Industry opportunities in the United Kingdom exist for Alberta companies in the areas of oil and gas, aerospace and defense, life sciences, and information and communication technologies.

Oil and Gas

The UK is a significant producer of offshore oil and gas. Though production has been in decline since 1999, the UK remains the largest oil producer and second largest gas producer in the European Union. The UK currently produces 946,000 barrels per day of crude oil and 1.3 tcf/yr in natural gas. Some of the largest UK offshore producers are Alberta companies—Suncor, CNRL and NexxenCNOOC.

Many UK companies are active in the oil and gas industries in Alberta. Examples include multinational oil and gas companies (BP), oil and gas service companies (Wood Group/AMEC Foster Wheeler), engineering companies (Weir Group), to a number of small high tech providers of solutions for the oil and gas industry.

UK onshore oil and gas production is currently very small—about 20,000 boe/d. But there may be opportunities in shale gas for Alberta companies in the future. The British Geological Survey estimates 1,300 tcf of shale gas in place in the Bowland formation in the middle of the country. These resources are as yet undeveloped; however, the first wells are beginning to be drilled and are expected to be hydraulically fractured in mid to late 2018 and 2019.

As a UK shale gas industry is established, the UK will need to draw on Alberta’s experience in hydraulic fracturing. A report by EY published in 2014 identified a total of £33 billion in supply chain spending that will be needed in the first 16 years of development. Due to a lack of experience in hydraulic fracturing, there exist significant gaps in the UK’s supply chain that could provide opportunities for Alberta companies, in particular in hydraulic fracturing equipment and expertise, drilling rigs, and waste water management.

Aerospace and Defense

After the United States, the UK has the second largest aerospace industry in the world, with a global market share of 17 percent. The UK is the EU’s biggest single market for military and civil aerospace products and services. The UK has very open aerospace and defence markets, and the government encourages global partnerships and overseas links.

There are export opportunities for Alberta companies with major UK firms such as Airbus Group, BAE Systems, Rolls Royce, QinetiQ, Babcock International Group, GKN Westland, Cobham, Smith Aerospace, etc.

QinetiQ, a British defence company, recently bought Medicine Hat’s Meggitt Target Systems, maker of target drones.
Alberta firms that offer technologically unique and competitively priced products will find opportunities. Products/services of potential include:

  • Maintenance
  • Repairs and overhaul services
  • Defence electronics
  • Aerospace testing
  • Evaluation and engineering support services
  • Unmanned vehicle systems

The Farnborough airshow, held every second year outside of London, is one of the world’s largest aerospace trade shows. Many Alberta companies participate as part of the large Canadian pavilion.

Life Sciences

The UK’s National Health Service is the world’s largest single healthcare purchaser. Ongoing initiatives by the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) include significant investment in information technology and eHealth applications.

The UK is world-renowned for life sciences research. It is home to 4 of the top 10 universities for medical research and leads Europe in life sciences fundraising. The UK medical technology sector has close to 3,700 companies, with about 98 percent of those being SMEs.

UK leads Europe in biotechnology and is a base for major players in the pharmaceutical industry. It offers opportunities for:

  • Pharmaceutical intermediates
  • Contract manufacturing
  • R&D partnerships
  • Product development/distribution partnerships

In medical technology there are opportunities for:

  • Single use technology
  • Orthopedic devices
  • In vitro diagnostics
  • Design, manufacturing, and regulatory expertise within the medical technologies service and supply chain.


The UK ICT sector is the largest in Europe, estimated to top £58 billion (approximately $100 billion). There are 30 technology clusters located across the country. The UK has a strong start-up culture, bolstered by a strong venture capital environment. The UK has been a successful launching pad to the European market for many Alberta ICT companies.

Due to its economic strength and the presence of major players, whether cellular carriers or large manufacturing and services companies, it offers opportunities for wireless companies, software developers and digital media companies interested in the wireless, enterprise or public sector markets.

  • Electronic systems
  • Communications
  • Data management and analytics
  • Data centres
  • Cloud services
  • Artificial intelligence
  • Cyber security
  • Semiconductor design and sensors