Jul 18th 2018

Space and Brexit take centre stage at Farnborough International Air Show

Space satellite

Even before this year’s Farnborough International Airshow (FIA) had started, it was clear that space would dominate the agenda. The day before the event, the government announced its intention to open a UK spaceport on Scotland’s north coast, while industry leaders and the media speculated about how Brexit would impact the sector. The Babel technology PR team visited the show on its second day to hear the latest news, discussions and trends from FIA’s Space Zone, which are shaping the week-long event.

Brexit dominates

Contributing £250 billion to the UK economy each year and identified as one of the nation’s key pillars for industrial and economic growth, the space market is undoubtedly booming. However, with Brexit looming large, attention is focused on how the country can maintain its standing outside of the EU. These conversations were front and centre during FIA, with Paul Everitt, Head of ADS Group which represents the UK aerospace, defence and space sectors, stating in a BBC interview just before the show that the UK leaving the EU without a deal would hurt the industry. While much is yet to be decided, the industry is driving conversations about how it can best survive post-Brexit.

A critical time for the industry

We’re at a critical moment for both the UK space sector and the wider global industry. As noted during a panel session on space and the global economy at the show on Tuesday, space is borderless, hinting both that global collaboration should continue irrespective of the UK’s place in the EU, and that the UK’s moves may have global ramifications.

Space as a driver of GDP

As the UK seeks to establish its place outside of the EU, FIA provided a prime opportunity to raise awareness of the country’s flourishing space sector and highlight the wide-ranging benefits it brings to both the UK economy and our day-to-day lives. Yet despite its importance to national GDP, some noted a lack of awareness amongst UK citizens that the industry even exists, let alone represents a key pillar of our economy.  With so much technology now hinging on the space industry – from CityMapper to communications – increasing public awareness will help to drive and sustain its future success.

In-orbit servicing comes to the fore

Discussions about space as a major contributor to GDP have also come to the fore thanks to the emerging in-orbit services market. Dubbed “the backbone of the future” for investment opportunities in the new space sector by Goldman Sachs, in-orbit servicing holds enormous opportunities for satellite operators, investors and the UK economy. We’ve seen via our own work with in-orbit servicing pioneer, Effective Space, that there is huge momentum surrounding the technology and an enormous appetite in the media for news surrounding in-space robotics. During FIA there was a palpable buzz surrounding the technology, which was recently cited as one of the UK’s standout industrial and academic strengths.

With so much developing, and such clear momentum surrounding the UK space sector, it’s certainly an exciting time. It’s clear from FIA that the UK is reasserting its position and building further opportunities for the sector to grow via launches, investment and strategies.

What’s next? Watch this space.


Katie Finn
Katie Finn ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR