Region/Countries: Europe, United Kingdom Industry: Biosciences / Medical Devices Date: May 2019

Why this is important to Wisconsin businesses: The UK industry is the largest in Europe and second-largest in the world.

The European aeronautics and aerospace industry develops and manufactures civil and military aircraft, helicopters, drones, aero-engines, and space and other systems and equipment. Europe’s commitment to supporting the industry has positioned it as one of the continent’s key high-tech sectors. Across the EU the industry provides more than 600,000 jobs and generated €170 billion in turnover in 2017. Twenty-four European companies cover 80% of all European aerospace and defense revenue and two-thirds of the workforce. The industry is highly concentrated, both geographically and in terms of the few large enterprises involved. Employment in the aerospace sector is particularly significant in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Poland and Sweden. 

The UK industry is the largest in Europe and second-largest in the world, directly employing 120,000 people, with contractors such as BAE Systems, Airbus and Bombardier investing and contributing to an industry turnover of more than £35 billion a year. According to the trade association ADS Group, the industry has grown by 39% in just five years. Nearly 90% of aerospace turnover is generated by exports, which last year exceeded £30B. The UK’s productivity is 20% higher than that of France and Germany, demonstrating an internationally competitive industry in a globally productive sector.

The industry is geographically spread across the entire UK, with clusters in the southwest, Midlands and northwest of England as well as Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The southwest of England has the largest cluster in Europe, home to 15 large aerospace companies and a network of world-class supply chain firms. Civil aerospace is a key market segment, with the UK leading the world in the design, manufacture and support of engines, wings and advanced systems.

The UK now holds approximately 17% of the global aerospace market—a figure set to climb higher given the UK government’s commitment to driving further success. Underpinning this commitment, the National Aerospace Technology Exploitation Programme has been established to support companies in the supply chain to develop innovative technologies, working collaboratively with support from higher-tier companies. 

The UK’s small but rapidly growing aerospace sector is at the leading edge of space exploration.  Recording £14.2 billion in turnover and employing 40,000, the industry has grown by 71% since 2012. Here, too, the British government has a goal for the UK to be a leading player in the global space industry, and the sector is predicted to grow to £40 billion in annual turnover by 2030. 

The UK is one of the world’s largest suppliers of global nanosatellites and other small satellites, with 40% of all small satellites currently in orbit being of UK origin. Satellites and innovative space technology are priorities for stimulus programs to capture 10% of the global space market by 2030. Supporting this growth are the government’s Industrial Strategy Challenger Fund and the Space Industry Act focusing on the UK’s space launch capabilities.