Space jobs in Wales double as employment in the sector increases in the UK
Space jobs in Wales have more than doubled in the last financial year, according to new figures released today by the UK Space Agency.
With a Welsh-built satellite set to lift off later this year in the UK’s first-ever small satellite launch, new figures show employment in the space sector in Wales rose by 694 from from 415 in 2019 to 1,109 in 2020.
Upgrading the space sector is a key priority for the UK Space Agency and there are now 1,293 space organizations located across the UK. Spaceports in Scotland, Wales and England are expected to further increase jobs in the coming years, alongside the growth of regional space clusters, international investment and emerging technologies, such as space manufacturing and debris removal, supported by the National Space Strategy.
Despite the global impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, employment across the UK space sector reached 46,995 in 2020, up from 44,040 in 2019, an increase of 2,955 (6.7%).
The sector’s overall revenue increased in nominal terms from £16.4 billion to £16.5 billion in 2020. Space manufacturing, including satellites, spacecraft, launch vehicles and scientific instruments , increased the most in real terms; up £23m to £2.27bn.
In line with the UK government’s commitment to increase public and private spending on R&D, investment in research and development increased by 19% to £836 million.
Secretary of State for Wales, Simon Hart, said:
It is very promising to see employment in this sector in Wales more than doubling to over 1,000 highly skilled and well paid jobs. And with the launch of a Welsh-made satellite, I am confident that this growth will only continue.
We are seeing an upgrade in practice here. Thanks to the UK government’s investment in R&D, we can ensure that prosperity spreads across the country and, importantly, right here in Wales.
Science Minister George Freeman said:
The £16.5billion space sector is a major contributor to a strong and secure UK economy, and it is promising to see it generate thousands of new, highly skilled jobs in the face of headwinds in the global economy.
We are supporting this innovative and resilient industry with the biggest ever increase in R&D spending, which includes a significant increase in the UK Space Agency’s budget and the implementation of the UK’s first National Space Strategy.
With the prospect of the first satellite launches from the UK this year, this is an exciting time for this fast-growing sector across the country.
The figures released today come from the ‘Size and Health of the UK Space Industry 2021’ survey, conducted by BryceTech on behalf of the UK space agency.
Confidence in the face of global challenges
Adjusted for inflation, the sector’s total income fell slightly in real terms by 1.7% in 2020, compared to a decline of 9.9% in the wider UK economy over the same period, mainly caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. The decline in live sports broadcasts has had a negative impact on satellite broadcast services, while travel restrictions have temporarily reduced demand for mobile satellite services from shipping companies and airlines.
Despite these challenges, confidence within the sector remains high, with more than three-quarters (79%) of organizations expecting revenue to increase over the next three years, 74% expecting further increases in employment and more than half (53%) expect growth in space exports.
Dr Paul Pate, CEO of the UK Space Agency, said:
The UK space sector has shown remarkable resilience in the face of the challenges posed by the pandemic, thanks to the incredible efforts of all who are part of it, and its future is bright and ambitious.
We continue to work closely with partners across industry, with academia and our colleagues in government to catalyze new investments, deliver new space capabilities and missions, and champion space for the good of humanity. This will help us overcome challenges, accelerate the pace of innovation and bring tangible benefits to people and businesses.
The survey also analyzed UK space investment over the past decade, revealing that 145 unique investors in 38 companies invested nearly £6bn in 90 investment deals, between 2012 and 2021.
There has been a recent increase in this activity with the launch of the Seraphim Space Investment Trust in 2021 and a $50 million space and technology fund recently announced by US venture capital firm Type One.
Following the success of its funding round for Wales-based Space Forge last year, Type One has opened a UK office to manage ongoing investments and support start-up space businesses in the UK and in Europe.
In March, Space Forge announced an agreement with Virgin Orbit to launch its first satellite from Spaceport Cornwall in 2022. Space Forge is based in Cardiff and develops new technologies designed to enable manufacturing in space.
Will Whitehorn, Chairman of UKspace, said:
UKspace is delighted to see that, despite the many challenges faced by all industries over the past two years, opportunities in the space sector have continued to grow.
We see among our members evidence of exciting new ventures, important collaborations and the development of projects that provide benefits to all of society.
The space sector has the ability to improve the lives of people around the world, and this report demonstrates that the UK is at the forefront of this movement.
Kevin Craven, ADS Group Managing Director, said:
This report highlights the significant and important contribution that the space sector makes to the UK.
The UK has major strengths and capabilities, particularly in satellite technology and manufacturing, which, underpinned by the National Space Strategy and the Defense Space Strategy, support the sector’s bright, long-term future.
2022 will be an exciting year for space and advancing projects, such as the UK’s first vertical spaceport, will enable and support regional prosperity and increased jobs in this thriving sector.
Howard Nye FRAeS, President of the Royal Aeronautical Society, said:
Given the reliance of modern societies on space infrastructure and services, both civil and defence, and the high return to the UK economy from public investment in space technologies and systems, this report provides strong evidence of the UK’s continued determination to remain a key player both as the fourth largest contributor to the European Space Agency, as well as in partnership with its allies around the world.
The report also provides clear evidence of the UK Government’s call to improve employment opportunities across the UK, which must continue by encouraging young people to enter the space field.