As part of our Game changers series we meet Craig Clark MBE, whose Glasgow-based Clyde Space company is fast positioning itself at the forefront of the burgeoning UK space industry. Glasgow is in the running to host the UK’s first spaceport in 2018.
Watch our Game changers video featuring UK space industry pioneer Craig Clark, founder of Clyde Space
A Scottish space race
Glasgow-based Clyde Space is a designer and manufacturer of small satellites and at the forefront of the UK space industry.
Founded by Craig Clark, the company supports missions at all levels; from conceptual design, development, integration and testing, through to launch and in-orbit operations. Their small-scale satellites – about the size of a shoe box – can:
- take images of the Earth
- collect data about space weather and ocean behaviour
- help connect ground-based communications
The base for the UK’s first spaceport is due to be announced in 2018 – and Clyde Space is more than hopeful that Glasgow will be chosen.
The space industry is actually very risk averse. Being an entrepreneur in the space industry is quite an anomaly.
‘I bet my house’
I was working in the south east of England but I’m from here [Glasgow] and wanted to move back because I had a young family. But when I looked at Glasgow and Scotland in general there were no jobs for me.
Craig told a friend who immediately suggested he should start his own business – it was that conversation that started him thinking.
We’d sold our house anyway and had some cash to put in and it seemed a sensible thing to do. We literally bet the house on the business.
The investment, foresight and attitude to risk have paid off; Clyde Space’s annual turnover is £3m and counting and Craig has the benefit of achieving all this in his city of birth.
Glasgow’s actually a great place to do business. It’s a very vibrant city. Just being part of the whole momentum of the regeneration of this area is a good feeling. It’s been my determination to leave this legacy.
The sweet taste of success
Although Craig once played drums in a band called The Custard Experiment, his background is one grounded in science and a love of outer space. After receiving his BSc in Engineering from Glasgow University, he relocated to Surrey to spend 11 years at Surrey Satellite Technology, before returning to Glasgow to found Clyde Space, which now boasts more than 80 full-time employees.
Along the way he’s been awarded an MBE and been made a member of the Space Leadership Council, advising on the direction of the UK Space Agency.
At the end of the day, I’m literally one person out of how many billion people on a rock in this huge galaxy and universe so I actually thought 'just give it a go'.
- 1994: BScEng from Glasgow University
- 1999: Engineer at Surrey Satellite Technology
- 2005: Founded Clyde Space
- 2013: MBE for services to Innovation and Technology
- 2014: Launched Scotland’s first satellite UKube-1
- 2016: £1.5m commission to build four CubeSats
- 2016: Clyde Space opens in USA to work for NASA
- 2017: Fast growth with 80 employees
The overarching thing I’m most proud of is the fact that there wasn’t a space industry here in Glasgow before Clyde Space and now it’s one of the fastest growing areas in the world for space. And that’s a result of starting the company 12 years ago.
The optimistic Martian
Craig recognises that the way of the entrepreneur is not for everyone but he resolutely wouldn’t have it any other way.
The journey never ends. You’re always trying to push that boulder up the hill. There’s always something you need to fix. For entrepreneurs it’s always about doing something more. It’s about what’s next and how we can do some more.
Looking forward, Craig is optimistic about the future of space travel and the possibilities of colonising our neighbours.
I truly believe we will be on Mars in a few decades’ time and there will be colonies on the Moon and the like and we’ll start to expand. But space does take time to get things right and it won’t happen overnight but we will get there. If it’s in our lifetime, that will be great to see. I probably won’t get to go to Mars myself but I’m sure there are plenty of people crazy enough to want to do that!
Craig constantly likes to create and share ideas. You always see energy levels go up whenever he’s in a room with people. He’s constantly full of ideas, he’s always wanting to do something new. He’s a real visionary, he understands long-term what he wants for the company.
- John Charlick, Head of Projects, Clyde Space
- You can follow Craig on Twitter: @craig_s_clark
- Follow Craig’s company, Clyde Space, on Twitter: @ClydeSpace
- Visit the company’s website for more information on Clyde Space
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