Despite global impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic, 3,000 new jobs have been created in the UK space sector in one year.
According to new figures released today (13 April 2022), demonstrate that employment in the UK space sector has risen 6.7% with 46,995 in 2020, up from 44,040 in 2019, thus displaying an increase of 2,955 new UK space jobs.
Additionally, sector income has increased in nominal terms from £16.4bn to £16.5bn, with exports counting for around a third (32%) of this total. Space manufacturing, including satellites, spacecraft, launch vehicles, and scientific instruments, grew rapidly up by £23m to £2.27bn. Following the UK Government’s commitment to increase public and private R&D spending, investment in research and development revealed a 19% boost to £836m.
Expanding the UK space sector
Levelling up the space sector is a key priority for the UK Space Agency. As a result, there are now 1,293 space organisations located across the UK, with Scotland responsible for around one fifth of the entire UK space workforce. Employment in the sector grew from 7,703 to 8,440 in Scotland, from 415 to 1,109 in Wales, and from 113 to 431 in Northern Ireland.
Spaceports in Scotland, Wales, and England are anticipated to generate more space jobs in the coming years, alongside the growth of regional space clusters, international investment, and emerging technologies, such as in-space manufacturing and debris removal that is supported by the National Space Strategy.
“The £16.5bn space sector is a major contributor to a strong and secure UK economy, and it is promising to see it generate thousands of new high-skilled jobs in the face of global economic headwinds,” Science Minister George Freeman commented. “We are backing this innovative and resilient industry through the largest ever increase to R&D spending, which includes a significant uplift to the UK Space Agency’s budget, and the delivery of the UK’s first National Space Strategy.
“As we support new SpaceTech clusters from Spaceports in Cornwall and Scotland to satellite manufacturing and robotics from Glasgow to Warwick to Stevenage, this will help level-up the UK. Looking ahead to the first satellite launches from the UK this year, this is an exciting time for this high growth sector up and down the country.”
Confidence in space sector despite pandemic impacts
When adjusted for inflation, the total income of the sector marginally dropped in real terms by 1.7% in 2020, compared to a 9.9% drop in the wider UK economy over the same period, which was caused predominantly by the Covid-19 pandemic. Additionally, fewer live sports broadcasts had a negative impact on satellite broadcasting services, while travel restrictions temporarily reduced demand for mobile satellite services from maritime companies and airlines.
Despite these challenges, confidence within the sector remains high, with more than three-quarters (79%) of organisations predicting a rise in income over the next three years, 74% expecting further increases in employment, and more than half (53%) expecting growth in space exports.
“The UK space sector has shown a remarkable resilience in the face of challenges presented by the pandemic, thanks to the incredible efforts of all those within it, and its future is a bright and ambitious one,” said Dr Paul Bate, CEO of the UK Space Agency.
“We continue to work closely with partners across the industry, with academia and our colleagues across government to catalyse further investment, deliver new space capabilities and missions, and champion space for the good of humanity. This will help us overcome challenges, drive forward the pace of innovation and bring tangible benefits to people and businesses.”
Space investments to increase space jobs
The survey also analysed UK space investments over the past decade, discovering that 145 unique investors in 38 companies invested approximately £6bn across 90 investment deals, between 2012 and 2021.
There has also been a recent increase in this activity with the launch of the Seraphim Space Investment Trust in 2021, and a newly announced $50m space and tech fund from US venture capital firm, Type One. Following the success of funding for Wales-based Space Forge last year, Type One has opened a UK office to manage ongoing investment and support early-stage space companies in the UK and Europe.