unusual view from a satelitte

Space companies up by a quarter as region’s space sector takes off

Oxfordshire’s Harwell Space Cluster and the Oxford to Cambridge Arc have helped drive growth in the space sector in the region, a new report shows.

The number of space-related organisations in the South East has grown by 25%, from 368 to 460, with 325 of them having their head quarters in the area, up from 269. The number of people in the region employed in the space sector has gone from 9,023 to 10,475 – an increase of 16%.

The findings come from the latest ‘Size and Health of the UK Space Industry’ report, commissioned by the UK Space Agency, which has an office at Harwell.

 Science Minister Amanda Solloway said:

“Oxford is renowned worldwide as a centre of excellence in space – and the sector is at the heart of the government’s plan for jobs and growth.  We’ll keep working with space companies large and small to push the frontiers of science and exploration as we build back better from the pandemic.”

Harwell Space Cluster is home to more than 100 companies, employing over 1,100 people. It is Europe’s most concentrated space cluster and is on track to reach its ambitious target of 200 organisations collectively employing 5,000 people by 2030. It includes the Satellite Applications Catapult and the European Centre for Space Applications and Telecommunications (ECSAT) which has over 100 people drawn from ESA’s Member States.  Harwell is also home to the UK’s STFC RAL Space facility with over 300 staff and which is currently building the £105m National Satellite Test Facility on behalf of the UK Government and is which due to be operational in 2022.The Oxford to Cambridge Arc boasts space expertise across it entire breadth – including the National Propulsion Test Facility at Westcott, Buckinghamshire and the Open University in Milton Keynes.

 Joanna Hart from the Science and Technology Facilities Council and Harwell Space Cluster Development Manager said:

“It’s great to see the positive results in the latest Size and Health of the UK Space Industry report. Harwell Space Cluster showcases the impressive capability from across the UK space sector, bringing together leading space technology companies with national facilities and expertise to support innovation and drive growth.

“The unique concentration of space activity alongside Harwell’s Energy and Health technology Clusters has created a fertile environment for disruptive technologies, attracting international customers and collaborators to Harwell.”

The latest statistics show that in 2018/19, compared to the previous survey from 2016/17, income from the space sector in the South East is now worth £2.9 billion, which is 18% of the total income from the space sector across the whole of the UK, which stands at £16.4 billion. Previously the South East accounted for 16% of the sector’s income.

The 10,475 employed in the South East space sector means 23% of the UK’s space sector workforce is working in the region, up from 21%.

Dr Graham Turnock, Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency, said: 

“The UK is already a world leader in small satellite technology and applications, telecommunications, robotics and Earth observation, while British universities and facilities like Harwell, are some of the best in the world.

“It is fantastic to see our innovative space sector investing in the future through increased commitment to research and development – and to see more and more jobs being created in this exciting industry.”

 Transport Minister Rachel Maclean said: 

“Today’s findings highlight the exciting growth we’re seeing in the UK space sector, with significant investment and research helping to create thousands of new jobs.

“The UK is leading the way in this field with more companies carrying out space-related activity than ever before. We’ll continue to do everything we can to support this exciting area, as the Government expands its ambitions for spaceflight.”

The statistics show that across the UK:

  • Income has risen from £15.6 billion to £16.4 billion, representing growth of 5.7% (or 2.8% per annum) in real terms
  • Employment is up by 3,200 from 41,900 to 45,100
  • R&D investment now sits at £702m, up 18% and 5 times the national average intensity
  • Gross Value Added is up from £6 billion to £6.6 billion, representing growth of 10.1% (or 5.0% per annum)
  • Over £360 billion worth of wider UK economic activity is now supported by satellites, up from £300 billion

In a boost to the government’s target of investing 2.4% of GDP in research and development by 2027, the survey shows the UK space sector investing increasing sums in new ideas and technologies. R&D spending is up 18% in real terms from £595 million in 2016/17 to £702 million in 2018/19. As a proportion of Gross Value Added (GVA), this is 5 times the national average.

The UK Space Agency’s Spaceflight Programme aims to establish commercial vertical and horizontal small satellite launch from UK spaceports from 2022, providing a further boost for the sector. Growing the UK’s launch capability will also help bring new jobs and economic benefits to communities and organisations right across the UK, as well as inspiring the next generation of space scientists and engineers.

The space sector also has an exceptionally skilled workforce, with 3 in 4 (77%) employees holding at least a primary degree, while employee productivity remains 2.6 times that of the national average.

For the first time the ‘Size and Health of the UK Space Industry’ looked at the diversity of the industry. More than one in three employees are female.

The UK Space Agency is working to embed space as a fundamental part of the UK economy and society, unlocking new markets and technologies for the benefit of everyone in the UK.

The Size and Health of the UK Space Industry is the UK’s definitive source of information on the UK space sector, based on a survey of UK organisations who supply or use space or satellite services. All 2016/17 values have been adjusted to bring them in line with 2018/19 prices.