Scottish Enterprise in ‘space medicine’ plan

SCOTLAND’S life sciences companies are being urged to “boldly go” where few businesses have gone before by ­developing medical devices for use in space.

Scottish Enterprise is working to bring a “space medicine” centre to Edinburgh’s ­BioQuarter, which would help develop technology to be used by both astronauts in orbit and by doctors on Earth.

Science minister David Willets announced in December that the International Space Innovation Centre in Oxfordshire will be merged next month with the satellite technology “catapult”, one of the seven centres created by Prime Minister David Cameron in 2011 to stimulate innovations.

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The UK government believes the space industry could be worth £40 billion to the UK economy by 2030.

Once the combined “space catapult” is up and running, Scottish Enterprise plans to lobby for a space medicine centre to be opened at the BioQuarter, the science park that brings together academics, doctors and entrepreneurs. The economic development agency has been exploring the opportunities presented by the space medicine sector since last summer and will hold a symposium at the BioQuarter on Tuesday to discuss opportunities for Scottish companies.

Speakers at the event will include staff from the Cleveland Clinic in the United States. which has taken space technology and turned it into devices such as an artificial heart and a treatment for brain tumours in children.

James Cameron, Scottish Enterprise’s sales and marketing director at the BioQuarter, said: “So many devices we are familiar with started out as space technology. For example, the thermometer that doctors stick in your ear to take your temperature was developed for use in space.”

Fraser Black, managing director at the BioCity Scotland incubator centre in Lanarkshire, said: “I hope life science firms will be interested in looking into the space sector. It’s like taking inventions from Formula 1 and applying them to normal road cars.”