A new report from a consortium led by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) reveals that the new space cluster for the North West will bring multiple, sustained economic benefits to the region.

The report, ‘A strategic case for the North West Space Cluster’, identifies that the formal establishment of the regional space cluster will:

  • Generate jobs
  • Create new skills
  • Support new and growing businesses
  • Attract commercial investment into the North West
  • Inspire new research and innovation

The report comes as the UK Space Agency announces £600k boost to support the development of regional space clusters across the UK.


Levelling up the UK space industry

In collaboration with key local, regional and national organisations including all five authorities across the North West, STFC, based at the Daresbury Laboratory, at the national science and innovation campus, Sci-Tech Daresbury in the Liverpool City Region is championing this regional initiative alongside:

  • Greater Manchester Combined Authority and Local Enterprise Partnership
  • Liverpool City Region Combined Authority and Local Enterprise Partnership
  • Cheshire and Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership
  • Lancashire Local Enterprise Partnership
  • Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership
  • Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)
  • Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)
  • Innovate UK
  • The Innovation Caucus
  • North West Aerospace Alliance
  • Northern Space Consortium
  • North West Business Leadership Team
  • Square Kilometre Array Observatory Head Quarters, Jodrell Bank

Launching later this year, the cluster was set up in 2019 as part of a UK Space Agency project to create regional clusters outside of the ‘golden triangle’ of London, Oxford and Cambridge.

It aimed to study the viability of seven new regional clusters that could support the government’s mission to double its share of the global space market to 10% by 2030, and help level up the UK.


A place in the UK’s fastest growing industry

One of the UK’s fastest-growing industrial sectors, the UK space industry has trebled in size since 2010, generating an annual income of nearly £15bn.

A large proportion of this is in digital and advanced manufacturing, for which the North West has internationally recognised strengths that are second only to London and the South East.  The report highlights the potential for these sectors to engage more with the space industry as a significant economic opportunity.

The report includes an independently commissioned review by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC).  It identifies a large number of organisations, such as electronics and telecoms, which could pivot into the space sector to access new markets and customers.  This is just one of several market opportunities for the North West highlighted by PWC.

Read the full report – ‘A strategic case for the North West Space Cluster’.


Setting a strategy

The newly published report also makes a number of key strategic recommendations to support the establishment of a dedicated space cluster for the North West. These include:

  • To form a local leadership group to coordinate the growth of the North West space economy.
  • Connect regional academic and business communities, within and across sectors.
  • Define the potential for regional and national benefits relating to productivity, economic growth and job creation in the space sector


Where science meets business

The North West is home to a vast array of industrial strengths, from chemicals and textiles to nuclear energy and aerospace. It also hosts a remarkable concentration of academic institutions, with 13 world class universities and research institutes, such as the Square Kilometre Array Observatory headquarters at Jodrell Bank and the  UK’s only supercomputing centre dedicated to supporting industry, STFC Hartree Centre at Sci-Tech Daresbury.

As part of the Sci-Tech Daresbury Campus, STFC’s Daresbury Laboratory continues to provide measurable and tangible benefits through support programmes and facilities for small businesses.  Specifically linked to the space sector this support includes:

  • The ESA Business Incubation Centre United Kingdom – the world’s largest business incubation programme for space tech start-ups, providing access, business support and funding for businesses that are using space technology to develop new products and services.
  • ESA Business Applications Regional Ambassador Platform – helping businesses to access funding for the development of services, such as satellite positioning, connectivity, or imagery.
  • Space Enterprise Lab (SEL) – Recently launched in partnership with the Space Applications Catapult, it is one of a national network of SELs across the UK set up to enable businesses to get involved and succeed in the space sector, regardless of their location in the UK.


Paul Vernon, Head of STFC’s Daresbury Laboratory, said:

“The formal establishment of the North West Space Cluster provides the North West with a long-term plan to play an increasingly significant role in the UK’s rapidly expanding multi-billion pound UK space sector.

“This is a fantastic time to be involved in the space industry, as it opens up a world of new opportunities for businesses, which in turn brings economic and societal benefits for our region.  The establishment of the Cluster builds on STFC’s extensive experience in developing successful high-tech clusters, and I look forward to continuing to work closely with our collaborators as we prepare to officially launch the Cluster later this year.”


A series of workshops and information sessions will take over the coming months ahead of the launch of the cluster later in 2022. Further information about the North West Space Cluster, and how it can support businesses is available at the website.

North West Space Cluster