UK: The Health of the UK Space Industry and the Prescription To Make It Healthier

Last Updated: 1 December 2010
Article by Joanne Wheeler

Size and Health of the UK Space industry

The UK Space Agency recently published a report on "The Size and Health of the UK Space Industry1 , the findings of which are of particular interest to show how the sector has been affected by the current recession, and to illustrate the significance of the sector for the UK economy.

260 companies, which are actively involved in the UK space industry, were invited to provide input to the study. Altogether the companies recorded an impressive space-related turnover of £7.5 billion in 2008-20092 , of which the upstream sector (companies that provide space technologies) accounted for £930 million and the downstream sector (companies that utilise space technologies) accounted for £6.6 billion.

This represents a growth of 8% within the study period, 2007/2008 and 2008/2009, and of 21% since 2006/2007.

The growth has been driven by the downstream sector, which reported a growth of 24% during the study period. The upstream sector faced a difficult sales period and experienced a decline in turnover in 2008/2009 against high turnover figures in 2007/2008. However, over the study period the upstream sector still recorded an average annual growth of 3%. To put this in perspective, the national UK GDP grew by only 0.3% over the study period.

The results show that the space industry has performed strongly throughout the recession, expanding in terms of turnover, employment and contribution to GDP, and is in a strong position to continue to grow, particularly as the UK eases out of recession.

The Significance of the UK Space Industry

As the Science Minister, David Willetts, stated:

"in space we have a sector which is growing as fast as the Chinese economy; and it is exactly the kind of area where there are things we can do to maintain its excellent performance; and on the public-sector side we shall fight to do so"3 .

With the growth rates that the industry showed during a recession, it would seem to be an industry worth fighting for.
Recognition of the value of the UK space industry was one of the catalysts for the creation of a joint UK Government, industry and academic Space Innovation and Growth Team (IGT), which was launched by Lord Drayson in 2009. What proceeded was a six month consultation period resulting in a detailed report setting out the Space Innovation and Growth Strategy (IGS) which defined a 20-year vision and strategy for the future growth of the UK space industry.

The purpose of the IGS was to involve the whole UK space community to identify the challenges and opportunities for the space industry, which will govern its future competitiveness, growth and success.

Following the publication of the IGS report, the Technology Strategy Board's Space Special Interest Group facilitated the development of National Space Technology Roadmaps.

We were involved in one such roadmap through our participation in a group called "Access to Space", led by Craig Clark the CEO and Founder of Clyde Space.

Encouraging Growth Investment in the UK Space Industry

Joanne Wheeler led a subgroup looking at the regulatory, legal and insurance issues which hinder or encourage "access to space" in the UK. 

There are clear growth opportunities for UK-based businesses in the space sector. It is essential, however, that the regulatory, legal and insurance framework in the UK does not place UK based business at a competitive disadvantage compared with businesses operating and seeking licences in other jurisdictions.

It is important that the licensing framework in the UK ensures affordable and efficient access to space and relevant spectrum and encourages businesses to operate from the UK. A supportive regulatory environment for operators and manufacturers in the space sector will also encourage technology spin-offs, industrial and technological skills and competencies, and spill-over into non-space related sectors.

To ensure that such goals are met and to encourage the progressive development of the space sector in the UK, efficient access to space and spectrum must be ensured. The working group was therefore tasked with identifying:

  • growth opportunities for UK-based businesses in the space sector, and the economic and social benefits created by space based or derived activities; and 
  • the regulatory burdens which hinder or prevent such growth opportunities being fulfilled and the full realisation of the resulting economic and social benefits for the UK.

Perhaps the two most significant regulatory burdens identified, which place UK businesses at a competitive disadvantage compared with businesses operating out of other countries such as France and the US, are:

  • the unlimited liability which a licensee has with respect to any claims brought against the UK Government in relation to damage or loss resulting from the activities of the licensee (section 10 of the Outer Space Act 1986); and
  • the high third party insurance requirements faced by licensees, represented by the £100 million minimum liability cover, as a condition of the grant of a licence.

At a recent meeting attended by representatives of the UK Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), the UK Space Agency and the UK space industry, industry members expressed their concerns, which were received well by the UK Space Agency.

Following up with the UK Space Agency, we understand that they are working closely with the Treasury and other Government bodies with a view to conducting an impact assessment of proposed changes to the current full indemnification to be given to the UK Government in accordance with section 10, and the high third party insurance requirements. Through this assessment they are seeking to ensure that the UK remains competitive with other countries active in the space sector and to encourage growth and investment in the UK space industry; recognising the significance of the space industry for the UK.

We will keep you informed through these bulletins of these developments towards changes to the UK Outer Space Act.


1. The report was prepared by Oxford Economics and can be found here.

2. This represents a value added contribution to UK GDP of £3.6 billion.

3. " UK space funding: Steady thrust ahead?", Jonathan Amos can be found here

This article was written for Law-Now, CMS Cameron McKenna's free online information service. To register for Law-Now, please go to

Law-Now information is for general purposes and guidance only. The information and opinions expressed in all Law-Now articles are not necessarily comprehensive and do not purport to give professional or legal advice. All Law-Now information relates to circumstances prevailing at the date of its original publication and may not have been updated to reflect subsequent developments.

The original publication date for this article was 29/11/2010.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.