Summary Report: The Size & Health of the UK Space Industry (2016)


The 2016 edition of the Size and Health of the UK Space Industry makes a number of notable improvements, ensuring greater coverage, and more accurate measurement than ever before. The analysis is based on 697 UK-based space-related organisations.

The series of studies, titled the Size and Health of the UK Space Industry, represents the definitive source of information on the UK space sector. As such, it is used by the Agency to track growth and developments in the industry, identifying emerging trends and any limiting constraints on performance. These insights play an important role in shaping UK space policy and targeting support to industry in reaching the ambition of attaining 10% of the global space-enabled market by 2030.

Geographical scope

United Kingdom

Non-quantified impacts

  • The industry is concentrated, with 19 organisations accounting for 89% of total industry income.
  • Aggregating across all activities, Broadcasting dominates (56% of total UK space industry income) followed by Communications (20%) and Position, Navigation and Timing (12%). There is positive evidence of diversification, as the income share of Broadcasting is down from 63% in 2012/13.
  • The industry is commercially-focused, generating just 13.9% of its income from the public sector (Space Agencies 3.1%, Government agencies 10.8%) – low compared to the global average (24%) – with sales to consumers (54%) and businesses (32%) dominating.
  • Total direct employment in the UK space industry increased at a rate of 6.0% per annum to 38,522 jobs in 2014/15 (0.12% of the total UK workforce), and a total employment supported of 113,866.
  • All thirteen UK regions are home to headquarters of space organisations, though industrial sites, and thus employment, are concentrated in London, South East and East of England, and Scotland.
  • The space industry workforce is exceptionally highly-skilled, with 3 in 4 employees holding at least a primary degree – higher than any sector covered by ONS Census data for England and Wales.
  • The industry is R&D intensive – with 8.1% of direct GVA invested in R&D – over 6.5 times higher than the UK average. R&D expenditure in 2014/15 stood at GBP 415m or about 3.0% of total income in the industry, with the Space Manufacturing the most R&D-intensive segment.
  • Economic uncertainty is the most prevalent barrier for the largest number of respondents, with 43% of respondents selecting economic uncertainty (two-thirds of responses came after the EU referendum). However, there is encouraging optimism with respect to near-term income growth (7 in 10 respondents) and job growth (6 in 10 respondents) – especially from larger space organisations.
  • It is estimated that wider UK industrial activities representing over GBP 250 billion of UK non-financial business economy GDP (13.8%) is supported by satellite services as follows (not mutually exclusive):
  • GNSS (positioning, navigation and timing) satellite services support GBP 206 billion of GDP (11.3%)
    • Meteorological satellite services support GBP 169 billion of GDP (9.3%).
    • Telecommunication satellite services support GBP 117 billion of GDP (6.4%).
    • Earth Observation satellite services support GBP 89 billion of GDP (4.9%).

Quantifiable impacts

  • Total income of the UK space industry grew to GBP 13.7 billion in 2014/15, although growth slowed to a measured rate of 6.5% per annum. This is equivalent to 6.5% of the global space economy in 2014/15, with evidence of steady progress towards the 10% ambition (if currency fluctuations are stripped out).
  • The upstream segment is larger than previous years at GBP 1.7 billion, though the downstream segment remains dominant at GBP 12.0 billion in 2014/15. Space Applications is by far the largest segment (74% of total income), driven by Direct-To-Home broadcasting (GBP 7.1 billion), followed by Space Operations (15%), Space Manufacturing (8%) and Ancillary Services (3%).
  • Exports grew to GBP 5.0 billion in 2014/15, or 36.4% of total income (up from 31.0% in 2012/13) – almost 30% higher than the UK economy. The share increases to 69% if DTH is filtered out (60% in 2012/13). The most important export market is the Rest of Europe, increasing to 49% of total exports.
  • The industry directly contributed GBP 5.1 billion Gross Value-Added to UK economic output (0.27% of total UK GDP), and a total of GBP 10.0 billion (including effects on the supply chain) in 2014/15.
  • The UK space industry’s labour productivity (calculated as average GVA per employee) stands at GBP 133,233 – 2.7 times the UK’s average labour productivity in 2014.



Study type

Survey responses and desk-based research

Economy sector

Education, Infrastructure (Transport), Infrastructure (ICT), Public Safety and Security, Retail