UK space industry grows faster than rest of the world
Proactive Investors – The UK space sector has grown at a faster past than the rest of the world, according to new government figures that show income from the industry increased £1bn to £17.5bn last year with £635mln of investment attracted.
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While the industry was criticised for its “toxic” reputation after the rocket failure by Virgin Orbit in January, it saw the second fastest annual growth in the last seven years and compared to 1.6% growth for the global space industry and a decline of 7.6% for the wider UK economy.
The investment in UK-headquartered space companies was received by 34 identified deals, with acquisitions accounting for three-quarters of the total investment value but 15% of deals as venture capital represented the bulk of the volume of investment.
Space organisations in the UK mushroomed 23% to 1,590 during the year, with 1,590 organisations conducting space-related activities added to this year’s report compiled by know.space, which included 29 newly incorporated companies, 309 organisations newly recognised as space specialists, and 41 exits.
The 309 newly recognised organisations include those which traditionally were not focused on space, those not identified previously editions due to a lack of public presence or their small size, with this group contributing £208mln of total income.
Earlier this month, the UK space regulator noted that it has granted 286 space licences since taking on the role, including to Spaceport Cornwall and Virgin Orbit, and that there are currently a further 38 applications “in the pipeline” from aspiring spaceport, launch and satellite operators.
The activities that saw the most significant growth included direct-to-home broadcasting at £592mln, supply of user equipment at £405mln satellite operations at £275mln, mobile satellite communication services at £128mln, third-party ground segment operations at 149% growth, space surveillance & tracking at 135% and legal % financial services at 106%.
A survey on the outlook over the next three years for the sector revealed economic uncertainty was the most prevalent obstacle to commercial success in the industry, at 51% of respondents, closely followed by limitations on EU programme involvement (49%) and recruiting staff (46%).
But three out of five expect income to be higher in the coming three years, of which 39% expect much higher income, while half expect higher investment.
Increased exports was expected by three out of 10, while one out of 10 anticipated a drop.
UK Space Agency chief executive Dr Paul Bate said the increase in income and the level of investment “shows the confidence of investors and businesses in the UK space sector”.
He added: “World-class satellite manufacturing, science and technology expertise have ensured the UK plays a key role in major international missions, and we are increasing our national capabilities in fast-growing areas.”
Goonhilly Earth Station in Cornwall was cited as an example, having supported NASA’s Artemis 1 lunar mission with telecommand provided for six of the microsatellites on board, along with ongoing work with the European Space Agency and the privately launched iSpace Kahuto-R lunar lander.
Michelle Donelan, the secretary of state for science, innovation and technology, said “the government is committed to supporting this high-growth sector, boosting the UK’s reputation as a growing space power, and inspiring the next generation of professionals”.