At the heart of the Thames Valley is Harwell Campus, the gateway to the UK space sector. The Harwell Space Cluster benefits from the presence of leading public space organisations, including the European Space Agency, RAL Space, Satellite Applications Catapult and UK Space Agency. Harwell is also home to the Science & Technology Facilities Council, with over £2 billion of infrastructure for both public and private research and development.
Global space companies such as Airbus Defence & Space, Lockheed Martin and Thales Alenia Space have established a presence at Harwell, with activities ranging from the design of propulsion subsystems to satellite navigation systems. These are joined by a range of SMEs from start-ups in the European Space Agency Business Incubation Centre to rapidly growing companies such as Oxford Space Systems, Deimos Space UK, Rezatec and NDA.
The Harwell Space Cluster is part of the UK strategy to increase its share of the rapidly expanding world space market to 10% by 2030. The UK Space market was worth £16.5bn to the economy in 2019/20 and has tripled in size since 2000. The UK Space sector already provides 47,000 jobs and directly contributes £6.9 billion GVA to UK GDP.
Harwell Campus is home to over £2 billion of scientific facilities and 6,000 skilled people. To drive collaboration and knowledge sharing, ‘clusters’ have been developed in Space, Healthcare Technology (HealthTec) and Energy (EnergyTec). Each cluster brings together co-located industry, academia and the public sector with investors and entrepreneurs, leading to a powerful combination to tackle global challenges.
The Space Cluster exemplifies the vision of Harwell as a nexus of ideas and an engine for innovation across discipline boundaries.
Dr Barbara Ghinelli, Director, Clusters and Campus Business Development
The Harwell Space Cluster also plays a pivotal role in the growth of the UK Space Sector, as showcased in the UK Space Agency’s report on the Size and Health of the sector.
Joanna Hart, Harwell Space Cluster Development Manager said: “… Harwell Space Cluster showcases innovative companies like Oxford Space Systems, Astroscale and Rezatec, highlighting the breadth of capability and world leading expertise within the UK space sector.”
To find out more about Harwell’s Space Cluster, click on the report.
Already recognised internationally as the UK Space Gateway, the strategy supports the cluster’s ambition to become the most compelling global gateway to the space sector, making it an even more powerful engine of growth, innovation, and investment for the Thames Valley and the UK. The strategy supports the cluster’s ambition to reach 200 organisations collectively employing 5,000 people by 2030.
The strategy builds on the cluster’s success over the last 10 years, which has seen it grow from a couple to 105 organisations, and cemented its role as a platform for UK space companies and for international companies looking to get a foothold in the UK space market – achieved through a strategic approach that fostered collaboration and created a nurturing and innovative environment for companies to grow.
To find out more about Harwell’s 10-Year Growth Strategy, click on the report.
ESA’s mission is to shape the development of Europe’s space capability and ensure that investment in space continues to deliver benefits to the citizens of Europe and the world.
ESA is an international organisation with 22 Member States. By coordinating the financial and intellectual resources of its members, it can undertake programmes and activities far beyond the scope of any single European country.
ESA European Centre for Space Applications and Telecommunications (ECSAT) is ESA’s newest facility and the first in the UK. Based at Harwell, The Telecommunications and Integrated Applications directorate focuses on boosting innovation to keep European and Canadian industry at the leading edge of the highly competitive global market for satellite communications and applications.
ECSAT is the headquarters of ESA’s programme of Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems (ARTES), with staff from all departments collaborating with their colleagues at ESA’s technical heart, ESTEC, in the Netherlands.
ESA’s Europe-wide Technology Transfer Network is led from Harwell. The Technology Transfer and Business Incubation Programme Office (TTPO) uses a network of technology brokers to assess the market needs in areas where there is a potential for exploitation of space technologies.
The UK Space Agency seeks to provide a single voice for UK space ambitions and work with industry to capture 10% of the global market for space by 2030, as set out in the Space Innovation and Growth Strategy. Prosperity from Space is another industry-led sector strategy, created in partnership with the UK Space Agency, for enhanced growth in the UK space sector over the next decade. More information on the strategy can be found here.
