Using space to solve human problems with support from UMi Debt Finance Scotland

Two Edinburgh business leaders are propelling their company Astrosat to the forefront of international Space Applications and innovation with support from the Scottish Government and UMi Debt Finance Scotland.

Since 2011, Astrosat CEO Steve Lee and COO Fraser Hamilton, who met whilst studying at Caltech, have been successfully maximising their combined astrophysics and banking skills to win significant contracts in the highly competitive space industry. At eight years old, Astrosat is something of an old-new space company. Steve and Fraser are embarking on a huge product, which will standardise mapping and satellite data to identify the UK’s ageing and vulnerable populations and help public bodies protect them from the effects of cold weather, isolation, illness and pandemics such as coronavirus.

Steve explained: “Astrosat takes data from space and presents it visually to help people understand and improve the planet. Our Scottish Enterprise-supported Nexus programme looks at cold air weather patterns and pollution and the direct links with illness and prevention. We saw that it had obvious applications to help health service managers and give government a tool to help make and report on decisions on coronavirus, but to really push it along, we needed some big computer power, including a data centre and new kit - and for that, we needed funding.

“What we do can be difficult for the conventional lending groups to grasp - it’s a weird business and requires a very technically-oriented mind to get it. High street banks saw it as being too speculative and didn’t want to know. Investors would have shredded our budgets into confetti; and loans from existing contracts weren’t feasible either.

“We tried everything. Everything, that is, until I happened across an ad for UMi Debt Finance Scotland. I emailed them on a Sunday night - and by Monday morning everything had changed for us.”

The UMi Debt Finance Scotland loan scheme, supported under the Scottish Growth Scheme, is designed to help Scottish businesses innovate, grow and diversify.

Astrosat was approved for a £100,000 loan, which will be linked to another contract they have just won from the European Space Agency: “This flagship product will have a number of geophysical points, or orbs, each focusing on a particular earth issue - eruptions, floods and other weather related predictions; and will also include using satellite data and GPS to find the vulnerable in our population by postcode,” Steve said.

Tom Brock, UMi Debt Finance Scotland Fund Director, said Steve and Fraser were trailblazing entrepreneurs: “They are space scientists who graduated in a world with no jobs for them, so they created their own - using space to solve human problems. Astrosat’s work is pioneering in the true sense of the word, and hugely exciting, and we’re delighted to be supporting them.”

Steve said any Scottish company with an idea, big or small, should be talking to UMi Debt Finance Scotland: “The whole process was actually quite remarkable - human, empathetic, open and honest, and with such a quick turnaround time for approval.

“I really feel the whole thing carried a sense of honour about it - a company wholly dedicated to supporting the Scottish government in getting loans to Scottish companies - even our rather unorthodox and hard to comprehend business.”

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