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Britain puts

The British government yesterday committed up to £86m towards the cost of developing Europe’s own global positioning and navigation system, Galileo.

Patricia Hewitt, trade and industry secretary, said Galileo, approved late last month after the British finally overcame their reservations, could create up to 1,000 jobs in the UK and maintain Britain’s “leading edge expertise in space technology”.

The £2.1bn programme is designed to offer a European and primarily civilian alternative to the dominant American global positioning system (GPS) which has been developed largely for military purposes.

Galileo, initially based on 30 satellites will pinpoint the locations of users such as car drivers and airline pilots to within a metre, compared with the 100 metres now on offer from GPS.

Ms Hewitt said the transport department and her own officials wanted, as did Germany and Italy, to fund a quarter of Galileo’s cost and secure the same proportion of work on the programme.

This emerged as Chris Patten, Brussels’ external affairs commissioner, said the EU was talking to Russia, China and others about joining Galileo.