By Mark Hampson, CIO, Satellite Applications Catapult
Satellite Applications Catapult CIO, Mark Hampson, looks at the impact and success the Catapult has had on the space SME community since its establishment two years ago.
As the Satellite Applications Catapult marks its second anniversary, this is a good opportunity to consider the impact we’ve had on the Small Medium Enterprise (SME) community over the past two years, as part of our overall objective of driving economic growth in the UK Space sector.
Through a considerable number and variety of engagements – including one-to-one meetings, workshops, networking events, conferences, projects and facilities – the Catapult has helped many Space sector SMEs achieve some major milestones, including increasing revenues, securing investment, and winning awards.
The Catapult’s focus on providing SMEs with strategic input – in order to unlock latent demand, create new demand, and drive exports – has seen the launch of several initiatives. These include Business Sprints designed to help companies better understand the scale and scope of their new business or service idea, and translate them into an ambitious yet realistic plan.
Stretch Space Ltd was one of the companies who benefitted from our Business Sprint initiative, following the award of an Innovation Voucher by Innovate UK. “The Business Sprint was well timed, as we’d just performed a lengthy market analysis into an ambitious upstream concept, indicating insufficient market value to proceed,” explains Stretch Space Director, Mark Brenchley.
“The Catapult facilitated the exploration of our original concept, before re-examining the ‘solution space’. As a direct result of taking part in this initiative, we developed a realistic business model and now have a very clear strategy to move forwards. We’re starting to develop a downstream data service for use in the shipping, renewable energy, and oil and gas sectors, and we’d strongly recommend other companies to consider taking part in a Business Sprint.”
Although the Catapult itself does not provide funding and investment, we’ve played an important part in several SMEs securing invaluable funds to grow their businesses.
“The assistance we received with investment readiness from the Catapult was invaluable,” says Geospatial Insight’s Dave Fox, whose company secured £300k funding from Midven following the investor readiness support. “We were challenged to think hard about the scale and scope of our business and market approach, and supported to translate this into a realistic, yet ambitious, plan. Furthermore, we were given the opportunity to improve the content and impact of our investor presentation, which is already showing benefits in terms of the responses from potential partners.”
Other companies to have benefitted are:
- Oxford Space Systems – attracted significant venture capital seed investment and has gone from one person to 9 people in two years.
- KisanHub – gained funding from the Eastern Agri-Tech Growth Initiative to develop and trial a Crop Yield Prediction, having received technical expertise from us.
- Sterling Geo – has more than doubled its employee base and increased turnover by 75% since engaging with the Catapult.
- WeatherSafe – one of the Catapult’s first successes, it has now launched its mobile app, which aims to help Rwandan coffee farmers protect and improve their farming operations through a uniquely powerful software which provides alerts based on weather information
Additionally, through the Catapult’s understanding of various grant programmes, we have provided guidance and support to several SMEs, leading to successful outcomes and collaborative projects. We have also supported the creation and structure of multiple consortia incorporating SME partners that have generated new revenue opportunities and access to funding.
Collaboration through shared workspace
As well as our facilities providing ways to accelerate new satellite applications and services development, the Catapult’s shared workspace area – Co-Space – offers opportunities for planned and casual co-working and collaboration. This has not only increased access to our broad range of experts, but also resulted in several collaborations between SMEs keen to jointly explore opportunities both within the satellite industry and outside.
Furthermore, the Catapult has introduced SMEs to programmes in which it’s involved, as well as to key partners, such as the European Space Agency Business Incubator Centre in Harwell, Innovate UK, and various commercial and academic institutions.
Consolidation through Networking
Our series of networking events has been highly productive too, with ‘Space for You’ providing an environment in which to stimulate new business and raise awareness of the opportunities that satellite applications offer businesses. Additionally, the informal monthly Satuccino meetings have enabled Space sector companies to foster collaboration, be informed of opportunities that can help with their future growth.
We have also adopted an approach to gathering homogenous groups, in an effort to achieve greater consolidation. By identifying key subjects or challenges facing a particular industry – such as farming or maritime – we have worked with key stakeholders in each respective industry to understand their challenges and agree a list of priority areas that could be benefitted by the use or integration of satellite technology.
Elsewhere, the Catapult’s concerted effort to raise the profile of leading space business competitions such as the European Space Navigation Competition (ESNC) and Copernicus Masters, with the UK community, has seen some positive results. Through our sponsorship, we’ve generated awareness amongst SMES of the benefits that winning one of these competitions can have in terms of rapidly accelerating an idea that uses satellite technology into a commercial success. Some winners have subsequently transformed the commercial viability of their business propositions by gaining important publicity, investment, and, most importantly, new clients.
Continuing to positively impact the UK Economy
Having successfully completed the first two years of the Catapult’s five-year plan, with several significant achievements, we will look to further increase our influence, engagements and impact throughout the Space industry in the UK, as we move towards the overall target of the industry worth £40 billion per annum by 2030.