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Pin Factories and the contemporary Scottish Space Sector

By Dr Nic Ross




Adam Smith was a Scottish economist and philosopher as is often called “The Father of Capitalism”. However, this is essentially wrong. Smith, as is laid out in An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations did, of course, have an incredibly deep understanding of economics at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution and laid out the central ideas including the Division of Labour, Productivity, and Free Markets (via `the Invisible Hand’).


However, what Smith also noted was how mechanisms such as the division of labour would cause greater increase in production, resulting to an increase in the general wealth of a economy populous, leading in turn to an increase in consumption. Smith doesn’t delve into what this means in the long term - what we might now call oxymoronically “sustainable growth” - but does recognize the positive feedback cycle this employs.


As Scotland races towards the 2nd Quarter of the 21st Century, the UK Space Sector in general, but the Scottish Space Sector in particular, is caught in a bind. The Scottish Space sector wants to experience economic growth, but it also wants to do this in a sustainable manner.


The Space Sector in Scotland is particularly susceptible to this ‘space sustainability paradox’ an excellent phrase that this author first became aware of by Andrew Wilson (see Wilson & Vasile, “The space sustainability paradox”, 2023, Journal of Cleaner Production, 423, 138869). The Scottish Space Sector wants to grow its production, economic footprint and, let’s be honest, ultimately profits. The Scottish Space also wants to be seen, and act, as a champion of sustainable and ethical responsibility. These would seem to be diametrically opposite causes.


With the growing potential for Launch capabilities in the very near future, Scotland would have the full end-to-end space supply chain. And every part of that supply chain can be considered a modern day ‘pin factory’.


The advocacy for the responsible and sustainable use of space in Scotland, by the Scottish space sector is admirable and shows direct leadership. Squaring the circle of `sustainable growth’ still remains to be done.



Written by:

Dr. Nicholas P. Ross MSci (Hons) PhD LLM

Founder & CEO




Sustainable Progress for Space

UK Space Agency Explore Accelerator Alumni, Class of 2023




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