Scotland’s space and satellite entrepreneurs

Scotland’s space and satellite entrepreneurs  urged to enter EIE19

By Alison Campsie, The Scotsman

Craig Clark
Craig Clark, CEO of Clyde Space Limited, one of a number of companies who are building Scotland’s reputation as a centre for space and satellite technology. PIC: John Devlin/TSPL.

Scotland’s space and satellite entrepreneurs are being urged to join a major launchpad for emerging tech companies that connects growing firms with potentially millions of pounds worth of investment.

Preparations are underway for EIE 2019, Scotland’s premier technology investor showcase that will be held in Edinburgh next April.

Sue Black
Computing, maths and tech expert Dr Sue Black will be one of the keynote speakers at EIE2019. PIC: Contributed.

EIE – which stands for Engage, Invest, Exploit – has helped seed companies unlock £650m worth of investment from around the world since the programme started in 2008. Dr Steve Ewing of Informatics Ventures, which organises the programme, said a strong field of candidates in data, health, fintech, cyber security and gaming was expected for the 2019 programme. He said: “The hope is that over time we start to see more space and satellite companies coming forward. Scotland has a fantastic reputation for developing space technology. For us it would be great to see more space and satellite companies coming through EIE. There is high growth potential in this area and we have established expertise right here in Scotland.” Scotland sits on the brink of a new age of space exploration after it was announced last year that a new spaceport will be created on the A’Mhoine Peninsula in Sutherland.

The UK Space Agency has backed the spaceport, which is due to be open by the early 2020s, with £2.5 million worth of funding for Highlands and Islands Enterprise, which is leading the project. Meanwhile, Glasgow has become the satellite building capital of Europe with firms such as Clyde Space and Spire leading the field.

Since its inception, EIE has helped companies from a range of sectors thrive. Among them are fantasy sports business FanDuel, which was founded in Edinburgh, and Celtic Renewables, which is based at Napier University and creates bio-fuels from waste products created by the brewing and distilling industries.

Immersive audio company Two Big Ears, which creates sound tools for gaming and social media, also went through the EIE programme and was later bought over by Facebook with founder Varun Nair and Abesh Thakur now working with the social media giant in California.

Says Varun Nair: “EIE and Informatics Ventures helped me find a local network and gain advice and mentors that led to the growth of the company.

“Edinburgh has an amazing network of angels and advisors and a robust support system to help small companies find their footing and thrive.”

Dr Ewing said EIE was about getting companies to access the finance to “take the next step forward”. He added: “We want to get investors to help grow product lines and create jobs.”

When EIE started in 2008, just 14 companies and ten investors took part in the event. This year, pitches were made by 60 shortlisted companies to 340 investors from around the world, including IBM Venture Capital and Robert Bosch Venture Capital.

Keynote speaker at the 2019 event is Dr Sue Black, who was recently listed as one of the top 50 women in tech in Europe. Dr Black is a passionate advocate for women in tech, and has spent the last 20 years campaigning for more recognition and support for women in computing. An academic with more than 20 years experience with more than 40 publications and a PhD in software engineering, she was made an OBE in the New Year Honours list in 2016 and sits on the government’s advisory board for improving digital services. Dr Ewing said: “We are absolutely thrilled to be welcoming Dr Black to EIE 2019.”