Bright Ascension on Mission to Become Employee Owned

(L-R) Dr Mark McCrum & Dr Peter Mendham
(L-R) Dr Mark McCrum & Dr Peter Mendham

Dundee and Edinburgh based experts in space technology Bright Ascension, which specialises in software products and services for satellites, has announced it plans to become employee owned.

The company, which was instrumental in the workings of the first ever Scottish satellite to rocket its way to space in 2014, was founded five and a half years ago by Dr Peter Mendham.

Dr Mendham recognised the potential for creating a business specialising in software for satellite development, mission control and operations. One year after starting Bright Ascension, Dr Mendham was joined by Dr Mark McCrum, now technical director at the company and also a software engineer with extensive experience of the space industry.

Mark McCrum said: “In order to help meet plans for growth and to continue developing and creating innovative products, we started investigating the possibility of employee ownership in 2013 through an initial consultation with Co-operative Development Scotland (CDS).

“We met with a CDS advisor who explained employee ownership and that this might open up investment opportunities for the business. CDS introduced us to Capital for Colleagues, an investment vehicle focused on employee ownership and an appropriate package was developed.

“As well as the need for investment we were interested in employee ownership because it seems like the fairest way to structure the ownership of a company. In order to build a world class company we need to attract, retain, motivate and harness the best talent in the field and adopting an employee ownership model allows us to do that.”
The firm, which enjoyed a turnover of £314,000 with profits of £27,000 last year, has recently added an additional three members of staff to the team, taking the total number of employees to nine.

Mark McCrum continued: “Our staff have been receptive and enthusiastic to the changes so we are currently in the process of setting up an Employee Benefit Trust with an initial 20% holding of the company. The shares are being gifted by the current owners which is happening in conjunction with an investment by Capital for Colleagues.”

Sarah Deas, director at CDS, added: “Bright Ascension’s main priorities were to scale up the business by attracting investment and then fully engage its employees to drive performance within the business. Both of these goals have been achieved through employee ownership, which gives all nine staff members a meaningful stake in their company and its future success.”

Recent research showed there are 80 employee-owned companies in Scotland, with approximately 6,500 employee-owners generating a combined turnover of around £900million.