The UK space sector is fostering a small business boom

Size and Health of the UK Space Industry 2021 report. Credit: UK Space Agency.

The UK Space Agency recently released its Size and Health of the UK Space Industry 2021 report which shows the growth of businesses involved in the space sector has quadrupled since 2014, growing from 303 organizations to 1293 in 2021, most of those small businesses.

The annual report was compiled by consulting firm BryceTech. In it, Bryce reports that the UK space industry income was £16.5 billion (CAD $27.1B) in 2019/20. This represent a slight “decrease in real terms (inflation adjusted) from the £16.8 billion reported in 2018/19.” Like Canada, the UK has seen flat growth over the past several years. For the UK, that flat growth started in 2016 with “compound annual growth rate across the 2016- 2020 period of -0.12%.”

Chart 3.4. Long-term UK space industry income, 2000/01–2020/21 (est.) in 2019/20 prices (£m). Source: BryceTech analysis, previous Size and Health reports.
Chart 3.4. Long-term UK space industry income, 2000/01–2020/21 (est.) in 2019/20 prices (£m). Source: BryceTech analysis, previous Size and Health reports.

While there are some similarities with the Canadian space industry, there are also some notable differences.

In terms of similarities, in Canada satellite communications income was 83% of total space revenue and revenues have been decreasing. The same type of decrease is happening in the UK, primarily in the direct-to-home television (DTH) segment.

Like Canada, the lions share of income comes from only a handful of organizations. Specifically, “nine organisations accounting for 81% of total space-related income. A further 130 organisations each earn in excess of £5 million and contribute the next 16% of income, whilst an additional 1,154 organisations account for the remaining 3%.”

Some notable differences include the growth of new organizations joining the sector, employment growth, and more recently venture capital investment.

With respect to employment, BryceTech reports that “estimated employment in the UK space industry rose 6.7%, from 44,040 to 46,995 … with total space employment increasing by 62% since 2010/11.” That’s impressive.

After years of building up the narrative and opportunities available in the UK space sector, it seems investors are now buying into the governments narrative. According to BryceTech in the last decade “145 unique investors invested nearly £6 billion (CAD $9.85B) in 38 companies across 90 investment deals. This places the UK as the second largest attractor of private investment in emerging space companies in the world.” Of course it should be noted that 70% of the nearly £6 billion invested went to OneWeb.

Chart 7.1. Total invested (all deals), by year. Credit: BryceTech analysis.

Chart 7.1. Total invested (all deals), by year. Credit: BryceTech analysis.

The report provides for essential reading to compare the current state of the UK space industry versus Canada and other nations.

Chart 2.2. UK space industry income by segment and activity, 2019/20. Credit: BryceTech.
Chart 2.2. UK space industry income by segment and activity, 2019/20. Credit: BryceTech analysis.

Read or download the Size and Health of the UK Space Industry 2021 report

20220412_BryceTech_UKSA_S_H_Summary_Report

About Marc Boucher

Boucher is an entrepreneur, writer, editor & publisher. He is the founder of SpaceQ Media Inc. and CEO and co-founder of SpaceRef Interactive LLC. Boucher has 20 years working in various roles in the space industry and a total of 30 years as a technology entrepreneur including creating Maple Square, Canada's first internet directory and search engine.

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