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SE aims to help Scots space firms conquer the final frontier: winning funding

SCOTLAND'S space sector is boldly going … not as far as it should be, according to the country's main economic development agency as it launches a drive to improve the situation.

Despite boasting a promising selection of companies and academic departments, Scottish Enterprise (SE) believes the sector is under-funded, poorly organised and badly represented. Its failure to interact properly with its UK and European counterparts is said to have badly affected its ability to attract research funding and business. The result is that Scotland is thought to only receive about 2% of the UK funding pot, despite being home to about 9% of the population.

Ian McMahon, head of engineering, aerospace, defence and marine at Scottish Enterprise, said: "Of the money that's recovered by the UK, we know that about 80% goes to London and the south east. Of the remaining 20%, it is distributed fairly evenly throughout the country."

To put Scotland on the map, SE is tendering for a "network integrator" who can unite the sector - with a total budget of between £225,000 and £235,000 over two years starting from next March.

McMahon said: "Our voice is not big enough at the UK level. We want to make sure that companies in Scotland are talking to one another and talking at the UK and European levels with a cohesive voice in order to make the most of our opportunities. There is a lot of good stuff out there. We need to gather it together, make the Scottish voice bigger and make sure we are capturing our fair share."

Craig Clark, chief executive of Clyde Space, which is based in Glasgow and specialises in nanosatellites, said: "We are the biggest space company in Scotland with 30 staff and we really struggle to get European money. One of the reasons is that it's very political and you need to be lobbying and to know how the system works.

"We have missed out on business contracts worth €4 million [£3.4m] because we didn't lobby correctly."

Space technology is seen as having great business potential for the future. It is already worth £7 billion a year to the UK and has been growing at 9% a year on average each year since the turn of the century.

Other prominent companies include STAR Dundee (spacecraft processing and data handling), Luichart Technology (energy storage polymers) and MSB (thermal batteries). Academic specialists include the universities of Dundee, Edinburgh, Strathclyde and Glasgow.

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