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The Swedish Space Corporation unplugs valuable knowledge in the UK

As Sweden’s first state-owned company in the space industry, the Swedish Space Corporation has grown to become a global business, providing advanced space services around the globe. One of its most recently established offices is in Harwell, south of Oxford, where it has been present for two years. Although quite new to the UK, the SSC is already engaged in projects initiated by the European Space Agency. We spoke to John Stuart, SVP of Business Development at SSC, about the journey from Sweden to the UK.


Founded in 1972, SSC is a leading provider of advanced space services, based in Solna and Kiruna, Sweden “The company was established as Sweden was stepping into the space business,” says John. Celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2022, SSC is today a global actor, with operations in five countries, offering space engineering, as well as satellite and launch services to commercial and institutional customers.


John began his collaboration with the SSC back in 2013 when he first became a member of the SSC board. “It felt a bit odd to be appointed to the SSC Board of Directors as I’m British and not Swedish, but I felt really honoured to have gained the owner’s support and to be able to contribute my industry knowledge and skills.” Between 2013 and 2016, John served on the board and since 2016 he has worked as an executive for the company itself.


Setting up in the UK

One of the reasons why the SSC chose to set up its business in the UK was because of the shared values and work philosophy between the countries. “I think the two countries have a similar cultural view, which has made work easier,” says John. Besides this, he also points out: “We also share a common commitment promoting sustainable technology growth.”


Also, the country offers exciting opportunities and areas of expertise. “In the UK, there is a lot of knowledge and interest surrounding the so-called ‘New Space’ market, the emergence of the private space industry, which is a rapidly growing activity. As we are getting more involved in this, it felt natural for us to come to the UK.” He mentions that there are only one or two other Swedish companies that are active in exploring this new field, and according to John, the UK is very much a space-faring nation wedded to exploring and expanding the space market.


Impact of Brexit

When asked about the impact of Brexit, John says they have not experienced major changes. According to him, the pandemic was having a bigger impact on the business. “I think Covid-19 had more of an impact than Brexit, as it has changed the way people work.” He explains that the pandemic created opportunities for a hybrid work model, meaning that they can work from home – or anywhere else in the world – as people do not always physically have to be in the offices.

Initially, the team was worried that Brexit would make it harder to find the right competence, due to its effect on the free movement of labour. “I could have imagined that labour or finding the right knowledge and expertise could have become an issue, but in reality, we’ve had no problem at all with that,” says John. Even though the process looks different now compared to before the UK left the EU, John points out that it has not been a barrier for them.


Even if Brexit did not have a major effect on their business, John still thinks that there are lessons that can be learned from it. “I think we have learned a lot from the way we’ve worked, both through the pandemic and Brexit. Not only regarding the processes themselves, but also around common goals, philosophy, and attitudes.” According to John, the collaboration between the UK and Sweden enables people with the right expertise to travel between the countries, leading to increased development and innovations. “I’m very keen to increase bilateral work between Sweden and the UK, as there are great lessons to be learned from both sides.”


Space hub

The SSC’s UK offices are located in Harwell, outside of Oxford. John says that Harwell is a known space hub, which is why they chose to place the office in this area. “It is a quite significant place from an industry point of view. It is a gathering place, with many space-related companies set up around the area,” says John. In addition to this, there is a university and national research hub focusing on science and innovation located close by, motivating the presence of almost 100 space companies. “It’s also the home of the European Space Agency activity in the UK, so it’s really the right place to be.”


The local connection to the European Space Agency in the UK and the cluster of other space companies has made it attractive for SSC to grow the business and open a subsidiary – SSC Space UK, focused on looking at how you communicate with satellites from the ground. SSC has also set up a data analytics company - GlobalTrust. “It looks at satellite-generated data images which are then analysed for the purpose of helping investors, commercial companies, or governments to monitor and verify sustainable operations. With this, we can help different industries to ensure they are keeping their ethical and sustainability promises to society.” GlobalTrust is now delivering a range of satellite-based analytic services in both UK and Sweden, where it has also established an office.


Tips to other companies

John can think of a number of learnings he has found useful when setting up in the UK, such as reaching out to the Department of International Trade for guidance. “I would promote the Department of International Trade as a helping hand. If you are thinking of coming here, I would connect with the DIT because they can help with a lot.” For instance, John has found their resources helpful in regard to practical things, such as managing work permits, establishing communication across UK government departments and even setting up a UK bank account.


Furthermore, he points out the UK’s ability to invest in innovative companies in different industries. “This country is well wedded to investing in innovation and technology, whether it’s biochemistry, automotive, or anything else. It is a great country both to start up in and expand to,” says John. He believes that the reason for this open mindset is that companies that are set up in the UK create job opportunities. Hence, the interest in investing in companies that work with developing innovations in different industries.


Spreading innovations to the world

When talking about the future and what it entails for SSC, John has a positive outlook. “I see the UK market as an innovation hub, rather than a domestic market, allowing technology development that can be exported to the whole world,” says John. He is aiming high, with a clear vision about the company expanding its knowledge across borders.


Moreover, John is also set on working closer to the offices in Sweden and collaborating more. “When we set up here in the UK, we immediately engaged in the research projects by looking at what we do in Sweden, but instead, in a context of new space, and evolve that.” Ultimately, John argues that working in this way has allowed them to learn from each other about the different areas of space, resulting in their knowledge being developed. As mentioned earlier, new space is an activity of growing importance. By trying to look towards the future, and by working closely across borders, the knowledge about this area can evolve and hopefully result in great findings.

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Key sectors and opportunities for Swedish business

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Clean growth & Smart City technology

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Life Sciences:
Healthtech & medtech

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Tech: Fintech & games development

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Advanced engineering:
Electric vehicles

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