How does Brexit affect Scotland’s Space Industry Development?

16th Aug 2021
How does Brexit affect Scotland’s Space Industry Development?

Brexit and the pandemic that followed have seriously affected the Scottish economy, but while there are sectors affected by Brexit in the UK, Scotland’s space sector remains relatively intact. The presence of Scotland in Space is growing so rapidly that it has every chance of becoming a key driver of economic growth following the victory over the Coronavirus. The upsurge can be greatly facilitated by opening a small payload launch market in Scotland and the UK, as well as expanding the range of solutions to combat global climate change.

Small satellites and rocket launch revenues from future Scottish spaceports could potentially be compared to shipbuilders’ revenues. According to Scottish Enterprise forecasts, by 2030, the revenues could reach 2-4 billion pounds. Now, let’s find out how Brexit affects Scotland’s space industry development.

How Brexit Affects Scotland?

So, how does Brexit affect Scotland? After the separation from the EU, Scotland’s space sector showed an annual growth of 12%, while the UK, which, according to Boris Johnson, had “freedom of action,” showed an increase of only 3%. The figure can be explained by the commercial value and availability of the new operating space. Notably, the UK has always had a special status in the ESA, which has been preserved after Brexit since the ESA is formally an independent body and is not subject to the EU. Scotland, with an approximate industry share of 18%, is also a key participant in the UK space industry. So, with a quick glance at how Brexit affects Scotland, it is clear that new developments have more pluses than minuses.

Local industry leaders such as AAC Clyde Space, Ecometrica, Astrosat, and promising startups Orbex Space, Skyrora show the world that Scotland remains a central European location for manufacturing small satellites and, potentially, launching UK rockets. Besides, foreign investors such as Spire willingly enter the local market since the country offers the most comfortable environment for developing, manufacturing and testing satellite technologies.

The next question is – how does Brexit affect Scotland in terms of the talent pool? Here, the impact is also minimal because Scotland never faced any challenges with scientific potential and professional workforce. The UK Space Agency (UKSA), Scotland’s Centres for Innovation, Research and Development continue to operate, and the industry is becoming more efficient:

  • fast;
  • cheap;
  • intellectual.

A prime example is the Industry Innovation Centre at the University of Strathclyde – National Manufacturing Institute of Scotland (NMIS).

The facility houses the Light Manufacturing Centre, which specialises in creating lightweight components for aerospace and other industries, offering significant cost savings and efficiency gains.

What’s Next for Scotland’s Space Sector?

The Scottish aerospace cluster was never fully integrated into the European economy and cannot be considered one of the sectors affected by Brexit.

In addition, all EU programs operate on a 7-year cycle and the last contracts were awarded in 2020, so Brexit impact on space industry in Scotland remains minimal because it has changed almost nothing in the relationship between equipment suppliers and developers.

However, there are sectors affected by Brexit as a number of EU-sponsored ESA contracts were lost. In particular, the UK lost access to the Galileo and EGNOS satellite navigation systems, forcing it to announce the development of its own replacement for Galileo. The project has already invested 92 million pounds in a feasibility study, and the entire system will cost 3 billion pounds.

At the same time, Brexit impact on space industry in the UK has been minimised when the UK’s participation in the Copernicus Earth Observation and Horizon Research and Innovation programmes has been extended until 2027. Besides, the latest Space Scotland initiatives still prioritise the development of the small satellite launch market.

Launching British rockets from British spaceports, three of which are planned in Scotland, should open up huge prospects for the Space Scotland development and the UK economy. Eventually, Space Scotland launch sites could neutralise all negative consequences of Brexit. But only time can tell if this statement proves true or false.

The first orbital flights from Scotland may begin as soon as 2022, and in addition to Scottish launchers, a number of private American companies are claiming local launch sites – in particular, current small payload leaders Rocket Lab and Virgin Orbit. With this in mind, the future of Scotland’s space industry does seem bright, and the Brexit impact on space industry in the UK seems unimportant.

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