SSAC Report - Scotland's Space Sector: Exploring potential future opportunities

SSAC Report - Scotlands Space Sector - Exploring potential future opportunities.pdf

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Executive summary 

The Scottish and UK governments have identified the Space Sector as a significant opportunity to develop a thriving and innovative national space economy. The global space economy is projected to grow from an estimated £270 billion in 2019 to £490 billion by 2030. This report is in response to a request to the Scottish Science Advisory Council, from the “New Market Clusters Team” of the Scottish Government, to help identify future opportunities (commercial and societal) for the sector in the next 10-20 years, aligned with Scotland’s research and industrial strengths.

The report begins with a summary of the Scottish space ecosystem, noting that there are aspects reserved to the UK government and others devolved to the Scottish Government. We note the dual-use aspects of the sector in civil and defence, and we outline the current routes to funding for space projects and programmes.

An examination of Scotland’s strengths and weaknesses reflects on heritage in contributions to space science missions and highlights the development of the “new space” sector in Scotland with its strong focus and expertise in small satellite manufacturing, data analytics, and its emerging strengths in the launch sector, potentially providing an “end-to-end” capability. Supporting the sector is an increasing number of infrastructure assets and the diverse strengths of the academic community. With an SME-dominated economy (small and medium enterprises), weaknesses noted include the difficulties in scaling our space-related businesses, the lack of a Scottish prime contractor and difficulties in accessing larger programmes.

An examination of future opportunities and challenges starts by considering areas for consolidating and stabilising the new space sector including satellite manufacture and launch. It explores 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 our expertise in data science and analytics and suggests exploring the use of satellite networking for opportunities to introduce new public and private services.

Leveraging our academic strengths is seen as a key driver of the Scottish sector, and making use of our breadth and depth in Enabling Technologies 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, we examine opportunities in emerging themes such as in-orbit services and space resource utilisation.

Consideration of competition and collaboration looks at threats and opportunities from comparable nations such as the Nordic countries, and areas where we can learn from the use of legal frameworks in countries such as Luxembourg.

The recommendations are:

1. National Contracts: The Scottish Government should explore the use of national contracts to support and enable the growing Scottish space sector and associated supply chain.

2. Co-created Research Programmes: The Scottish Government should act to support co-created research programmes between academia and industry targeting innovation in satellite manufacture and operation, and work with relevant agencies to promote wider applicable themes in collaborative funding calls for critical and enabling technologies for Space Science Missions and Industrial Challenges.

3. Nordic Collaborations and Legal Frameworks: The Scottish Government should explore collaborative opportunities with the Nordic nations in those areas devolved to it, and examine space legal frameworks, including Luxembourg’s, with a view to influencing UK’s own space legislation.

4. Infrastructure and Educational Strategy: The Scottish Government should commission Space Scotland and the Scottish Space Academic Forum to undertake an exercise covering the following areas:

a. A mapping of the supporting infrastructure available to the space sector, examining opportunities for shared access to capital assets; 

b. A review of Scottish research activity in space “emerging themes” with a view to informing future strategic collaborative programmes; and 

c. The development of a strategy for promotion of the space sector across primary and secondary education.

5. Entrepreneurial Programme for Space Data: The Scottish Government should introduce a focussed entrepreneurial programme for space data start-ups linked to the existing Entrepreneurial Campus and Techscaler programmes. This should be promoted using Scottish space data start-ups as exemplar case studies and engaging SDI (Scottish Development International) with assistance to route-to-market.

6. Economic Development Interventions: The Scottish Economic Development agencies should look at using 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. Legislative Examination and Standards Engagement: The Scottish Government should 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.



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