It is a pleasure to be back at the Farnborough International Airshow.
On my second day at the Department for International Trade, I found myself whisked here on my first official visit in my new role.
DIT was less than 24 hours old, and my private office evidently thought that the airshow would be a welcome distraction, while they worked behind the scenes to find other essentials for the department, like a building, or more than 3 staff.
A distraction, perhaps, but no less serious a visit for it - I offer this anecdote as proof that the UK aerospace sector has been a central concern of my department from the very beginning.
It is only natural that such a globally successful industry should be held in such esteem by a dedicated international trade department.
In the popular imagination, the space industry has always been the preserve of governments – a Saturn V rocket lifting off from Cape Canaveral, or orange-suited Soviet cosmonauts.
Yet, increasingly, public awareness of the commercial space industry is growing, as its technology pervades every aspect of our daily lives, from communication to navigation.
And when it comes to the commercial space industry, the United Kingdom is a truly global player.
It is a remarkable if little known fact that 40% of all small satellites in orbit are manufactured in the UK, providing everyone from academic institutions to nation states with ready-made space capability.
We also punch above our weight in the satcomms sector – being responsible for a truly impressive 20% share of all global satcomms and 25% share of the world’s telecommunications satellites.
UK firms have established a remarkable market dominance. It is small wonder that the wider UK space industry is growing at 6% per annum and is currently valued at some £15 billion.
Moreover, it is one of the most truly international industries in the country, exporting around one third of its output.
It is tapping into a global space industry that continues to thrive, as hundreds of other sectors and markets increasingly make use of its technology.
The industry directly contributes around £5.1 billion in Gross Value Added to UK economic output, rising to £10 billion if the effects on the supply chain are factored in.
This wider economic activity, in turn, supports 114,000 jobs across the United Kingdom.
Space as an economic enabler
These standalone figures for the UK space industry are undeniably impressive. Yet the value of the industry to the UK and global economy is far wider still.
I see the space industry, and its associated technologies, as one of the ‘great enablers’ of the UK economy.
The availability of this technology not only underpins the activities of seemingly unrelated industries, but also stimulates the UK R&D pipeline, creates a world-class workforce, and engages young people with STEM subjects.
It is estimated, for example, that satellite services support over £250 billion worth of the UK economy in sectors such as industry and construction – an astounding figure.
The reach and range of satellite capability extends far further than many outside the industry realise.
Everyone is familiar with satellite navigation. But as UK companies develop ever more innovative applications, and the technology itself becomes more affordable, they are being utilised in areas as diverse as agriculture, healthcare, maritime and even local government, to help in the development of future cities.
According to ONS census data, our space industry boasts the most highly qualified workforce in the country, with 3 in 4 employees being educated to degree level or higher.
And the Satellite Applications Catapult is at the forefront of supporting the industry in the UK, driving innovation and growth across the sector through supporting research and development and providing world-class facilities.
Of course, the space sector already knows the vast reach, and potential, of the industry. But we want others to know it too. Space’s contribution as a great enabler of UK economic activity must be appreciated and celebrated more widely.
This, like the success of the industry, will be achieved through a combination of world-class academic capabilities, dynamic private sector companies, and robust government support.
The most visible element of that support was the establishment of the UK Space Agency in 2010, proving a single body to front government engagement with the sector and manage civil space programmes.
More recently, the passage of the Space Industry Bill earlier this year set out the legislative framework necessary to further enhance support for the UK space sector.
And, looking to the future, the UKSA programme Launch UK has announced funding for a potential spaceport, underpinning the development of a commercial space hub on UK soil.
These are the most high-profile announcements of recent years.
My Department for International Trade was founded 2 years ago to build and operate an independent UK trade policy – our first in over 4 decades.
Our aim is to create the most export-friendly environment in the world, and to build relationships and improve market access with our key global trading partners.
To that end, we have established trade working groups with a range of countries, including the US, Australia, New Zealand, China and Canada.
As well as preparatory work on future free trade agreements, these working groups will seek to remove barriers to trade in the short term, ensuring that UK companies enjoy open access to the largest global markets.
Fundamentally, our work is about opening up new opportunities for our leading companies and industries, including the UK space industry.
More broadly, of course, we will continue our work of attracting inward investment across the whole country and supporting exports of every kind.
DIT and its antecedent UKTI have worked hard to attract high-value investment into the UK space industry, with notable success in landing significant players.
They recognise the strengths of the industry, and of the UK as a whole, with our unmatched academic and research capabilities, to our existing space ecosystem, as an ideal place from which to operate.
On exports too, we are significantly extending our support.
DIT recognises the vast exporting potential of this industry. As companies across the world begin to realise the transformative potential of small satellite technology and its commercial applications, our established industry and space export network is ideally placed to become the world’s leading supplier.
I am delighted to announce today that, for the first time, DIT is providing dedicated support for UK space companies looking to expand into target markets.
The United States, for example, is the world’s largest market for space technology. DIT has identified a pipeline of £1.5 billion of potential deals in the country and is launching a dedicated High Value Campaign in the region to link UK companies directly to these opportunities.
Similarly, last summer DIT India hosted a UK space industry specialist who identified significant untapped demand within the Indian space sector, ideally suited to the strengths of our own companies.
As a result of this work, we are providing more resources to our efforts in India and building extensive partnerships within one of the most dynamic emerging space economies in the world, alongside a team ready to help you realise your exporting ambitions.
These are just 2 examples. We have ambitions to go much further. Already, a survey of the UK industry has indicated markets of interest such as Japan, China, and the Middle East.
DIT is looking to improve our support capacity in all these markets, and we will continue to identify opportunities for UK firms to enter them.
Through all our efforts, the Space Growth Partnership will continue to be the main forum of government and industry cooperation. The SGP has established itself as a vital part of the UK’s space ecosystem and made excellent progress in developing a joined up future vision and plan for the industry, with a view to securing an industrial strategy sector deal. I wish this every success.
I am delighted that the Space Trade & Export Group of the Space Growth Partnership is already operating, bringing together DIT DSO, UKSA, Innovate UK, the Satellite Applications Catapult and space industry reps.
Chaired jointly by DIT and industry leaders, its aim is to provide a clear and constant link between DIT and our space companies, helping us to deliver the support that you need.
The UK space industry continues to be a source of economic strength, world-leading innovation, and national pride.
It is a great enabler of the UK economy, with a commercial and business impact that extends far beyond its own operations.
I want to leave you today with a clear message: the government is unequivocal in our support of the UK space industry.
We will do all that we can to help you continue to thrive, both here and overseas. We understand the sheer scale of the contribution you make and want to enable you to continue to set new global standards of excellence and shape the economic future of this country.
Lastly, we want to hear from you. Without your voice, and involvement in our operations, we cannot provide the most effective support.
This means helping us to identify key markets and opportunities. But it also means working together to shape the future trade policy of this country, ensuring that it continues to deliver for this most vital of industries.
UK space companies are entering an age of almost unlimited opportunities. All you need is the means, the support, and the will to realise them.