An initial artist's impression of the North East Space Skills and Technology Centre building at Northumbria University.


The sky’s the limit for the North East’s burgeoning space sector

By Rachel Burdis, Inward Investment Manager at Invest North East England

If I was to ask you to name the sector of industry in the North East that has the potential to create more than 8,000 new jobs by 2030, you might be surprised by the answer.

Whilst our region is well known for its strengths in areas like advanced manufacturing (further reinforced by Nissan’s recent multibillion pound investment announcement) and growing sectors like health and life sciences, there’s another area of industry that has the potential to turbocharge our economy and create the jobs of the future here in the North East.

Space North East England

The space sector in the North East is an emerging area of the North East economy that has huge potential for growth. Regional strengths and opportunities include resilient communications, space sustainability, Earth observation for climate change, as well as digital defence technologies. There are currently more than 1,300 people employed in the sector, working across a collection of over 40 companies.

Bolstered by recent inward investments successes, and the ambition to advance the North East’s position as a world-class hub for space businesses and innovation; businesses, academia, and institutions from across the wider North East came together at the UK Space Conference 2023 in Belfast to launch Space North East England (SNEE) – an ambitious space cluster that aims to put the North East front and centre in the growth of the UK space industry. The large regional delegation that attended the conference demonstrated the strong support for the new and improved cluster, and the commitment to grow the region’s role in the sector.

A major function of SNEE will be to drive forward the North East Space strategy, which aims to grow space sector employment in the region to 10,000 jobs by 2030 and make the North East the top destination for skills and talent by developing a world-class infrastructure, skills, research and business ecosystem.

Increasing inward investment

Attracting more inward investment will greatly support the delivery of the strategy. In recent years, Invest North East England has worked with a number of leading space, defence and technology businesses, including Italian defence company Leonardo; supporting them to invest in the region. We have also aided Lockheed Martin, a global leader in aerospace and defence, to connect and collaborate with local academia on various research projects; assisting the further development of technology, tools and systems.

The arrival of these businesses to the North East has also led to the formation of a new regional defence cluster that will support the work of SNEE by becoming a national hub for digital defence technology. The North East Regional Defence and Security Cluster (NERDSC) – backed by companies including Leonardo, Rafael, and Lockheed Martin – will officially launch early next year and will work with local universities to harness the region’s strengths in the design and manufacture of hardware, electronics and advanced materials. NERDSC is also expected to bring further inward investment into the region.

Mostly recently Telespazio UK, a subsidiary of Telespazio (a joint venture between Leonardo and Thales), announced the acquisition of leading UK independent space systems engineering and consultancy group e2E Group, which has offices in Hertfordshire and the North East. The acquisition is a huge step in helping the company to further expand their presence here and help realise the goals of the National Space Strategy.

A world-leading centre for space skills

The first step in realising the mission of the North East Space Strategy came just days after the announcement of Space North East England, with the news a world-leading space skills, research and technology centre would be opening at Northumbria University.

The £50m North East Space Skills and Technology Centre (NESST), which is due to open in 2025, has been hailed a “game changer” for the UK space industry. Featuring world-class laboratory, testing, teaching, collaboration and office spaces, NESST is expected to create 350 jobs and deliver £260 million into the North East economy over the next 30 years. The centre is a collaboration between Northumbria University, UK Space Agency, and Lockheed Martin Space; with the global aerospace company committing £15m into the centre to facilitate collaborative research, technology development, in-demand skills provision and STEM engagement activities with Northumbria University over a 10-year period.

The collaboration with Northumbria University and wider industry and academic partners in the region opens the door to further skills development and expertise in areas like cyber security, AI, and data - areas the North East has recognised strengths in. It also provides the opportunity for industry to play a bigger role in curriculum delivery; ensuring the workforce of the future is equipped with the skills businesses need today and in the future.

The sky’s the limit

Both announcements have raised the profile of our region as a burgeoning UK space hub, and they provide the platform for all partners involved to become ambassadors for the space sector here in the North East. Collectively we can promote the unique opportunities that exist in the region, and continue to champion the North East as a leading destination for skills, talent, and expertise.

Whilst the names of some of the recent investors may not be as well known in our region as Nissan and Hitachi, their investment in the North East could be just as transformational. Just think what the future holds for the North East when the sky’s the limit.

If you’d like to find out more about the inward investment opportunities in the North East’s space sector, please visit

Invest North East England and Space Sector North East England will also be attending The North East Space Conference in Durham in Spring 2024 (dates TBC).

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Invest North East England .

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