UK aerospace industry to soar higher thanks to bumper air travel and space tourism

Rebecca Smith
Demand for high tech parts will help UK aerospace hit new heights
Demand for high tech parts will help UK aerospace hit new heights (Source: Getty)

The likes of 3D printing and space tourism look set to send the UK's aerospace industry soaring to new heights.

According to a new report from Santander and manufacturing organisation EEF, ongoing growth in air travel, particularly in emerging economies, as well as demand for high-tech parts for spacecraft and rockets will continue to fuel the sector's rise.

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While space tourism is in its infancy, the report said it represents a growing market and opportunity for the UK aerospace industry and its supply chain.

The UK is the second-largest aerospace manufacturer in the world, trailing the US, and is the fourth-largest aerospace exporter. It specialises in engines and aircraft parts, which make up 79 per cent of all exports.

Of that, 35 per cent are exports of wings, fuselages, doors, control surfaces, landing gear and fuel tanks.

Paul Brooks, head of business development, Santander corporate and commercial, said: “The UK’s aerospace industry has thrived off the back of its competitive advantage in the production of high-value added technology-intensive products, and we forecast that this will continue given that the UK is hardwired into the global supply chain. Since 2002, the UK industry has more than doubled overseas sales from £13.2bn to £28.3bn, an increase of 114 per cent.”

Growth has occurred across all continents, though the report notes demand has been rising fastest in emerging markets. Exports to the Middle East have witnessed the biggest growth, up 540 per cent between 2002 and 2016.

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George Nikolaidis, senior economist at EEF, said the sector is continuing to soar, by "staying at the forefront of cutting edge technologies".

"There are risks ahead no doubt but the sector looks well positioned to harness these challenges and remain a key player in the global aerospace industry going forward," he added, with the report flagging the impact of Brexit uncertainty on investment decisions as a risk, as well as growing concern that exports will be hit by protectionist measures.

The UK aerospace sector posted a record year in 2016 for deliveries.

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