Cornwall Space Cluster – Lessons Learned

Cornwall Space Cluster: lessons learnt (2018 – 2022).  Gail Eastaugh – Head of Strategic Partnerships, Cornwall Space Cluster. November 2022.


Following a visit from the Minister of State George Freeman MP to Cornwall as part of Spaceport Cornwall’s first launch activity, the Cornwall Space Cluster (the cluster) has been encouraged to document the lessons learnt in the development of the cluster, with the aim of sharing best practise and highlighting an effective approach for others to consider. This short paper attempts to illustrate, very simply, a summary of the elements which are driving the development of the cluster, the key enablers and the opportunities going forwards.

Cluster Development approach

The cluster has adopted the following four strategies for cluster development;

  1. Maximise the value of the business within the existing cluster (promote cluster capabilities, secure additional contracts, increase productivity and RD&I capability)
  2. Increase the scale of the cluster (encourage local business to pivot into the space sector to increase skills levels and maximise profits and attract new players to the cluster from across the UK and internationally (inward investment)
  3. Encourage horizontal and vertical collaboration between players in the cluster to boost supply chain demand, increase the size of the potential market and increase export value
  4. Encourage B2B and cluster to cluster collaboration globally to secure significant contracts and growth

Cluster development – progress to date

Since 2018, the cluster has grown quickly and now includes Spaceport Cornwall and businesses of various sizes in all aspects of the space ecosystem. A recent report cites that since 2018, the cluster has grown in value by 35% and now has over 500 businesses related to data and space, a GVA of £88m and over 1,300 people employed in it (with the potential to increase this to £200m of GVA and over 4,700 people employed).

Each cluster member acts as a single point of contact for the cluster with adequate knowledge of local government, industry and academic priorities. This has been achieved by having regular meetings of the Data and Space Steering Group and of the Industry Advisory Group where sharing of strategic ambition is encouraged. There has also been a focus on the cluster attending events, conferences and international trade shows as a collective which has enabled new members of the cluster to hear and then present the key messages coherently.

The following table aims to provide a timeline of key activities and investments which have had a significant effect of the growth of the cluster.

Date Activity Investment Value
2016 South West Centre of Excellence in Satellite Applications established at University of Exeter
2017 Aerospace Cornwall programme launched at Cornwall Council (aerospace and space R&D grants and cluster development) European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) £10m
2018 Investment into Goonhilly Deep Space Network antennae GHY-6 European Space Agency and Local Growth Fund £8.4m
2018 Significant investment into Goonhilly Private sector £24m
2018 Cluster development – strategic priorities identified UKSA £40k
2019 Minister of State Chris Skidmore MP visit – first consolidated narrative of Cornwall’s space ambitions
2019 Investment in Spaceport Cornwall secured Growth Deal and UKSA Launch UK grant £7.35m
2020 Cornwall and Isles of Scilly (CIoS) ‘Data and Space’ strategy launched as part of Local Industrial Strategy.  Steering Group and Industry Advisory Group established
2020 Cornwall Space and Aerospace Technology Training programme launched at Truro and Penwith College
2020 The ‘Cornwall Space Cluster’ brand is adopted
2021 Cluster development – promotion pf capabilities UKSA £50k
2021 G7 Summit held in Cornwall – global awareness
2021 Goonhilly employ GHY-6 for ESA, NASA and UAE missions
2022 Number of local businesses directly involved in Data and Space exceeds 140 with over 500 in the associated supply chains
2022 Cluster development – securing growth and investment UKSA
2022 Centre for Space Technologies opened providing integration and operations facilities for Spaceport Cornwall European Regional Development Fund and Getting Building Fund £4.2m
2022 Goonhilly tracking NASA Artemis 1 launch
2023 First launch from Spaceport Cornwall

Based on the Clusters Development Group conceptual model of industrial cluster development, the Cornwall Space Cluster is progressing from ‘established’ to ‘advanced’, based on the following characteristics being evident:-

Geographical proximity to market Launch cluster at Spaceport Cornwall.

Sat comms cluster at Goonhilly Earth Station.

