The south west of England’s thriving space sector has given a boost to jobs in the region, according to a new report.

From Bristol to Newquay, the south west is recognising and capitalising upon its space potential.

The South West Centre of Excellence in Satellite Applications, supported by the Satellite Applications Catapult and UK Space Agency, is driving growth in the applications sector – with a focus on eHealth & eWellbeing, marine & maritime, mining and natural capital.

Building upon this success, last year the UK Space Agency supported a consortium led by the West of England Combined Authority to develop plans for a new space hub for Bath & North East Somerset, Bristol and South Gloucestershire.

The number of space organisations in the region is up 28%, from 173 to 222 – of those 125 have their headquarters in the region, up from 99. The number of people employed in the south west’s space sector is up 35%, from 1,333 to 1,799, while income from the space sector in the south west is now £231 million.

The findings come from the latest ‘Size and Health of the UK Space Industry’ report, commissioned by the UK Space Agency.

Science Minister Amanda Solloway said: “With exciting plans for the first satellite launches in 2022, Cornwall is at the heart of the new international space race.

“As we level up Britain, the Government is proud to back the many space companies who have made their home in Cornwall – and we’ll deliver the investment, international connections and modern regulations they need to drive sustainable growth in the region.”

The latest statistics cover 2018/19, compared to the previous survey from 2016/17.

Dr Graham Turnock, Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency, added:  “The UK is already a world leader in small satellite technology and applications, telecommunications, robotics and Earth observation, while British universities are some of the best in the world for space science.

“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.”

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 five 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.