Report: Scottish Space Agency - a discussion of Scotland's place in the space industry

Report proposes a Scottish Space Agency and Spaceport to make Scotland a world leader in industry sector of the future

AN independent Scotland could be a world leader in the space sector by developing the national infrastructure necessary to support a burgeoning industry, a new Common Weal report has argued.

The report, written by electrical design engineer Craig Berry, can be read in full here.

Berry argues that a Scottish Space Agency and Spaceport could be two crucial parts of developing the Scottish space sector, which is worth £134 million and is a disproportionately large part of the UK space industry. 7,000 employees out of a total UK workforce of 38,500 (18%) are located north of the border.

The Scottish space sector has a particular strength in small satellites, with Glasgow recently selling the largest number of satellites of any European city.

However, Berry states that the sector’s continued progress could be halted by a lack of investment and infrastructure development at government level. Research & Development as a % of total income from the space sector has dropped from 90% in 2012/13 to just 3% today, meaning the funding fall well outstrips the pace of growth in the sector.

As Aerospace is considered a joint jurisdiction of Civil and Defence, it is currently a reserved matter to Westminster. The future development of Scotland’s space sector is therefore precarious.

“In an increasingly connected world, the space industry represents a lynchpin in the global economy. This paper clearly demonstrates that Scotland is well placed to leverage our engineering and scientific reputation to become a leader in this sector, but to do so will require foresight, investment and solid economic planning.” Craig Dalzell

Berry identifies advances needed in co-operation and connectivity between different small and medium sized enterprises in the sector in Scotland, steer R&D in the right direction and strengthen manufacturing capacity, all of which could be provided by a Scottish Space Agency which could act as the key co-ordinator within the sector. This would include a Federated Satellite System which would pool resources to improve efficiency in Scotland’s strong nanosatellite market.

The Spaceport, which would be the only one of its kind in Europe, would provide a major boost to the local economy of the dedicated site in which it was located through increased employment and economic activity. An estimate for the potential of a Spaceport is between 490-550 extra jobs and £60-100 million in additional economic activity.

Commenting on the report Craig Dalzell, head of research at Common Weal, said: “In an increasingly connected world, the space industry represents a lynchpin in the global economy. This paper clearly demonstrates that Scotland is well placed to leverage our engineering and scientific reputation to become a leader in this sector, but to do so will require foresight, investment and solid economic planning. Should Scotland and/or the UK wish to take on the challenge the benefits of investing in a Scottish Space Agency will be wide-ranging.”

Robin McAlpine, Commmon Weal Director, stated: “In recent years Scotland has discussed many new areas in which we could carve out a substantial new industry sector, but few have really developed into a series of Scottish-owned businesses which could transform our economy. Once again we have an opportunity to expand further our stake in the global space industry. Will we make the most of this one? A national strategy backed by a Scottish National Investment Bank could make all the difference.”

Comments

MauriceBishop

Sun, 07/16/2017 - 18:47

The "Scottish National Investment Bank" is apparently the answer to everything.

There are global venture capital funds that invest over a billion pounds each year in promising space technologies. So why are you so intent on yet another central belt quango to do what they do, only with less expertise? How are the staff of this quango going to know what technology is worth investing in, and which projects are being proposed to it because they are in fact duds that can't get funding from specialist venture capital groups and therefore the backers want to fob them off onto the unwary and take what they can get from the public sector and run?

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