Today The Herald is launching a monthly series of articles focusing on Scotland’s booming space sector. In the first of these Andrew Collier hears from AstroAgency’s Daniel Smith and Trade Minister Ivan McKee about how the nation is well set to become a major contender in the new space race
SCOTLAND is reaching for the stars in becoming a space nation. The sector is growing rapidly and could be worth as much as £4billion by 2030.
Soon, rockets carrying observation satellites will launch from Scotland, and The Herald is set to give the industry some extra lift in coming months through our new partnership with AstroAgency, global experts in strategic space marketing.
We will use this collaboration to spread awareness of Scotland’s growing prominence as a European space nation and the benefits it will bring across a range of areas including the economy, environment, education and the supply chain.
AstroAgency is playing a leading role in the sector. It was founded in Scotland and operates internationally, blending marketing specialists with space industry experts.
A Spire satellite pictured in orbit
Daniel Smith, its Founder and Creative Director, says: “We’re passionate about ongoing space sector developments in Scotland. It was one of the main reasons we chose to set up our headquarters here, despite being globally focused.
“For us to partner with a leading mainstream news organisation is a real sign of the growing interest in space from the wider business community and the general public.”
He continues: “Space might seem more abstract than ever for some, but the truth is that it’s never been so close. This brings a range of opportunities and we’ll be sharing many of these in this series”.
There are now well over 130 space organisations based north of the border. Glasgow, thanks to the success of companies such as Clyde Space and Spire, is emerging as a major European centre for building small satellites for use in applications such as environmental monitoring, while across the M8 Edinburgh is now an established hub for downloading and analysing data from space.
Scotland’s Trade Minister, Ivan McKee, is an evangelist for the sector, helping to bring it together and co-ordinating government support. He points out it has several different facets.
“There’s the manufacturing of the satellites, launching the rockets and management of the downstream data, which is probably the biggest area and has evolved on the back of our data analytics capability.”
Scotland’s success, he says, is partly down to our geographical position, which provides advantages with launches. Our engineering legacy is also important.
“We have the right skills here, particularly in the universities, and that pipeline is hugely important to these businesses. We are also the right size and we are connected – we can get the right people round the table fairly quickly.
“That means we have been able to proactively join everything up. Scottish Development International wants to attract businesses here and we also have the Scottish Space Leadership Council plus an alliance to pull all the spaceports together.
“It means everything is joined up and everyone knows where we are trying to go and supports each other.”
The spaceports, he believes, offer some of the most exciting prospects for the industry in Scotland. Five locations are developing launch plans across the country at Prestwick Airport, Shetland, Sutherland, North Uist and Machrihanish in Argyll.
It may be that not all come to fruition, but Mr McKee is enthusiastic about the possibilities they offer.
“They are all trying to do slightly different things – it’s a big market with a lot of opportunity.
“The Sutherland site was recently granted planning permission, while Shetland involves the private sector and Lockheed and is coming along very well. Prestwick is looking at horizontal launches and is associated with the local aerospace cluster.”
Many of the satellites will be used for monitoring climate change, identifying illegal mining and fishing, as well as promoting sustainable farming and food chain supply.
“They will help us to understand everything from ice floes to forestry. In environmental terms, there is some tremendous stuff going on with the launch vehicles – the fuel can be environmentally friendly, as can the rocket construction materials.”
Mr McKee believes that there are rich opportunities for the sector in Scotland.
“You are talking about a huge global industry here. Without a doubt, we could do well.”
If there are medium term challenges to be met in developing the sector, they include ensuring that Scotland is nurturing the talent needed on an ongoing basis to meet the demands of space businesses.
“I think we are in a good place to do that. We are getting the message out there that Scotland is well placed to take advantage of this.”
He concedes that, as a relatively new industry, the broader Scottish public may not yet be fully aware of its importance or potential and that this message needs to be fully communicated.
“More and more people are starting to understand it, but the general population probably don’t know very much about it.
“We are in a bit of a space race with other countries in terms of who launches first.”
The minister agrees that if Scotland can maintain and consolidate its current position in the sector, the positive consequences could be profound. There is, for example, no reason why the country cannot become a centre of space excellence, as it has in oil and gas.
It will also offer young people the prospect of exciting careers and hopefully persuade them into STEM subjects more generally. “It’s probably going to encourage them to study things like engineering, physics, maths and science, and that has to be a good thing.”
Stephen McTaggart, Business Team Manager of The Herald, says he is delighted to be launching the monthly focus.
“Two years ago, we launched our quarterly business magazine, Business HQ, into space to promote our coverage of the space industry and have since been keeping up with the huge opportunity it offers to Scotland.
“Our aim is to provide regular updates on the high-tech, high skill and research and development aspects of a sector which currently has a turnover of around £245 million.
“That equates to 14% of the UK’s total space industry income, so
we punch well above our weight in this sector.”
- To discuss participation, contact Stephen McTaggart on 07788 367461
This Article firstly Publish on www.heraldscotland.com