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by Sofia Villegas
23 January 2024
Scottish university aims to become a space innovation hotspot

Aerial shot of the research park | Heriot-Watt University

Scottish university aims to become a space innovation hotspot

Heriot-Watt University has announced its plans to build a space cluster at its Edinburgh campus.

The institution aims to become an innovative hotspot for cosmic research where it will “cultivate” a pool of graduates to meet industry needs.

The ambitious goal follows recent milestones by the institution in the space sector.

Last November, City of Edinburgh Council approved its plans to build a cutting-edge telescope station at its research park, placing the university “at the forefront of satellite quantum communications research”.

The £2.5m site will become a testing ground for the use of satellite quantum secure communications against cyberattacks.

The Hub Optical Ground Station will also support research across a range of areas, including space situational awareness, astronomy, astrophotonics, and optical communications.

Expected to begin later this year, the team will feature researchers from the universities of Bristol, Strathclyde, and York as well as experts from the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s RAL Space.

With this cluster, the university also hopes to bridge the current skills gap in the sector, which the UK Space Agency said was throttling the industry's potential in its Space Sector Skills Survey report last September.

Professor Gill Murray, deputy principal of business and enterprise at Heriot-Watt University said: “As a university, we aim to shape our curriculum to business needs to drive inclusive economic growth and prosperity. We recently launched a new degree in Aerospace Engineering, expanding on our student offering to produce graduates ready to meet the requirements of this emerging sector.”

Currently, the research park is the largest science park in Scotland with around 1,000 staff working across 28 organisations.

However, looking to continue building on the momentum, Murray has called for more space tech business to set base at the site.

She said: “Positioned uniquely to cater to the demands of the space sector, our Research Park extends beyond conventional academic boundaries. The goal is to transcend traditional learning spaces and laboratories, fostering an environment conducive to groundbreaking collaborations.”

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