Northern Ireland is in the space race, after it emerged that jobs in the sector more than tripled in the last financial year.
Employment in Northern Ireland’s space sector grew by 318, rising from 113 in 2019 to 431 in 2020, according to new figures released by the UK Space Agency
There are now 1,293 space organisations located across the UK, and plans for spaceports are likely to increase jobs in the coming years, alongside the growth of regional space clusters, international investment, and emerging technologies, such as in-space manufacturing and debris removal, supported by the National Space Strategy.
Later this year the UK looks set to see its very first satellite launch.
Financially, space manufacturing — including satellites, spacecraft, launch vehicles and scientific instruments — grew significantly in profit, up by £23m to £2.27bn across the UK.
Overall, the sector income increased in nominal terms from £16.4bn to £16.5bn in 2020.
Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis said that the region’s “strong track record in aerospace, defence, cybersecurity and data analytics means that it is uniquely positioned to capitalise on new opportunities presented by the UK’s ambitions to develop a strong, vibrant space economy”.
He added: “The UK’s growing space sector means high quality jobs for Northern Ireland which has seen the growth of the number of people employed in the space sector here over the past year.
“The world-class expertise and talent that exists in Northern Ireland is playing a key role in helping the UK realise its potential in the global space sector as we continue to make great strides in space exploration and discovery.”
Following the UK Government’s commitment to increasing public and private R&D spending, investment in research and development saw a 19% boost to £836m within the space sector.
Science Minister George Freeman said that this is a welcome boost in the delivery of the UK’s first National Space Strategy.
“The £16.5bn space sector is a major contributor to a strong and secure UK economy, and it’s promising to see it generate thousands of new high-skilled jobs 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 spending, which includes a significant uplift to the UK Space Agency’s budget, and the delivery of the UK’s first National Space Strategy.
“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.”
Dr Paul Pate, CEO of the UK Space Agency, said that 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”.