Pre-existing manufacturing base Manufacturing, engineering maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) capability available from marine sector and RAF and RNAS bases. Enterprise Space for Advanced Manufacturing.
Pre-existing knowledge base CUGA partnership (Combined Universities of Goonhilly Astronomy) established since 2014.
Growing skilled workforce 24% increase since 2018 – 1,367 people employed in the data and space sectors.
Growing company base UK’s only Aerospace Enterprise Zone aligned with cluster locations. Over 500 businesses core to, or benefiting from, the space sector.
Supportive political setting ‘Data and Space’ key part of Shared Prosperity Fund Investment Plan, linked to ‘Levelling Up’ and ‘Cornwall Plan’.
National recognition Well-established in national ecosystem.


Research, development and innovation £8m invested in RD&I since 2017 through dedicated business support programme (AeroSpace Cornwall), leveraging £3m private investment. Universities of Exeter, Falmouth and Plymouth co-located at Penryn Campus.
Public / Private sector cooperation / collaboration Cornwall Council match fund an R&D programme, with private sector funding (50% of costs).
Brand and Vision Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Data and Space Strategy (2020-2030)

Supporting Organisations Cornwall Space and Aerospace Technology Training Programme (European Social Fund). South West Centre of Excellence in Satellite Applications.
Networking Regular contributor to Catapult regional networking events / Satuccino
Finance Cornwall Investment Fund (British Business Bank).
Physical infrastructure / ports Centre for Space Technologies (AIT, Mission Operations and R&D). Falmouth Port, Newquay Airport and close to Plymouth Freeport.
Strong links with local policy Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership lead the Cornwall Space Cluster
Related industry / cross-sector linkages Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Industrial Strategy cites ‘Data and Space’ as one of its five industrial strengths.
Entrepreneurship Launchpad programme (MSc Entrepreneurship)
Fully established supply chain Work in progress, but growing capability.
Identified key specialisms Data communications and satellite operations, horizontal launch, environmental intelligence.


Cluster development – top 10 enablers

Key enablers (and lessons learnt) which have been contributed to the successful growth of the cluster;

  1. Aligned policy.

One Local Enterprise Partnership and one Local Government (Cornwall Council) driving the strategy. This is not the case in many areas of the UK, but strategic alignment of the policy makers and local industry has been key to the success of the cluster. It enables effective collaboration with other clusters and clarity of message which is common to all stakeholders – the focus on a creative and carbon neutral economy and four key strategic objectives.

  1. Pride in place.

Cornwall has a strong brand which we have leveraged effectively with national and international audiences. The values of the region have evolved historically due to isolated geography – based on a need for openness, collaboration and innovation however in 2022 these are very much cultural differentiators which are attracting people to work with the cluster members. The Great South West initiative brings together three LEP areas – Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, Heart of the South West and Dorset which have common challenges and common ambitions – to become the leading region for the green and blue economy. The cluster is evolving to work across the Great South West and the West of England Combined Authority area to create a ‘South West Space Partnership’ to deliver the National Space Strategy.

  1. Asset based proposition.

The Cornwall Space Cluster contains assets and capabilities which are nationally significant to the UK’s strategic space ambitions. These assets have attracted inward investors and consideration should be given as to whether Spaceport Cornwall and Goonhilly Earth Station warrant national Science and Technology Facilities Council infrastructure support.

  1. Small cluster scale.

The cluster, whilst growing, is a manageable size and is likely to stay that way for some time. Whilst there are c. 150 business supplying products and services into the space sector in the cluster, there are around 50 businesses within the ‘innovation core’ i.e. those who engage with academia and government, and are driving innovation and growth. It is not anticipated that this will exceed 100 and indeed the cluster is being managed to ensure this core continues to be effective as an inward investment tool.

  1. Cross-sector understanding of the role of an enabling technology.

Genuine understanding of the beneficial role of space technology in nationally significant industrial areas which are important in the region e.g. Floating Offshore Wind, Lithium mining etc. and a mutual will for these sectors to work together and become interdependent.

