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 offers exciting opportunities across the space sector, which is currently worth over £16.4 billion per year to the UK economy and employs 45,100 people.
With the global space economy projected to reach £490 billion by 2030, the UK has published a National Space Strategy. The Prime Minister has committed to a plan “that will see us take a leading role on the international stage, Global Britain becoming Galactic Britain”.
The UK wants to further develop its space sector by encouraging more businesses, researchers, and innovators to come here, and supporting access for UK-based companies to international markets.
A robust market
The UK has existing areas of commercial and technical expertise which the government continues to support and develop. The UK is globally renowned in the manufacture of spacecraft and highly complex payloads, with a particular strength in small satellites. It is also a leader in the ground-based manufacture and services for high-end navigation systems and satellite communications.
The country’s thriving professional services can support space companies from startups to large primes throughout their lifecycle, from partner nations all around the world in a variety of sub-sectors.
The National Space Strategy identifies future focuses and opportunities over the next decade that the UK will be well placed to capitalize on, across civil and defence space. This includes include satellite enabled broadband, in-orbit servicing and manufacturing, space-based energy, and more. With a commercially led approach, the UK will help companies flourish through innovative regulation, on hand business support, and unique international partnerships.
Global Britain is promoting and attracting investment into all parts of our space sector. The UK has committed to incorporating space trade arrangements in its future Free Trade Agreements, alongside the development of innovative partnerships such as the UK-Australia Space Bridge.
We have relationships with key international spacefaring partners and organisations, such as the USA, Japan, India, the United Arab Emirates and the European Space Agency. This allows the UK to act as a base for companies from around the world to expand and operate from as part of a wider international community.
Our well-developed space economy is worth £16.4 billion. To support this, the UK champions businesses, researchers, and innovators across nearly all sub-sectors of space. Providing a commercially led and supportive approach, the UK is leading the world in modern space regulation. It is designed to cater for a range of current and future spaceflight and satellite technology, with flexibility to support the pace of innovation safely.
The UK will soon host the full range of end-to-end space services including:
- a strong science and technology development base
- satellite design, manufacturing, and operation
- financing and insurance
- downstream analytics
- a space launch capability
Only the most advanced spacefaring economies have all of this.
Key UK assets
Regions across the UK offer exciting opportunities for the space industry:
Leicester is home to a cluster of space technology companies and major new developments. With various assets such as the University of Leicester and Space Park Leicester, the region boasts close academic ties and access to a rich pipeline of talent as well as a range of facilities for R&D.
With around 7,000 employees, Scotland is one of the biggest employment clusters in the UK for space related industries, building on its strong scientific heritage and small satellite manufacturing history. The £45 million Bayes Centre is home to world-class data science and artificial intelligence, complementing the region’s wider excellence in data analytics.
South of England
Harwell is a large space cluster in the South of England with a thriving ecosystem, offering unique access to national facilities and private and public funding organisations. It is home to a £105 million National Satellite Test Facility, and the headquarters of the pioneering Satellite Applications Catapult. Harwell has proven to be an effective incubator for small startups, hosting over 100 space companies in this cluster alone.
Wales offers a compelling location for horizontal launch activities, renown capabilities in photonics and a dedicated compound semiconductors cluster supported by a number of state-of-the-art research facilities.
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.
A variety of R&D support is available from funding to partnerships. For example, 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 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.
Business and government support
The UK’s National Space Strategy sets clear vision and priorities for government to deliver on, including to grow and level up our space economy.
To create a national space ecosystem, the government provides support for business growth, such as a £374 million per year contribution to the European Space Agency. The UK is also upskilling SMEs to become first-time exporters, through the Space Sector Export Academy.
The UK Innovation Strategy has led to legislation for the establishment of the Advanced Research and Invention Agency. In alignment with the Defence and Security Industrial Strategy and building on the success of the National Space Innovation Programme, this will support new technologies and tackle societal and global challenges.
Astroscale is a world-leading end-of-life service provider offering a spacecraft retrieval service for satellite operators. The company established in Japan in 2013 and moved to Harwell, Oxfordshire in 2017.
Astroscale shares the UK and United Nations vision for the safe and sustainable development of space. By preventing the hazardous build-up of debris in space, Astroscale plays a valuable role in the UK’s determination for a clean future in space.
SatixFy is a market leader in connectivity and Internet of Things. The company builds complete products and systems based on advanced in-house technology and mobile applications. The company moved to the UK in 2016 and is now based in Farnborough and Manchester.
The UK hosts a range of high-tech testing facilities and competitive R&D programmes - SatixFy are exemplars, pushing the boundaries of innovation to design next-generation satellite communication systems.
Deimos provides a broad range of capabilities aligned to the UK National Space Strategy, including earth observation applications, precision navigation and timing and space domain awareness. Established in 2013, Deimos UK is a subsidiary of the Spanish company Elecnor Deimos.
Deimos works closely with UK government and the Satellite Applications Catapult to sustain clean growth. Examples include helping the wind farm industry to generate safer and more affordable green energy.