The UK impact of cryogenics

UK Impact of Cryogenics
(Credit: STFC)

STFC commissioned WECD to carry out a study on the impact of cryogenics, an enabling low-temperature technology rooted in the application of physics and thermodynamics.

The UK has a particularly strong cryogenic academic and business community, established over the last 60 years. This exceptional community is growing and thriving, and delivers substantial economic impact to the UK economy.

Based on supply chain analysis, WECD estimate:

  • Sectors broadly associated with cryogenics represent 17% of the UK economy.
  • The total (direct and indirect) GVA contribution of cryogenics-related activities to the UK economy is £324 million per year.
  • Cryogenic-related economic activities could contribute between £1.6 billion and £3.3 billion to the UK economy in the next 10 years, with STFC, its university partners and industry all being key players in delivering this growth.

The report asserts that STFC is at the heart of cryogenics research and technology development in the UK, and its cryogenics capabilities are wide-ranging. As one of Europe's largest research organisations, STFC operates world-class facilities requiring and deploying cryogenics expertise, helps develop new technologies, and provides long-term research funding to universities to support scientific areas that are reliant on cryogenics.

The report captures the importance of STFC’s contributions to this field, through examples such as:

  • Expanding Future Energy Sources - STFC is supporting the development of the Dearman Engine that by 2025 could potentially deliver net savings of £113 million, improving UK energy security, local air quality and reducing carbon emissions by 1,284,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions. It could also provide a new market for industrial gas producers worth £26 million per year.

  • Making Space Missions Possible - STFC funds early R&D in space science, working closely with the space industry to ensure the UK remains competitive in this area. The space industry is a major UK success story, growing to 106,000 jobs and £10.8 billion GVA in 2014. Different types of cryocoolers for space exploration have been developed over time by STFC teams with a variety of applications.

  • Monitoring and Understanding Environmental and Climate Changes - Cryogenics plays an important role in better understanding of environmental and weather related issues. STFC teams are involved in a wide range of projects including: GHOST a world-first project to build an instrument for environmental modelling; and Along Track Scanning Radiometers, that provide data on global Sea Surface Temperature which contributes to our understanding of global warming. Improved weather forecasting through satellite data is valued at £400 million -£1 billion per year.

In fact, the UK’s cryogenics cluster is centred on Oxfordshire, and emanated from the interaction between STFC’s Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL), the University of Oxford and industry, ranging from specialist SMEs to global businesses

Oxfordshire Cryogenics Cluster Map
(Credit: British Cryogenics Cluster (


Cryogenics Impact Report
(Credit: STFC)

To read more about STFC’s long term leadership role in cryogenics-related work in the UK and worldwide, how cryogenics is supporting future potential scientific advancements, and the economic and social significance of the cryogenics community in the UK, view the full Cryogenics Impact Report.

A copy of the Cryogenics Impact Summary report including the infographics is available here.

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