The North Highlands and Moray Space Cluster with Roy Kirk, Highlands and Islands Enterprise

Date: 11 May 2022
Time: 12:00 am - 12:00 am
Location: BIS London and Crowdcast
BIS Evening Lecture | BIS Events | In-Person | International | Online

Wednesday 11 May 2022, 1900 BST (7:00pm)

VENUE: BIS London and Crowdcast


Space in the UK – A model in the North

There has been a tremendous interest in the creation and development of Spaceports in the United Kingdom. This has included the Vertical and Horizontal Launch variations. While this has generated some good headlines and hype the work of developing a sustainable Space industry in the UK has continued.

Roy Kirk will outline the activities and ambitions of the North Highlands and Moray Space Cluster and explain the importance of the Sutherland spaceport to this project and to the local community and the regional and national economy. Mr Kirk will discuss the approach that has been adopted in the North of Scotland by a multi-agency group to develop a Space Cluster in North Highland and Moray. While Cluster builds on the success of both Space Hub Sutherland and the Orbex facilities in Forres, Moray, it looks to a widening of elements of the Space Sector in the area that will create a real focus for the development of Space in the United Kingdom. He will review some of the developments of Space Hub Sutherland and indeed of Orbex in developing their bases in the area and how they are now moving into an operational phase and how this will support the development of the Cluster.


Royce Kirk was born in Glasgow and attended Allen Glens High School. He started work for the then Scottish Executive as a computer programmer in 1979. He undertook posts as systems analyst, business analyst and international relations. He worked for “Locate in Scotland” as part of the Rural Investments team that he later led. He then undertook work for the Tourism team in Scottish Development International. He was instrumental in attracting Trump International to their Aberdeen site.

In 2007 he moved to Thurso to work for Highlands and Islands Enterprise. This was initially as an Inward Investment executive and six months later as the Area Manager for Caithness and Sutherland. As well as supporting existing communities and companies in the Area, he was always looking for projects that would help offset the run down of the Dounreay nuclear facility in Caithness.

In 2014 there was significant activity with Horizontal Launch sites looking to position themselves for support from UK Space Agency. With colleagues, he investigated the option of a vertical launch facility in the North Coast mainland of Scotland. This led to engagement with a number of industry experts and Launch companies to develop the proposition of what is now, Space Hub Sutherland. Discussions were held with a number of Launch companies and with local individuals and in April 2017 a number of proposals were submitted to the UKSA in their call for proposals between Spaceports and Launchers for funding for orbital launch. In July 2018 the Prime Minister announced that Space Hub Sutherland would be awarded funding to develop its plans to undertake orbital launches in concert with Orbex and Lockheed Martin. He was appointed the Project Director of Space Hub Sutherland in 2018.

Since then, planning permission was obtained in August 2020 and some planning conditions have been sanitised and the remaining conditions are being discharged. The project has assisted The Highland Council in defending a Judicial Review and has been successful in obtaining an application for a scheme from the Scottish Land Court to use the planned site. All legal barriers have been removed and it is expected that ground will be broken in the next few weeks and construction will start this year with orbital launch in early 2023.

Concurrent with this development has been the development of a Space Cluster in the Northern area. He led a team with a wide range of interests to develop a strategy for the Space Cluster that was published in September 2021 and is now following an action plan to deliver the wider aspects of the Space sector in the North mainland of Scotland.


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