Gavin Tweedie: Driving Scotland’s space sector forward

There is no denying that it’s an exciting time to be working within the space industry in Scotland. With the proposed Sutherland spaceport moving to the next stage of approval, Glasgow leading the UK’s satellite development and an ever-thriving tech scene; we are approaching a real tipping point in the country becoming a key player in the global space industry.

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According to the UK Government’s Space Sector Report published last year, almost one fifth of the UK’s space workforce – 7,033 employees out of a total 38,521 – are located north of the border. The ADS Scotland 2017 Industry Facts and Figures Guide also estimates that the aerospace, defence and space sectors are worth £6.4bn to the Scottish economy, with the space sector making the largest single contribution at £2.5bn; it’s certainly an industry providing high growth opportunities.

But this is just the beginning.

There is no doubt that once the spaceport in Sutherland is given the final green light and approved that this will help to create a robust supply chain, from manufacturing right up to launch. This positions the country well to leverage our engineering and scientific reputation in the global space sector.

However, to move beyond being a contender to a real player in the space jam, we need to have an industry collective that can stand up for the hundreds of innovative companies working in the industry, provide a voice that will be listened to, and help Scottish businesses in the industry achieve real change.

The Scottish Space Leadership Council (SSLC), and the Scottish Centre of Excellence in Satellite Application (SoXSA) have the potential with the Scottish Government and Scottish Enterprise to enable the change that the industry needs.

The SSLC is an advisory group offering leadership council and government lobbying on behalf of businesses in the sector and can provide the combined sector voice Scotland needs. Established only 18 months ago in line with the rapidly-growing industry, it has the potential to become the focal point for Scottish space.    

SoXSA has excelled in linking the science base and academic community with the wider space industry and providing significant technical and funding support for businesses over the past four years. It will take a village of these industry bodies and sector champions to help the industry grow even further. The SSLC is positioned well to be the driver for these bodies and the industry as a whole; it needs to gain some more momentum to achieve these goals.

We believe that the SSLC, along with SoXSA, should take stewardship of the sector as the industry matures and suggest the creation and maintenance of an online portal of information available for stakeholders and businesses to access and discover the aptitude within Scotland. It should represent the competence of each space-related business within the country and establish us on the global space map.

In addition, having an advisory council to engage with and support businesses of all sizes is crucial in making sense of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and challenges that arise in the sector. Having a voice within the Scottish Government will also support this, as we seek to influence key matters of space for the UK.

The SSLC is a platform available for us to step up and achieve all the above. It is well-placed to help set the vision for the future of Scotland’s space sector, engage with businesses across the country and assist the government in creating the conditions needed for the sector to grow. As an industry, we are very fortunate that there is a bright future ahead for us; but with additional support, we could be even brighter.

By Gavin Tweedie, CEO at Global Surface Intelligence

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