Our Space Café Scotland by Angela Mathis took place on Friday, 28th April. Angela, CEO of ThinkTank Maths was joined by three panelists to talk about where Energy and Finance meet the Scottish Space sector.
The innovators from the Scottish Space Ecosystem in conversation with Angela were:
- Richard Osborne from AstroAgency
- Anna Dawson from Terrabotics, and
- Robin Sampson from Trade in Space.
Scotland has made a lot of progress in space, doing quite a lot in hardware and spaceports, while having a big drive to understand how space observation data can be utilised. Space can be used to boost energy, finance, forestry, and other sectors to give them additional data and additional dimensions to their business, which in turn will give them new opportunities for growth and international business development.
Richard explains that AstroAgency was set up to help all companies wanting to get into the space industry to help them see the opportunities that are available.
“We realise that one of the problems with not just the space industry, but technical companies as a whole, is they have wonderful products and services often, but they’re not very good at getting the message out to the wider world about what they’re doing,” says Richard.
The space marketing company estimates that there are about 130 companies working in the space sector in Scotland, 29 of which are active in Earth observation. These include firms using optical technology, infrared, synthetic aperture radar, and geospatial technologies. Richard explains that the applications of Earth observation data encompass energy, agriculture, environmental, forestry, among others, feeding in to ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance). He says that companies traditionally outside of the space industry need a space strategy as the value of using Earth observation data becomes useful.
Anna adds that the power of Earth observation data lies in being able to provide accurate real time information on resource extraction, emissions, and environmental impacts.
“All of this satellite data can help to identify areas for improvement, helping to even manage assets, for example, for oil and gas extractions,” she says.
Anna thinks that Earth observation can play such a key role because it is a global data set, providing optical, visual, and contextual analysis ensuring transparency. Earth observation is transparent and objective, which means that it is going to be harder for companies to greenwash, while operators pushing to meet their sustainability goals and meet net zero can prove that they are doing a good job.
She continues by directing our attention to remote sensing, saying that there is a new movement and new era of exotic sensors coming into play.
“We’re seeing the launch of hyperspectral, and methane satellites, which is just really kind of exciting. So, what we’ve been waiting for, is the hardware, the satellites, ….And, really, it’s the constellations,” she says. “So, I believe that they’ll just be this interconnected mesh of infrastructure, … where there’s environmental or sustainable sensing going on all the time,” she concludes.
According to Robin, a real key enabler for finance and energy is looking at different ways to use data and software effectively. There are new ways to treat data from satellites and it is now possible to create contracts from satellite images by using distributed ledgers and blockchain. His company, Trade in Space has been using satellite images to procure and buy farmed goods and farmed produce as well as create direct trades between foreign producers and their customers.
“For us, the next step is to start working in other commodity supply chains. That’s our objective. I mentioned coffee and cacao, we think we can add a lot of value to other commodity verticals,” says Robin.
As for the key drivers for demand for space-based data, Anna says that in terms of mining, the biggest driver is meeting ESG environmentally sustainable governance. The second priority, according to her, is saving costs.
Richard concludes by stating how much Scotland has grasped the opportunity both on the commercial, and on the government side as well.