Why California satellite data company Spire chose to set up in Scotland

Talent, access to risk capital, ease of setting up business and the support on offer are among the top reasons space data specialists, Spire Global, chose to locate in Glasgow to develop the next generation of weather satellites.

Access to risk capital, flexibility and support

Spire is a nanosatellite and data analysis company based out of San Francisco. The company specialises in gathering unique data from small satellites in a low-earth orbit. Spire collect this data, pull it down and through a network of ground stations, and sell the data as a service.

Founded in 2012, the company has already taken the world by storm and, as part of its global expansion, opened its European headquarters right here in Scotland.

When scouting for its new European base, the company looked at numerous different locations, but were instantly enamoured with what Scotland had to offer. Talking about what brought him to Scotland, co-founder and CEO of Spire, Peter Platzer, said: 

“Where Scotland won out was the access to risk capital, the flexibility and, importantly, the eagerness to support innovative companies – this really stood out here.”

Peter Platzer, CEO, Spire

It's fast and easy set up business in Scotland

Theresa Condor, EVP of Corporate Development at Spire, said:

"I initially visited Scottish Development International’s Silicon Valley office, in early September. I told them we’re interested in Scotland and we want to get an office set up right away at the beginning of the year. So, they got me something, in writing, by November. We opened our office here at the end of January. That’s very fast."

"It was at least as easy as it was in Singapore, which everyone thinks of as being a super-efficient place. It was just as easy here."

Peter Platzer, CEO, Spire

Scotland provides a first-class welcome

Scotland has a well-known reputation for providing a first-class welcome to all our visitors and from the moment Scotland was chosen as their new home, Peter and his Spire colleagues were blown away by the warm and open reception they received.

"We had a number of overseas staff come here for a temporary position to help set up who have since decided that they want to stay here permanently. Glasgow is a really great place to live and Scotland in general our people really enjoy being here. The words 'friendly' and 'hospitable' are really not rich enough in meaning to describe the experience of being a part of everyday life here in Scotland."

As well as the amazing welcome and help that they have had to settle into life in Scotland, Peter was also very keen to point out the amazing access to an incredibly talented Scottish work force:

"When we looked at Scottish staff, we found that the passion for what they do, their character and work ethic, is absolutely world-class."

“The confidence placed in us from Scotland enables us to expand our global footprint to attract the skills and talent we need to deliver on the next generation of weather satellites”.

Peter Platzer, CEO, Spire

Future growth plans for Spire Glasgow

Peter said: "Spire has been growing almost 100% year over year. Right now, the signs are very positive, and we continue to hire, particularly for engineers, here in our Glasgow office."

Where current weather satellites do a great job providing us with information, Spire’s new nanosatellites could gather up to 100 times more information. Peter co-founded the company in 2012 with a vision to provide satellite-powered data from any location on earth. He is now regarded as one of the pioneers in launching small form factor satellites into space – a meteoric rise in a small space of time.

Today, they have the world’s only commercial weather data constellation and their unique weather data means that, around the world, we can be better prepared to meet changes in our weather system. Data – like that provided by Spire’s nanosatellites – can be the key factor in fighting the extreme and unpredictable weather events that cause so much destruction globally.

In September 2019, Spire secured £14.7 million investment from Scottish Enterprise (Scotland's national economic development agency) which will help the firm generate over 260 jobs in Scotland’s space sector. Peter said: "We want to work with the industry to build the world's most effective weather forecast and to be a valuable contributing member of the Global Weather Enterprise.

"We will continue to scale the company and grow our workforce in Glasgow, along with our global product offering, to help countries across all industries, as well as governments tackle ever more frequent and extreme weather events in this era of climate change."

"Glasgow has been a fantastic location for us, with exceptional talent and people with a phenomenal 'can-do' attitude and true grit. We are excited to substantially expand our presence here and look forward to the continuation of strong partnerships within Scotland, the UK Space Agency, and the wider UK space ecosystems."

Peter Platzer, CEO, Spire

Spire's landmark deal with NASA

The company has also secured a $7 million USD deal with NASA to provide data to scientists for use in Earth-observing missions and early projects have shown the potential to improve weather forecast accuracy.

Peter said the deal with NASA was a landmark moment for the company and the space industry and feels that space and Earth observation have a strategic role in meeting European and global challenges, such as pandemics and climate change.

He added: “Weather risk for companies, governments, and people is constantly increasing due to climate change and is maybe the biggest generational challenges we face.

"Spire is incredibly humbled and inspired that our data and analytics can meaningfully contribute to the world facing this challenge collaboratively and globally.”

Spire now has more than 100 satellites in orbit, continuously scanning the earth 24/7. These satellites power its weather models and offer unique global weather coverage.

Recently the company provided its weather data free of charge to weather forecasting centres around the world, including the UK MET Office while the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent loss of aircraft data impacted weather forecasting.

Spire is also sending the first of four nanosatellites to space with powerful super computers on board to track world trade and predict the arrival time of boats to help port authorities manage docks safely.

More about Spire Glasgow


If you’d like to hear more about the experience of Spire and how Scotland could be an ideal location for your space tech business, we’re here to help.

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