Scotland’s Space Sector Expects Big Profits

22nd Feb 2021

In the coming years, Scotland’s space sector has every chance of becoming a major source of revenue for the UK budget. At least that’s what the British government is hoping for. By 2030, the Scottish space segment capitalisation is expected to reach £4 billion, which will give the UK a 10% share of the global space market. These estimates are justified. The National Space Program, adopted in 1985, and the creation of its space agency, UKSA, have contributed to Scotland’s powerful space ecosystem, which is now considered the best European place for space companies. So, what makes Scotland’s space sector so appealing?

Scotland has a Favourable Geographical Location

The unique geography of the Scottish highlands and islands makes reaching low Earth orbits with a vertical launch fairly easy. Sparsely populated areas and coastline proximity reduce damage from rocket launches. The North Pole proximity provides the shortest trajectory access to polar and solar-synchronous orbits, which reduces fuel costs and the risk of losing satellites in flight. 

This makes Scotland a perfect European site for spaceport construction. To date, four launch facilities are planned for construction: in Shetland, Sutherland, Western Isles and Prestwick. Several American and British launch providers, including Virgin Orbit, Lockheed Martin, Orbex, Skyrora, etc. have already signed cooperation agreements with future launch sites.

Powerful Scientific and Engineering Resources

The Scottish space sector has over 130 companies that employ over 7,500 people. Glasgow alone produces more small satellites than any other area besides California. Annually, over 20,000 young professionals get university degrees in engineering, IT, mathematics, and physics. Innovation centres are continuously working on reducing rocket and satellite construction costs, contributing to the emergence of new high-tech developments.

Favorable Business Environment

Scotland has the Scottish Space Leadership Council, which helps foreign and local companies integrate into the Scottish space ecosystem. SSLC strives to create the most favorable conditions for communication, cooperation, partnership, and mutual support of companies, institutions and research centres. In addition, the Council assists in the selection of staff and provides legal, financial, and consulting services. Such ecosystem flexibility was noted in Spire, one of the world’s largest providers of Earth Observing services with headquarters in Glasgow:

“Where Scotland won out was the access to risk capital, the flexibility, and, importantly, the eagerness to support innovative companies – this really stood out here.”

Government Support and Tax Benefits for Scottish Space Industry Development

Scotland readily provides financial support to companies willing to work on new technologies and introduce promising developments. In the last few years, UKSA, Scottish Enterprise, and HIE have provided over £30 million in grants to:

  • Gravitational Wave Space Observatory – £1.7 million.
  • Sutherland Space Hub – £12.3 million.
  • Spire – £14.7 million.
  • Innovation centres including CENSIS and Data Lab — оngoing investment. 

In addition, a wide-scale program provides tax benefits for investors, R&D centres, creative organizations involved in the promotion of space, etc.

Obviously, these factors contribute to the development of Scotland’s space sector. Spaceport commissioning will be a key stage in this process. Once the spaceports are fully operational, Scotland will be able to provide a full range of space services: from the production of satellites to launching them into orbit. This will strengthen the UK’s position in the global market, attract more investment, create thousands of new jobs, and ensure a stable budget — all thanks to a rapidly developing space sector. 

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