapore to fire and operate a Hall Effect Thruster (HET) which is powered by oxygen and hydrogen produced from water electrolysis (AQUAHET).

HETs are small rocket engines widely used on spacecraft and usually operate on expensive gases such as xenon or krypton. The AQUAHET engine is designed to make rocket propulsion cheaper and more sustainable in future by using water electrolysis by-products as a propellant.

The company completed development of the old R Site at Westcott last year (renamed now as TESTA). The work was supported by Buckinghamshire Local Enterprise Partnership with a £250,000 Getting Building Fund grant towards the development of the thruster technology.

The Westcott Space Cluster business is now looking to commercialise the engine for use in the next generation of medium and larger satellites such as geostationary telecommunication platforms or exploration missions.