The UK’s space sector is fast growing, globally competitive, and increasingly important to all parts of our economy, national security, and everyday life. The UK will stay ahead of the curve as new technologies emerge, whether that is quantum, AI or nuclear technologies, ensuring space acts as a vital component to enabling those technologies to deliver.

  • £788 million: The estimated spend on space-related R&D in 2020/2021¹
  • 2nd: The UK's global ranking for private space investment.²
  • £17 billion: The space sector in the UK is already worth and employs almost 50,000 people.

With such a developed space sector, it’s only natural that the UK possesses an impressive research & development capacity. Top-tier universities help drive R&D with the assistance of the Satellite Applications Catapult, who connect academia with industry and stimulate the commercialisation of innovative space technology.

The UK Government has a clear mission - to make the UK the most innovative economy in the world. The UK space industry is one of the engines for economic growth and a clear representation of the government's ambition to cement the UK’s status as a Science and Technology ‘Superpower’ by 2030.

Research and Development Support Available

A variety of R&D support is available from funding to partnerships. For example, the UK Government offers R&D tax credits and access to innovation-themed grants. The UK’s global Science & Innovation Network also helps UK-based researchers collaborate with international partners on mutually advantageous technologies, such as with Australia under the UK-Australia Space Bridge. The positive climate for research and innovation saw the expenditure of £702 million space-related R&D in 2019.

The UK government has a strong partnership with the European Space Agency (ESA), investing a record £1.84 billion over the next five year. Through the UK Space Agency, the Government is investing £50 million into a new Space Clusters and Infrastructure Fund. This will see up to £100 million of matched investment from the private sector; building, connecting, and levelling up UK space R&D infrastructure.

In February 2023, the UK government announced £5 million in funding to 18 'regional cluster' projects which will help the UK space economy to grow and level up.

The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory provide industry with an interface to develop science and technology with the UK’s Ministry of Defence, bridging the gap between civil and defence space to protect our national security interests.

Find out more about the space sector in the UK by visiting the space sector page on the Department for International Trade's Investment Atlas.

Size and Health of the UK Space Industrydownload PDFopens in a new tab (3.6 MB)

National Space Strategy - download PDFopens in a new tab (3.2 MB)

The Case for Space - download PDFopens in a new tab (13.4 MB)

A few notable UK assets and news include:

Space in Leicester and Leicestershire

Image of a satellite orbiting the earth

The UK space sector is worth £16.4 billion, and satellites underpin £360 billion per year of wider economic activity. With more than 50 years of history and innovation, the UK has outperformed most nations in developing a modern space industry, and its companies are global leaders.

Leicester is driving new growth and is home to Space Park Leicester, a cluster for research, enterprise and education in space and Earth observation. It draws on the region's centres of excellence to exploit space-enabled data, develop skills for the space industry and provide low-cost access to space and satellites.

Research and expertise

From fundamental research to commercialisation, Leicester and Leicestershire have everything to take your technologies from concept to market, including product accelerators ESA Business Incubation Centre (BIC) UK, SPRINT (SPace Research and Innovation Network for Technology), STAR (Space Technology Applications from Research) and the Space Commercialisation Engine from The Satellite Applications Catapult.

Astronaut Tim Peake

Pictured: British astronaut Tim Peake, who formally launched Space Park Leicester in March 2022

Space Park Leicesteropens in a new tab’s combination of facilities – including laboratories, workshops, cleanrooms, a concurrent design facility and a virtual reality cave – will provide an essential support infrastructure to those collaborating on research and development projects.

Companies based at Space Park Leicester will be plugged in to the UK’s wider space ecosystem including launch expertise in Scotland and Cornwall.

Contact our specialists who can help you find the right investment for your business.

Here at the Department for Business and Trade, we can help you find the right conditions to catalyse your R&D. Our investment advisors are on standby to talk through your expansions plans and discuss how the UK could be a great fit for your business.

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