United Kingdom - Country Commercial Guide
Safety and Security

This is a best prospect industry sector for this country. Includes a market overview and trade data.

Last published date: 2021-09-22

Overview 

The UK security and resilience market is valued at approximately $15b billion and is growing. In the global security export market, the UK is fifth, behind the U.S., Japan, China, and Germany.  The market benefits from the focus on national security and counter terrorism, new post Brexit infrastructure, the need to guard against the increased threat of crime and the general demand for security products and services.  

The UK physical security market only, was in 2019 worth $5.7 billion. It is expected to be fairly stable over the next two years with no significant growth overall reaching $5.93 billion in 2022. The sector will benefit from a strong performance of security for infrastructure whilst other aspects will see decline. The areas that will play an important role are surveillance technologies and managed services. Border security and major events are anticipated to require significant investments in security in the coming years and will outperform other subsegments (Source: Frost & Sullivan: Security Database). 

The threat from terrorism to the UK is substantial, with transport infrastructure facing especially high levels of threat. Generally higher levels of effective and visible protective security at national infrastructure sites are likely to act as a deterrent to terrorists, who increasingly favor ‘soft’ targets. Nevertheless, with the continual diversification of the threat, the ambition and capability of terrorist groups to target UK infrastructure is likely to continue to evolve. 

The UK Government’s national security technology procurement strategy emphasizes the need for commercial off-the-shelf solutions from well-established suppliers that can be deployed quickly, suggesting a good opportunity for U.S. companies with a strong existing track record in the U.S. The evolving terrorism threat raises the need for new technology and product innovation. Although the demand for security services such as consultancy, training, guarding and risk analysis is also growing, the UK market is highly competitive and can represent challenges for U.S. businesses, as the local companies are seen as one of the world leaders in this sub-sector. 

All the main U.S. suppliers typically do well in the UK, but newcomers must consider the scale of the competition. There are an estimated 9,000 security companies in the UK. British companies operating in the market vary in size from small niche companies through to a handful of major UK-owned global operators such as BAE Systems and Smith Group. Major foreign players are active in the UK include Ansell, Draeger, EADS, Thales and Finmeccanica, and many others.  

The 2020 projections for the security market vary based on end users and different sub-sectors. Public spending is expected to sustain in 2020, but private is set to contract from the second quarter of 2020. Manpower levels and are being cut and costs carefully considered given additional safety and security measures that need to be implemented as a result of the global pandemic. Spending focus in the coming period is on business continuity instead of investments in capability improvements. 

The departure of the UK from the EU means investment in the UK border crossings. The UK Government allocated over $910 million for border infrastructure, technology, and new staff to ensure British border systems are fully operational at the end of the transition period (see Opportunities below). 

While the UK market is substantial, mature and growing rapidly, there can be significant challenges to newcomers with no previous track record in the UK. For that reason, it is strongly advised to consider partnering with an established local partner. For UK government-related opportunities, it is often important to have a UK incorporated presence. 

Leading Sub-Sectors 

Leading sub-sectors are: 

  • Access Control and Identity Management – There has been an increase in the call for solutions that combat the growing threat of identity theft. Demand for solutions that help enhance retail, property, and personal security remains. Biometrics are at the forefront of the opportunities in this sub-segment. 
  • Screening and Detection – As a result of the increased threats of international terrorism in Europe, there is a call for higher investments in national security and counter terrorism, which indicates steady growth for this market in the coming years. In addition, the need for increased security at high-profile national locations continues to drive the demand for better and more sophisticated screening solutions from which U.S. companies offering advanced technologies in this sub-sector can benefit. 
  • Surveillance – In the area of surveillance systems the demand is for innovation; increased complex risks mean that customers require more agile solutions.  Customers’ demand dictates that analog CCTV is replaced by IP surveillance systems with added functionalities such as facial recognition and incorporation of interface with smartphone technologies. The UK also follows the global trend of tailoring solutions for each customer of security products. The thermal imaging market is also expected to grow significantly with video surveillance representing the largest contributing growth. 

Opportunities 

The UK Government announced in July 2020 spending on post Brexit border crossing with the aim to create “the world’s most effective border by 2025.” $610 million was allocated to build infrastructure, such as border control posts, with further $305 million allocated for IT systems and staffing. Focus is on seamless screening and scanning of cargo and personnel. More than $130 million is allocated to develop Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) systems to reduce the burden on traders, alongside additional investment in technology to ensure that new controls can be fully implemented.  

Large investments in critical national infrastructure create also opportunities particularly for the following types of products: Security screening and detection (improved speed and convenience), biometric, connectivity, crowd management, hostile vehicle protection, security solution for soft targets, physical protection of assets, intelligent surveillance, anti-drone systems, blast proofing, containment, and predictive strategic security. 

In the wake of the global pandemic, contactless technologies and remote-controlled equipment that can combine requirements of security and safety at the same time is being in demand. Opportunities with First Responders in the UK include Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and integration systems and platforms. 

In addition, Fire Equipment is a Safety market sub-segment that is experiencing a rise in demand in the aftermath of the widely publicized Grenfell Tower fire disaster. 

Resources 

  • ADS Group
  • ASIS International
  • British Security Industry Association
  • Association of Security Consultants
  • The Joint Security and Resilience Centre

For further information, please contact: 

Kristina Schaferova 
Commercial Specialist 
U.S. Commercial Service 
Tel: +44 (0)20 78 913459  

Email: kristina.schaferova@trade.gov