On Thursday 29th February, some of the country’s most exciting and innovative businesses congregated to celebrate and shine a spotlight on Scotland’s burgeoning space sector. Between inspiring talks from pioneers in the field and panel discussions with key voices in the sector, there was much to get excited about. 

I was delighted to attend this fascinating and insightful half-day conference. Here are my main takeaways: 

  1. Scotland's space sector on the precipice of rapid growth - Throughout the conference, there was a real excitement that Scotland’s space sector is about to take off (pardon the pun). Over the next six years we are expecting to see a rapid acceleration in progress of space tech innovation. In particular, the increase in the number of small satellites to be launched over the next few years will unlock our access to space-derived data, which has so many exciting potential uses here on earth - and Scottish tech business will be at the forefront of applying that data to our day-to-day lives. 
  2. Sustainability in space - One of the key talking points at the conference was how we ensure sustainability in our space-related activities. There was a clear intention that the mistakes that we have made on earth are not repeated. The difficulty though is how do we balance this need to be sustainable without stifling innovation. This will be a key question for the sector going forwards. 
  3. Can international regulation keep up? - Around the world, innovation in the space sector is happening at an exciting pace. Inevitably, space law and regulation may struggle to keep with up with this changing landscape. Again, will slowly changing regulation stifle this innovative sector? There was also a concern that difficulties in accessing funding was slowing progress of some business towards reaching their full potential. 
  4. Inspiring the next generation - Another key talking point in the conference is how to do we encourage young people to consider a career in the space sector. Whilst many consider the space sector an exciting place to start a career, in practice there is concern about ensuring that the right talent is recruited and retained in the sector. It was suggested that the space industry needs to be talked about in schools from an early age to inspire future generations. 
  5. Collaboration is key - Whether it’s amongst Scotland’s space tech business, or the public and private sectors, it was widely agreed that the only way in which Scotland will be able ensure that its space sector fulfils its potential is by collaboration. International partnerships are also considered to be a key way in which Scottish businesses will be able to unlock innovation and drive the sector forward.

The conference finished with keynote speech from Debbie Strang of SaxaVord Spaceport, which deservedly earned a standing ovation from the conference. SaxaVord is developing a launch site on the island of Unst in Shetland.  Its first launch is planned for later this year, after receiving its spaceport licence from the Civil Aviation Authority, the first in the UK and in Western Europe. It is widely considered that a launch from SaxaVord would mark a new and exciting chapter in Scotland’s already world-renowned space story. 

For more information about Scotland's thriving space sector, follow this link to Scotland Development International's website: Scotland's space industry opportunities and space capabilities (sdi.co.uk)