At the heart of the Thames Valley is Harwell, the gateway to the UK space sector. Having grown 19% in the 12-month period from December 2017 to December 2018, Harwell Space Cluster now comprises of a group of 105 commercial, public and academic organisations that collectively employ over 950 people.
As the UK’s most concentrated space cluster, Harwell Campus is a focus for the country’s space sector, aiming to maximise the nation’s success in a rapidly expanding and highly competitive world market. The UK has a strategy to quadruple its performance in this sector by 2030, and the evolving development of the Space Cluster at Harwell Campus is central to these efforts.
Organisations in the Cluster include STFC’s RAL Space Centre, the Satellite Applications Catapult, the European Space Agency (ESA), the ESA’s European Centre for Satellite Applications & Telecoms (ECSAT), and the ESA Business Incubation Centre.
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The Harwell Space Cluster, Europe’s most concentrated group of space organisations located at Harwell Science and Innovation Campus, has released its 10-year growth strategy.
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.
Harwell hopes to focus on scaling-up these efforts – the four core areas being: increased investment in the gateway capabilities of the cluster, broadening application of expertise and open access facilities to address complex challenges, strengthening the existing skills, facilities, and business support pipeline, and increasing engagement globally to create even more opportunities for international collaboration and market access.
The European Space Agency, an international organisation with 22-member states, is based at Harwell.
Its 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. 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 programmes are designed to find out more about Earth and its immediate space environment, the Solar System and the Universe, as well as to develop satellite-based technologies and promote European industries. Discover what ESA has planned for 2020 here.
The ESA’s Europe-wide Technology Transfer Network is led from Harwell Campus.
Kayser Italia is a privately-owned, independent aerospace systems engineering company, who initially established operations in 1986. Since its launch, the company has participated in more than 50 space missions and 80 payloads – all of which have been completed with full scientific, technical, economic and programmatic success.
The opportunity to work with the European Space Agency, the strong cluster of space-related companies, and the chance to exploit sector know-how to build growth ensured that Harwell was the preferred site for its new offices.
Fully supported by the Department for International Trade (DIT) team, alongside the Oxfordshire LEP and service partners at Harwell, Kayser were given extensive information to make an informed decision considering sector-based intelligence, information on technical skills, introductions to commercial services, business networks and property viewings.
Kayser Space (UK) Limited, set-up at the end of 2015, has since signed two major projects with ESA. In addition, the company has established agreements with major universities and is in the process of developing joint projects.
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.
Over 70 successful businesses in space propulsion and satellite technology are situated in Westcott Venture Park, a secure 650-acre strategic employment site which includes designated Enterprise Zone status. The site is highly suitable for manufacturing companies who require high-level security.
Providing fast access to the UK Motorway network by being positioned on the A41 between Aylesbury and Bicester, Westcott Venture Park is an excellent location for high-growth companies. Units are built on a pre-let basis.
Westcott has a rich history that dates back decades. Since 1946, the Park has been involved in testing rocket projects, which as this video shows, has moved a long way forward over the years. In 2016, the UK Space Agency selected Westcott as the UK’s National Space Propulsion Test Facility. A year later, Reaction Engines began constructing a new facility at Westcott for SABRE testing, a crucial step towards a SABRE-powered flight-test vehicle.
Located in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, within the Westcott Space Cluster, the centre is planned to be a 1,200m2 flexible facility. Westcott Innovation Centre is at the heart of Westcott Venture Park with prominent existing space and aviation companies. Strong connections to the UK’s motorway network through the A41 demonstrates the new centres central position to support businesses growth.
The history of rocket engine test facilities for over 50 years showcases Westcott’s strong heritage in the space and aerospace industry. The previous regulated environment that tested rockets ensures it is an ideal environment for future manufacturing and testing facilities. Examples include the investment of Reaction Engines in developing SABRE Engine Test Facility (TR1). This illustrates the centres future capability to hold businesses focused on space systems, infrastructure and new ventures due to it’s strong innovative history.
Westcott Innovation Centre offers a flexible engineering centre with specialist equipment for prototyping and light mechanical engineering. There are office spaces ranging in size for short- and medium-term rent. Alongside the offices, there are three small meeting rooms, two large meeting rooms, a kitchen area, collaboration space and more.
The UK space industry, despite the challenges of COVID-19, has seen modest growth. There has been a large increase in industry population, fuelled by new incorporations which signifies a healthy ecosystem, and provides strong optimism for the next three years. With over £360 billion of UK economic activity now supported, the importance of satellites to the wider economy continues to grow.
Total UK space industry income grew to £16.4 billion in 2018/19, a growth rate of 2.8% per annum since 2016/17. The forecasted estimate for 2019/20 is £16.6 billion (+0.8%)
With a stable GBP/USD exchange rate, the UK industry growth rate matched that of the global industry, so the UK’s share of the global space economy remained unchanged at 5.1% in 2018/19
The industry numbers 1,218 organisations, with 95 new incorporations in the last 2 years
The industry directly contributed £6.6 billion of Gross Value-Added to UK economic output (0.30% of UK GDP, +5% per annum since 2016/17), and a total of £15.8 billion (including indirect and induced supply chain effects) in 2018/19