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CENSIS contributes to major report on Scotland’s space sector

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17 May 2024

A new report from the Scottish Science Advisory Council (SSAC) – Scotland’s highest level science advisory body – commissioned by the Scottish Government has identified opportunities for Scotland’s space sector over the next 10-20 years. The Scottish and UK governments have identified the space sector as a significant opportunity to develop a thriving and innovative national space economy.

Graham Kerr, CENSIS’s Technical Director and a member of SSAC, has made a number of contributions to the report.

Download and read the full report 

Report highlights

The report summaries the current space ecosystem including the development of the ‘new space’ sector with its focus and expertise in small satellite manufacturing and data analytics. Emerging strengths in the launch sector, potentially providing an ‘end-to-end’ capability, are identified.

Future opportunities and challenges consider areas for consolidating and stabilising the new space sector, including satellite manufacture and launch. The report also looks at areas where Scotland can provide leadership, such as in sustainable space, while acknowledging commercial constraints and how these can be alleviated. It recommends building on expertise in data science and analytics and suggests exploring the use of satellite networking for opportunities to introduce new public and private services.

Leveraging academic strengths is seen as a key driver of the Scottish sector, and making use of Scotland’s breadth and depth in enabling technologies (such as sensing, imaging and IoT) is seen as an important differentiator. Skills are seen as an area of focus with greater promotion of the sector in schools and increasing the talent pool through transferrable skills and apprenticeships. Looking longer-term, there may be opportunities in emerging themes such as in-orbit services and space resource utilisation.

The report’s recommendations are:

1. Explore the use of national contracts to support and enable the Scottish space sector and supply chain.

2. Support co-created research programmes between academia and industry targeting innovation in satellite manufacture and operation, and work with relevant agencies to promote wider themes in collaborative funding calls for critical and enabling technologies for space science missions and industrial challenges.

3. Explore collaborative opportunities with Nordic nations and examine space legal frameworks, including Luxembourg’s, with a view to influencing UK’s own space legislation.

4. Commission an exercise covering:

  • mapping supporting infrastructure available to the space sector, examining opportunities for shared access to capital assets;
  • reviewing Scottish research activity in space ’emerging themes’ with a view to informing future strategic collaborative programmes; and
  • developing a strategy to promote the space sector across primary and secondary education

5. Introduce an entrepreneurial programme for space data start-ups linked to the existing entrepreneurial campus and Techscaler programmes, engaging SDI (Scottish Development International) with assistance to route-to-market.

6. Use existing intervention mechanisms to help pump-prime the application sector for the use of satellite communications networks as an enabler of new innovations in service solutions for public and private services, to reduce cost and improve the quality-of-service provision for economic and societal benefit.

7. Examine legislation already under development by Scottish and UK legislatures to explore opportunities to include the space environment, and encourage greater engagement, across the sector, with relevant standards bodies.