High Tech Systems & Materials

The High Tech systems & materials (HTSM) sector is an integral part of the UK economy and contributes £275 billion annually to the country’s GDP. The main segments in the UK are manufacturing, High Tech and Deep Tech, each of which have their own unique ecosystem and opportunities for trade and innovation.

Image: ©Dutch Embassy


The aerospace and automotive industries have always been important for the UK. The increasing use of composite materials can also lead to the development of new technologies and processes in the value chain.


The UK aerospace industry is one of the largest in the world. Airbus, Boeing, Rolls-Royce and Bombardier have all located in the UK, often having several production facilities. Apart from complete aircraft, the UK also produces aircraft engines and wings. The sector is strongly supported by the UK government, including through the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI).

 The UK market is particularly strongly developed on the following fronts:

  • design and production of aircraft wings
  • production of aircraft engines
  • construction of aircraft landing gear
  • creation of sophisticated flight management systems (avionics).

The UK is also one of the few countries with the knowledge and skills to design and build High Tech helicopters. This is very much to its advantage as global demand for commercial helicopters is estimated at over 40,000 per year.

Automotive industry

The UK automotive industry is a vital part of the UK economy and a key pillar of its international trade.  In 2020, turnover in the sector amounted to £74 billion and automotive exports accounted for 10.9% of total UK exports of goods. Despite production disruptions related to the pandemic and a global shortage of semiconductors, the UK manufactured over 920,000 motor vehicles and 1.3 million engines in 2020 (81% destined for export). Moreover, 60% of the parts came from outside the UK, mainly from Europe.

There are opportunities for Dutch companies in the fields of materials, fuel efficiency, low emissions, e-mobility and connected & autonomous driving.

The UK government and sector representatives are focused on maintaining the competitive strength of the sector. For Dutch companies, it still makes sense to research the UK automotive sector and make contacts for the future. See also the UK sector outline – automotive industry.

Image: ©t

High Tech

The UK has an outstanding starting position for innovation in the processes, materials and technologies needed in its current and future manufacturing industry. Two of the four Grand Challenges set out in the UK Industrial Strategy, which are aimed at transforming the whole industry, are closely linked to High Tech.

There is significant investment, through the Grand Challenge on the future of mobility, in innovations to modernise the automotive industry. Such innovations include new battery technology, electric vehicles and autonomous vehicles.

Opportunities in composites

Composites have many benefits: they are lightweight but strong, require little maintenance and are considerably cheaper to use and maintain than other materials. They are in great demand in a range of sectors, such as aerospace, railways, oil and gas, the maritime industry and sustainable energy. We set out specific opportunities and developments in our recent UK sector outline – composites.

Deep Tech

The biggest driver of innovation in the UK is the fast-growing Deep Tech sector. This includes artificial intelligence (AI), quantum technology, nanotechnology and digital technology (cybersecurity, 5G, Internet of Things, Fintech, etc.).

Ground-breaking new technologies and breakthroughs by British knowledge institutions quickly find their way to market. The UK is a world leader in such developments. There are many opportunities for Dutch parties interested in partnerships in innovation, acquisition and growth.

The heart of the UK Deep Tech sector is formed by Oxford, Cambridge and London, which offer an innovative world-standard ecosystem comparable to Boston and Silicon Valley. You can also find many tech-oriented venture capitalists, accelerators and incubators there.  

Opportunities in AI

Artificial intelligence (AI) in the UK merits special attention. Along with China and the United States, the UK is a world leader in this field. The government has identified AI as the biggest challenge in its Industrial Strategy and has made funding available accordingly.

The UK is also investing in the ethics of AI, which could lead to the UK setting the global standard for responsible use of this new technology. This topic is being pursued in partnership with a flourishing crop of fast-growing AI companies who, in consultation with the government and top academic institutions, are thinking up ways in which AI innovation can benefit everyone.

How can the Embassy help you?

For trade and export inquiries concerning the manufacturing and High Tech sectors, please contact Els Steiger at the NBSO in Manchester.

For more information about opportunities for innovation in High Tech and Deep Tech, please contact the Chief Innovation Advisor, Marjolein Bouwers.