The UK Space Agency has its headquarters in Swindon, in close proximity to Harwell. Since the Agency works closely with national and international academic, education and community partners, this gives Oxfordshire-based organisations the opportunity to shape the UK space sector.
Thales Alenia Space established its British subsidiary at Harwell in 2014. The UK business is an integral part of the Neosat project, contributing to the design and production of the propulsion system for this new platform.
Westcott Venture Park is a secure 650 acre business park situated between Bicester and Aylesbury and at the centre of the Oxford to Cambridge Arc. The Park is home to over 80 successful businesses, the Westcott Space Cluster and the National Space Propulsion Test Facility.
Westcott provides over 500,000 sq ft of commercial floor space and forms part of the Aylesbury Vale’s Enterprise Zone. The Park offers a diverse range of accommodation including start up incubation space, offices, industrial, warehousing, specialist R&D and facilities for rocket testing. It is a place for businesses to secure their future within a community of technology innovators and in a location that offers unrivalled security and space to grow.
Westcott is a place where sustainability is a commitment, and not an aspiration and the Park is soon to be the first carbon-negative business park in the UK.
Westcott is recognised as an integral part of the UK space sector growth strategy with a nucleus of well-established companies supporting rocket and satellite enabled research and development projects. Companies at Westcott continue to play a key role in providing rocket engines for interplanetary missions such as the JUNO Mission, Rosetta probe and fueling the Galileo Satellites.
2018 saw the launch of the Westcott Space Cluster which is run by the Satellite Applications Catapult and includes the Westcott Innovation Centre, Business Incubation Centre, and Future Networks Development Centre. The Space Cluster is home to both large and small businesses working in the sector, with both technical and business support on site for start ups to fast track their growth and commercialisation as part of a strong community.
The key areas of focus are space propulsion, autonomous systems such as drones, and communications such as 5G and satellite networks.
Building work is currently underway for the next developments within the Space Cluster, with announcements on the specific facilities coming soon. Companies working within space and related sectors are very much encouraged to get in touch with the Catapult or the Westcott Venture Park and join the community.
In 2021 a new gold standard national rocket test facility known as the National Space Propulsion Test Facility was opened by Science Minister Amanda Solloway at Westcott as seen on the video to the right. The centre allows UK companies and academics to test state-of-the-art propulsion engines which are used to move small satellites in space at a more affordable rate than having to go abroad. It also allows new types of more sustainable propellants to be tested, such as Hydrogen Peroxide and Liquid Oxygen which are more environmentally friendly in sourcing, storage and combustion.
As we build back better we are investing in our brightest space scientists, the facilities they work in and the technologies they are creating. This pioneering facility will support our ambitious space businesses, enabling them to undertake complex spacecraft engine testing, while boosting the local economy by creating highly skilled jobs.
Science Minister Amanda Solloway
Science Minister Amanda Solloway at NSPTF
The development comprising The National Space Propulsion Test Facility was funded by Patrizia Hanover PUT and is let to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government in the form of the UK Space Agency. This is operated by Nammo Space which has its UK HQ at Westcott.
Future investment will ensure Westcott’s place at the heart of the UK space industry. Over the next 10 years, Westcott will become the UK Centre for the next generation of propulsion systems and small satellite manufacture.
UK space-related organisations produced £16.5 billion in income in 2019/20. About a third (32%) of income was derived from exports, higher than the UK as a whole (28%). Europe was the largest source of exports income, followed by North America.
Direct space employment was about 47,000 in 2019/20; space activities supported a total of approximately 190,000 jobs across the value chain.
The strategy looks to support businesses in forming and developing clusters based on areas of local excellence, and identifiable domestic and international market opportunities, connecting these clusters nationally to form a networked ecosystem. This includes two Centres of Space Activity based in the Thames Valley, Harwell Space Cluster (Oxfordshire) and Westcott Venture Park (Buckinghamshire).