UK’s ‘biggest space cluster’ could boost burgeoning domestic industry

The UK’s “biggest space cluster” has been formed from a partnership of research institutes and businesses operating in Surrey and Hampshire.

It is hoped the cluster, named Space South Central, will boost the UK’s space industry through investment in new technologies, research, satellite applications and mission capabilities.

The grouping is formed from more than 120 academic institutions, private companies and public sector organisations. Its announcement comes less than a week after Skyrora opened the UK’s largest rocket-building facility to date.

Dr Paul Bate, CEO of the UK Space Agency, said: “This network will not only provide new routes of access and support for established space organisations in the region, but it will help create more opportunities for groups and individuals inspired by STEM to find their way into a rewarding space career.

“Space South Central exemplifies the vision set out in the National Space Strategy of a sector working together across the country to showcase UK skills and capabilities, catalyse investment, and enhance our international reputation as a hub of expertise and innovation.”

The South-East is currently responsible for 25 per cent (£4.2bn) of all UK space-related income, with Surrey and Hampshire, the area covered by Space South Central, possibly accounting for as much as £3bn of reported national space-related turnover.

Over 5,600 people work in the space sector in the two counties, with expertise across the whole spectrum of space activity.

Space South Central claims it will help to accelerate space business growth in the region by fostering an environment that encourages innovation.

Sam Adlen, chief strategy officer (CSO) at the Satellite Applications Catapult, said: “We’re delighted to support the launch of the Space South Central partnership and to help facilitate the continued growth of the space industry in the region.

“Surrey and Hampshire are already home to numerous innovative space organisations and institutions, and we look forward to playing our part in the further development of the region’s growing space community.”

Surrey and Hampshire firms already have significant capabilities established in satellite manufacture, launch technologies, next-generation communications, robotics and autonomous systems, as well as a range of satellite data-enabled service capabilities.

The organisations making up the new cluster currently generate approximately £1.64bn of export revenue and £65m in foreign direct investment annually.

Keith Robson, interim head of the Space South Central partnership, said: “There’s global competition to capture business in the space sector, and this strong partnership of regional authorities, business and academic institutions will ensure we’re at the forefront, making our mark and attracting investment to the region.

“Surrey and Hampshire together have an amazing existing hub of science and technology skills and expertise, along with the pioneering spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship which defines our region’s space sector. Space South Central will amplify those capabilities.”

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