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Scotland accounts for one fifth of UK space workforce after jobs boost

Scotland has seen a boost in space jobs and now accounts for around one fifth of the UK space workforce, according to new figures released today by the UK Space Agency (UK Space Agency/PA Media)
Scotland has seen a boost in space jobs and now accounts for around one fifth of the UK space workforce, according to new figures released today by the UK Space Agency (UK Space Agency/PA Media)

Scotland has seen a boost in space jobs and now accounts for about one fifth of the UK space workforce, according to new data.

With the UK’s first vertical small satellite launches set to take place from Scottish spaceports, employment in the country’s space sector has grown by 737 in the last year, rising from 7,702 in 2019 to 8,440 in 2021.

The new figures, released by UK Space Agency, mean Scotland has the highest proportion of its population employed in the sector compared to any other part of the UK.

The agency said with 1,293 space organisations located across the UK, Scotland is responsible for 20% of the entire British space workforce.

And it said spaceports are likely to increase jobs further in the coming years, alongside the growth of international investment and emerging technologies, such as in-space manufacturing and debris removal.

Commenting on the figures, UK Government Minister for Scotland Iain Stewart said: “It’s not just space sector businesses that reap the rewards of this growth.

“Supply chains and workers across the country also stand to benefit.

“This is a hugely exciting time for the space sector in Scotland.”

In line with the UK Government’s commitment to increasing public and private R&D spending, investment in research and development saw a 19% boost to £836 million.

UK Science Minister George Freeman said the employment boost in the space sector, which he said is a £16.5 billion industry, is “promising in the face of global economic headwinds”.

He said: “We’re backing this innovative and resilient industry through the largest ever increase to R&D (research and development) 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.”

The figures published today come from the “Size and Health of the UK Space Industry 2021” survey, conducted by BryceTech on behalf of the UK Space Agency.

The report showed, when adjusted for inflation, the total income of the sector dropped marginally in real terms by 1.7% in 2020, compared to a 9.9% drop in the wider UK economy over the same period, caused predominantly by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Despite these challenges, data showed 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 survey also analysed UK space investments over the past decade, finding that 145 unique investors in 38 companies invested nearly £6 billion across 90 investment deals, between 2012 and 2021.

It highlighted a recent increase in this activity with the launch of the Seraphim Space Investment Trust in 2021, and a newly announced 50 million dollar (£38 million) space and tech fund from US venture capital firm, Type One, which has opened a UK office to manage ongoing investment and support early stage space companies.

Dr Paul Pate, chief executive of the UK Space Agency, added: “The UK space sector has shown 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.

“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.”

Despite the global impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, the survey showed employment across the wider UK space sector reached 46,995 in 2020, up from 44,040 in 2019, an increase of 2,955 (6.7%).

The report also found the overall sector income increased in nominal terms from £16.4 billion to £16.5 billion in 2020, and space manufacturing, including satellites, spacecraft, launch vehicles and scientific instruments, grew the most in real terms; up by £23 million to £2.27 billion.

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