  1. Consolidation of resource and of message.

Given many individual players are small in scale when compared with global peers, there has been consolidation of resource wherever possible e.g. attending international events as a collective in Luxembourg, USA etc. This has required all stakeholders to shift from presenting individual strategic ambitions to presenting a unified common mission, with the assertion that if Cornwall wins, we all win – reinforced by the regional motto ‘One and All’. Given the absence of primes and associated agendas within the region, it has been simpler to achieve this in Cornwall than it may be in larger territories.

  1. Dedicated resources and trusted advocates.

Several programmes have resources dedicated to the growth of the space sector with teams in place since 2017 with knowledge exchange, R&D, business development, marketing, project management skills and extensive business support, skills development and trade and investment experience.

These teams advocate for the cluster, promoting the capability of the Cornwall Space Cluster to other clusters, to the UK Space Agency, the Catapult network (including but not limited to the Satellite Applications Catapult), Innovate UK, the British Business Bank etc. to encourage B2B collaboration and to build consortia to bid into large contracts.

For micro businesses there has been dedicated Business Development personnel who have gained intimate knowledge of individual business capabilities and product / service ranges and are trusted to speak on their behalf. Likewise dedicated Marketing resource has driven lead generation for local businesses through PR and event attendance e.g. the cluster pays for a stand on behalf of six businesses who could not otherwise afford to attend trade shows etc.

As a recipient of regional development funding Cornwall has extensive compliance, audit and grant funding expertise which is shared freely with local businesses to help them secure and manage public funding from Innovate UK, BEIS etc.

  1. Research, development and innovation funding.

Many of the businesses who have established offices in Cornwall have been attracted by the aerospace and space R&D funding and wrap around innovation services available, part funded by Cornwall Council and part funded by the European Regional Development Fund. This support has focused on three parts of the TRL life-cycle;

  1. Market research (pre product / service development; TRL 3) – following an in-depth research, development and innovation needs assessment, experts are commissioned, providing knowledge transfer to enable businesses to understand specific opportunities in the space sector aligned to their capabilities and strategy. This leads to market engagement and access to thought leaders through conferences / events.


  1. Research and development (novel new product / service development; TRL 4 – 6 as which point private investment should be accessible) – providing 50% match funding (£3.5m) to over 40 businesses looking to develop new products and services within the space sector. This has been enhanced with fully funded IP / legal advice, advice on R&D tax credits, support for engaging with procurement platforms e.g. G-Cloud, fully funded support for engaging with follow-on funds in the space sector e.g., Gravity Challenge, NSIP etc., in other sectors e.g. DASA and also from national providers e.g. Innovate UK.


  • Innovation support (commercialisation; TRL7 onwards) – the support provided focuses on removing barriers to entry with full or partial funding e.g. for ISO9100 accreditation. It also support businesses in raising awareness of their capability, products and services to national and international audiences to secure contracts and investment.
  1. The MILO Space Institute’s UK Ambassador.

Hosted by the Cornwall Space Cluster and employed by Goonhilly Earth Station, this Ambassador has enabled direct access to Arizona State University’s relationships with NASA and, through its partnership with Lockheed Martin, the cluster is able to understand industry trends and be part of mission development.

  1. National / international academic partner network.

Often clusters are based around local Centres of Excellence however in the case of the Cornwall Space Cluster the academic institutions which have the most relevant research expertise are not necessarily those found locally. In many cases, national partnerships (e.g with Leeds, Oxford, Manchester) are more useful – the ability to be regionally agnostic when identifying research and innovation partners has been very helpful.

The cluster – what next?

The cluster has recently secured investment from the UK Space Agency to continue some of the work outlined in enabling elements 6-7 above until March 2025. This work will focus on securing public and private finance for growth, promotion of the cluster capabilities and brokerage to ‘connect the dots’ vertically, horizontally and with other innovation clusters. In so doing, we will share our model for successful cluster development with stakeholders across the UK.

The cluster is now well positioned as an investment opportunity for the private sector, which could come in the form of commercial contracts or venture investment. This assumes a joined up approach to cross sector investment to include clean energy, mining, agri-tech and tourism.