Chris Evans

25th November 2021


The industries to lead the UK to a brighter, more prosperous future

The UK economy is at something of a crossroads. There are a host of complex, multi-faceted challenges the country faces as we emerge from what has been a period unlike any other in memory.

With a dearth of human resources, a growing supply chain crisis, fuel and energy costs soaring, inflation heading for a 70’s price spike, political malaise and ever increased bureaucracy due to Brexit, is the UK lurching into a period of decline?

If the UK can keep its position at the forefront of new technology and innovation, that doesn’t have to be the case. New industries are growing across the country that could transcend the macro-economic challenges facing more established markets and feed into the government’s “Global Britain” plans.

The following industries are those where the UK enjoys a leading position built on world-class engineering and innovation that could drive the future of our economy:


While it remains the final frontier for most, space exploration is rapidly becoming the next global gold rush. Tech billionaires frolicking in space as the human race battles raging pandemics and climate change might have enraged sceptics on earth, but their jaunts beyond our atmosphere are tentative steps to opening huge opportunities.

SpaceX has harnessed renewable technology to reduce the heavy payload space launch costs by 40%. As a result, it is capturing billions in government contracts in the US and beyond. Europe’s once-dominant Ariane 6 rockets, which used to launch most of the continent's geostationary space assets, has seen its market share plummet. While European, Chinese, Russian and Indian companies play catch up, Elon Musk’s SpaceX is shuttling humans and cargo into space.

How does all of this affect the UK Space industry? Already employing more than 45,000 people and projected to double in size over the next decade, the UK market is considered a key strategic asset offering highly-skilled, well-paid jobs. Despite the projected boom in demand over the coming decade, Plimsoll’s latest assessment shows:

  • The UK market for space technology fell from 6% pre-pandemic to just 2% last year
  • Average margins have never fallen below 4% over the last decade
  • Company values have risen almost 6% in the latest period
  • 43 of the UK’s top 200 space companies are ripe for takeover as the market consolidates

Cyber Security

Industry 4.0, or the 4th industrial revolution, is built around the concept of smart manufacturing and the replacement of traditional, static and cumbersome production. Human expertise will be combined with robotics, AI, quantum computing, 3D printing and interconnectivity to allow unprecedented efficiency. 5G is the magic that is projected to make it all happen.

For the consumer, the Internet of Things continues its march into all aspects of our lives. From toothbrushes to fridges, the interconnectivity of everyday items with scant or non-existent security leaves us exposed. 5G is purely a software-based system rather than the hardware-based 4G, and securing the network will require heavy investment and a complete rethink on security. With cyber-attacks doubling in the past year, demand for solutions is likely to become strategically critical as IoT become increasingly mainstream.

How does this affect the UK Cyber Security industry? HM Government is investing millions into employing students as ethical hackers to stress-test security amid a growing skills shortage. Demand for cyber security is likely to be heightened for years to come as new technology and infrastructure is introduced. According to the latest Plimsoll Analysis:

  • The UK cyber security market is growing at more than 12% per year before the 5G rollout
  • Average margins have never fallen below 4% over the last decade
  • Company values have risen almost 6% in the latest period
  • The market look set to consolidate with 89 companies ripe for takeover

3D Printing

In the space of a decade, 3D printing has gone from the pages of a sci-fi novel to a mainstream production method. Everything from surgical parts to coral reef regeneration, engine parts to house building, the flexibility of printing parts locally and on-demand has become one of the major tenets of Industry 4.0 in the UK.

As the price of the technology has plummeted so the adaptation of 3D printing has taken hold in all sectors of the economy. There are even plans afoot to introduce 3D printing into the UK’s food chain with paste-based biomaterial layered to produce meals from ice cream to marbled steak to order.

The UK continues to be a leading-edge adopter of next-generation technology and the latest Plimsoll Analysis on the 3D printing market shows an industry reaping the rewards. Based on our analysis of the UK market, we have found:

  • The UK market is enjoying double-digit multiyear growth and is up 10% in the latest years
  • Average margins have remained at a steady 5% over the past 5 years
  • Company values have stalled during the pandemic period but have been growing at 10%
  • 43 companies look to be hot acquisition prospects as the market matures and consolidates

Healthcare software

As with all developed economies, the population is ageing rapidly. In Britain, by 2040 there is projected to be double the number of people aged over 85 rising to 3.2m. As the population ages, the provision for healthcare is placing unsustainable pressure on public spending as the ratio of working taxpayers to retirees becomes unbalanced.

Brexit has seen millions of younger, mobile employees leave the UK. Coupled with a long-term decline in birthrate, the country faces a perfect storm of fewer young and middle-aged taxpayers and a growing, but politically active geriatric population. The demographic problem facing the UK will require a sizeable technological solution. Robotics and the software to drive it are already increasingly involved in operating theatres.

As a result, the healthcare software market is one of the UK most profitable growth industries as demand for automation and efficiency gains in the sector reach critical levels. The latest Plimsoll Analysis on the UK market shows the level of performance:

  • Growth in the market has been more than 10% in each of the last 5 years
  • Profit margins have also never fallen below 10% over the same period
  • Company values have soared by 11% in the latest year
  • Despite favourable conditions, there are still 55 undervalued companies ripe for takeover

For the UK economy, the next decade could see the continued decline of industries we have relied on for generations. The need for green, planet-friendly solutions should reduce our reliance on old technology. Nimble and innovative solutions to the Industry 4.0 will be needed to lead the country into a brighter future.

Whether you are a leading protagonist in a new market or rooted in a traditional industry looking to diversify into future growth areas, Plimsoll can provide the insight you need to make better decisions. Our unique analysis assesses the key companies in any market, spotting those in financial distress, the leading performers, the best acquisition prospects and the opportunities.

To find out what the latest Plimsoll Analysis is saying about markets that interest you, click here.