In recent years, Scotland has seen a sharp rise in the number of jobs within the space sector and now makes up for one fifth of the space workforce within the UK, according to a report by the UK Space Agency. More than 130 space companies currently operate within Scotland, including renowned global and emerging companies. Scotland’s space sector is ready to take off and is expanding faster than any of the other UK nations. It is estimated that the space sector in Scotland could be worth up to £4 billion by 2030.

A top pick within Europe

So what is it about Scotland that is so attractive to those in the space sector?

  • Scotland can offer reduced costs to companies. The UK Space Agency consider that operating costs in Scotland can be 40% lower than the rest of the UK.
  • There is strong support from both the Scottish and UK Government.
  • Scotland can offer space companies the full value supply chain within the country, with:
    • Manufacturers in Glasgow currently producing more small satellites than anywhere outside California
    • Five space ports under development to launch satellites
    • Data innovation services – Edinburgh is, for example, positioning itself as the ‘space data capital’ of Europe.
  • The UK’s largest rocket engine factory has just opened in Cumbernauld, with production starting on three new rockets at a 55,000 square floor facility. Skyrora also recently opened an engine test facility in Midlothian.
  • Scotland can offer networks of accelerators to support new space companies, along with organisations such as Scottish Enterprise which can help fund and support the growth of companies in Scotland.
    All things considered Scotland has the potential to be viewed as a very innovative and exciting place to work for the space sector.

Partnership with Scottish universities

Alongside a thriving business in Scotland, there has also been significant investment by academic institutions providing cutting edge research for the sector.

In July 2022, the Space Research and Innovation Network for Technology (SPRINT) awarded new grants to SMEs based in Scotland. The grant awards follow the UK Space Agency’s commitment to work with higher education institutions in the devolved nations. The grants were awarded to the University of Edinburgh and the University of Strathclyde and the head of the SPRINT programme aims to ramp up research in sustainable cities, mitigating the impact of climate change and drawing from the benefits of space data as a service.

The Strathclyde project ‘Clyde Space’ is focusing on ‘building and launching its own constellation of satellites to establish a leading position in the supply of Space-Data-as-a-Service.’ Clyde Space is aiming to try and meet the demand for high quality and timely data from space and the increasing commercial interest.

Youth development

The sector is also investing in Scottish young people. A new campaign has taken flight in May 2022 which aims to educate young people about careers in the space sector. The ‘A New Hope’ campaign, is linked to South Ayrshire Council’s ‘Skypath’ initiative and will include educational outreach videos for students and teaches in Ayrshire and across Scotland. The programme seeks to ‘break down perceived barriers’ to accessing space careers and inspire young people to follow their dreams (or shoot for the stars if we are continuing with the space puns). The aim of the programme is to reduce skills gaps that could hinder growth in the rapidly growing sector.

Legal considerations

As the space sector in Scotland sky rockets, the surrounding legal landscape will have to adapt with it. The legal requirements for those in the industry span across multiple disciplines including regulatory requirements, real estate, renewables, construction, employment, intellectual property protection and commercialisation, commercial contracts and data exploitation.

If you have any queries in relation to the space sector, please contact us and we will be delighted to help.

This article was co-written by Maya Allen, Trainee Solicitor.