Let's create a Cape Canaveral in the North not a Silicon Valley in the South​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​ - Volodymyr Levykin

Reports suggest that the Government intends to make Cambridge Britain's answer to Silicon Valley. But how many times have we heard about this before? And what does it mean in reality? Despite long-running conversations about building our version of US tech’s jewel in the crown, ‘Levelling Up’ efforts in other regions will be vital to the continued growth of the tech sector and the wider economy.

With the UK ranking third for the number of space tech investment deals globally over the last year, this burgeoning sector is central to the country’s broader tech ecosystem and just one example of an industry where Scotland is poised to lead the way.

The Scottish space sector is rising faster than anywhere else in the UK. Glasgow manufactures more satellites than anywhere else in Europe and Edinburgh is in pole position as the continent’s space data capital. Home to all three of the UK’s vertical launch space-ports and half of the horizontal launch sites, Scotland has built a holistic space value chain which is aiming to be valued at £4 billion by 2030.

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Yet, the region simply won’t see the benefits of a potential Silicon Valley-style hub in Cambridge, nor would most of the UK. Instead, the focus must be on spreading talent out across the country, and funding already thriving industries, to avoid exacerbating brain drain to the South.

Volodymyr Levykin, CEO and founder of SkyroraVolodymyr Levykin, CEO and founder of Skyrora
Volodymyr Levykin, CEO and founder of Skyrora

The Department of Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT) recently released the National Space Strategy in Action, further demonstrating the Government’s commitment to realising the potential of the sector and the larger goal of achieving science and technology ‘superpower’ status for the UK.

No doubt this will foster talent development across the country and it is positive to see DSIT firmly behind the UK space industry. However, if the UK plans to become a leading nation in the Low Earth Orbit (LEO) European launch market by 2030, the growth of the Scottish space economy in particular, holds the key to success over the next seven years.

Geographically, the region is uniquely placed to lead the charge for the new era of small-satellite missions. Launching a rocket northwards, rather than over inhabited land, is safer and an advantage for Earth-monitoring spacecraft, which often fly in orbits that sweep over the poles to monitor the planet beneath. Attracting companies from across Europe, Scotland can be the space hub for the entire continent.

A steady commitment of strong investment is a surefire way to help space tech firms grow and stimulate innovation across the entire economy. This means supporting companies that already exist, as well as encouraging and enabling those that don’t yet. With the space industry already in good stead, now is the perfect time to invest. Companies with access to both public grants, defence contracts and longer term private investment have the financial security to build for the future.

Creating a consistent recruitment pipeline and retaining skilled people in the space sector is imperative to its development, and financial support for academic and technical training will play a role. To sustain the talent pipeline in Scotland, public and private schemes such as scholarships and apprenticeships are also crucial. In addition, investment in STEM programmes will ensure the blossoming space sector can compete in the fight for talent and achieve its potential.

With Scotland on the cusp of completing the first vertical rocket launch from UK soil later this year, perhaps the long-term aim should be to create our answer to Cape Canaveral in the North rather than Silicon Valley in the South.

Volodymyr Levykin, CEO and founder of Skyrora



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