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BLOG: 3 things I’ve learned since launching myself back into the thriving Scottish space sector

Luke Vanstone, Business Development Manager - Facilities, Higgs Centre for Innovation

Since returning to Scotland, it has been great to see no change to the drive and enthusiasm to support small businesses. From ourselves at the Higgs Centre for Innovation to the Bayes Centre in Edinburgh, or programmes such as the Unlocking Ambition programme, there are clearly great opportunities for ambitious entrepreneurs to take their first steps.

I re-joined the Higgs Centre for Innovation earlier this year, working to support companies and academics to access our expertise and facilities. Aimed predominantly at nanosatellite development, these include vibration testing, vacuum testing, EMC and cleanroom provision amongst more. Focusing on a new sector has proven challenging in the midst of a pandemic, but I have enjoyed integrating online and am enjoying the chance to get out to events to meet more people. To this end, I have decided to jot down some initial thoughts and impressions which I share below:

1) Value of Student Enterprise

Working with companies such as Lenz Ltd, which joined the Higgs Business Incubation Centre (BIC) programme, is a great demonstration of the journey of student enterprise.

It is developing innovative new technology that could solve long-standing problem of delays to trains due to “leaves on the line”, with their traction hub. The team were involved in the University of Edinburgh’s Hyperloop project, which is a proposed network of near-vacuum steel tubes to transport humans and cargo in magnetically levitating pods. Using their experience of developing tech for Hyperloop, the team realised that it could be applied to solving some of the biggest causes of delays in the current rail infrastructure. At the Higgs, they will need to complete pre compliance and electromagnetic compatibility testing, as well as vibration testing to survive the physical pressures of the railway.

Similarly, learning about the work from Endeavour and indeed, UKSEDS, has been insightful and encouraging. Keep your eyes peeled for the team in Endeavour who launched in October.

2) Space Hardware Development is tough!

Ensuring space hardware is robust is vital to achieving a sustainable space market. Testing at the Higgs Centre for Innovation has encouraged me to learn more about the various standards and protocols required for businesses to be able to launch hardware. It must be hard for smaller companies to know what standards to use or indeed how to adhere to them, especially for non-space companies who want to move into the sector. Given time and money is precious, I can now emphasise much more with the challenges, given the amount of technical disciplines required. Standards are vital, and a situation where all can launch very simply could be problematic, but more discussion on these are always helpful. The value of the technical expertise around Small Sat design that we can offer is therefore, in my opinion, a significant value add that helps SMEs and academics alike.

3) Scotland is a great space for space

The DIT webinars about the UK-AUS trade bridge highlighted the capabilities and opportunities across the UK. From my experience in Scotland (demonstrated at Dubai Expo during Scottish Space Day), there is a lot to be excited about - from upstream expertise to downstream capabilities. There are also opportunities to involve non-traditional sectors, including photonics, robotics or even batteries. See the Scottish Space Strategy for more in depth analysis.

It's been a great 6 months or so launching myself back in to the Scottish space sector, and now more than ready to be back attending events in person. If you would like to chat about the Higgs Centre for Innovation’s testing facilities, or anything I’ve mentioned then feel free to pop me a message via email or LinkedIn.


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