At the end of 2019, in an attempt to conjure an upbeat welcome to the new decade arriving, I made reference to the ‘roaring twenties’ of one hundred years earlier, and how that name had been based on the economic and cultural optimism at the end of the ten years that saw the conclusion of both Word War One and the Spanish flu pandemic.

Given how 2020 started our decade, a cynic might ask me if I meant a roaring bin fire, as in broad terms so far it’s been one to forget.

So we started the decade with a global pandemic, never the easiest of introductions, and it seems hard to believe that only a year ago our primary focus was concern for the further mutation of the Covid 19 virus into potentially more harmful variants like Omicron.

A year on and whilst there will be a small number of people rightly still cautiously monitoring that particular health concern, it is striking how quickly it has fallen from general public concern to an almost non-topic.

Instead of the calmer times that we would have welcomed with open arms, 2022 had other ideas, the most devastating being Russia’s invasion of Ukraine at huge human cost to both defender and aggressor, whilst underlining a few geopolitical uncomfortable truths in the security of global energy supply.

These traumatic events have only served to underline how critically important manufacturers are to Scotland and the UK.

In the early days of the pandemic we learned just how complex product supply chains were, and how much of that industry was in fact essential to society, pressing them to engineer safe ways to operate and keep production going.

The events in Ukraine have reminded us of the importance of excellence in defence infrastructure,

a real strength for Scotland, and one where we are the essential supplier for a number of critical projects here and around the world. For energy security, a switch away from Russian output has seen a surge in manufacturing demand supporting oil and gas projects, whilst the future balance from renewables can be well served by offshore wind investment which is an opportunity only to be seized.

These examples help us to understand why our most recent survey was out of step with the wider concerns for the economy, reporting an overall positive order, output and even optimism outlook. That’s not the case for every manufacturing company in Scotland unfortunately, but to even be in this net upbeat position given the wider landscape is something to be celebrated.

It not the only reason to be cheerful either, and one Scottish engineering sector that has recently highlighted that is our space industry, with the announcement of Mangata Network’s plan to build its research and development, manufacturing and core network operations hub at Prestwick International Aerospace Park, Ayrshire. The operation will create over 500 jobs in its aim to produce and test satellites delivering affordable, reliable, secure high-speed 5G connectivity over satellite, on a global basis.

If your next question is why Scotland, the answer lies in the overview of the space sector today. Glasgow builds more small satellites and hosts more informatics companies - essential to turn satellite data into usefulness - than any other location in Europe, and Scotland has a disproportionate one fifth of the UK’s space sector jobs, and the value continues to flow down to local supply chains in high tech, high value precision engineered components.

Achieving that success comes with a depth of great examples, but to pick just three to be proud of, let’s start with the UK Astronomy Technology Centre in Edinburgh, whose engineers led the proposal, design and build of one of the four science instruments on nothing less than the James Webb Space Telescope.

Contrasting long established with the very newest, AAC Clyde Space chart a path from being one of Scotland’s first commercial space sector companies formed in 2005, and are now an award-winning SME specialising in small satellite technologies and services that enable applications from weather forecasting to precision farming and environmental monitoring.

And my final example of excellence is Celestia UK whose offices on the Heriot-Watt campus are one of two in the UK, working on exciting innovative technology that is creating new options for the satcom marketplace. Celestia was boosted this year by the addition of Dr Carol Marsh as head of digital systems, bringing not only her wealth of relevant technical expertise, but also her broader contribution to industry. Carol is well known and respected in our engineering community as a champion of STEM for all, rightly recognised for her services to equality, diversity and inclusion with an OBE in 2020.

I could go on, but there simply isn’t room or perhaps your attention to continue. More importantly all would tell us that top of their priorities right now is ensuring a pipeline of skills to fuel their growth, and they would be honest to tell us that’s a significant challenge.

If the space sector in Scotland can achieve such stellar growth in less than two decades, it can’t be beyond us to help them by collectively finding a way to deliver those skills? A high value career designing, manufacturing and building satellites, launch vehicles and the digital systems that enable them doesn’t sound like the toughest sell.

Paul Sheerin is the chief executive of Scottish Engineering.