History As UK Imports First Legal Bulk Cannabis Shipments

Aurora Cannabis Inc announced Monday that it had completed its first commercial export of medical cannabis oil to the United Kingdom from a …

A landmark moment for the UK’s cannabis industry occurred this week when the first bulk shipments of marijuana were imported into Britain since legislation changed in November.

In a development that would surely make Howard Marks (RIP) nod in approval, British medical cannabis start-up Grow Biotech, investors European Cannabis Holdings (ECH) and unlicensed medicine manufacturer IPS Specials announced on Friday that 800 grammes of medicinal cannabis was legally brought in from The Netherlands.

Under strict manufacturing and pharmaceutical standards, 400 grammes of Bedrocan cannabis and 400 grammes of Bedica grown by Dutch biopharmaceutical firm, Bedrocan, was imported by IPS Specials following prescriptions issued for chronic pain at a cost of £695 per private patient.

(In case you were wondering, Marks, at his peak, claimed to have been smuggling 30 tons of the drug in each consignment.)

Aurora Cannabis Inc announced Monday that it had completed its first commercial export of medical cannabis oil to the United Kingdom from a certified pharmacy.

The Canadian company, which is currently building out its UK operations, said the product was successfully dispensed from Canada under the UK’s new legal framework.

“Being one of the first Canadian companies to commercially supply cannabis-based medicines into the UK under the new legal framework reflects Aurora’s ability to do business in international markets that have complex and evolving regulatory systems,” said Neil Belot, chief global business development officer, in a company statement. “Aurora continues to grow its international footprint, which now includes the UK, a country with a population of approximately 66 million people.”

“We are thrilled to have successfully navigated the complexities of the UK’s new regulatory framework to be able to supply high quality, pharmaceutical grade cannabis-based medicines into the UK from one of our EU-GMP certified facilities in Canada,” said Dr Shane Morris, senior vice president of product development and regulatory affairs for Aurora.

Aurora, headquartered in Edmonton, Alberta, is one of the world’s largest cannabis producers and has a funded capacity in excess of 500,000 kilograms a year and sales and operations in 22 countries across five continents. It has 15 wholly owned subsidiary companies.

The Grow Biotech/ECH/IPS Specials shipment represents about 30 patient prescriptions for a month and there are currently four patients whose prescriptions will be fulfilled, the trio said.

“If manufacturers and producers are willing to take a measured approach, we can and will continue to navigate a pathway for medical cannabis in the UK,” said Ashok Patel, Founder and Executive Chairman of IPS Specials.

Until now, the very few people given permission to access medicinal cannabis in the UK (as in, you can count them on one hand and not include your thumb) actually had to travel to the Netherlands to claim it. And even then they risked having it seized at customs.

Grow Biotech’s team of specialists worked alongside doctors to address their concerns regarding quality assurance and compliance for the prescriptions they have written, bridging the gap between existing cannabis medicines and accepted pharmaceutical standards.

The shipment has been exported by the Office of Medical Cannabis of the Netherlands and will be delivered directly to the patients from a pharmacy in the UK, with additional stock retained to ensure continuity of supply.

The stock includes Bedrocan Flower Afina, and Bedica Flower Talea, which are used to treat a range of conditions including chronic pain and multiple sclerosis.

“The fact that we are now in a position to write prescriptions that can actually be fulfilled is a huge achievement,” said Dr David McDowell, who sits on ECH’s medical board said. “Patients no longer need to worry about how they can access their medication, which will mark a positive step change in their journey and finally provide the relief that they are looking for, and we can now finally provide.”

The group say it will “lay the cornerstone for the British medical cannabis industry’s international supply chain” and proves that challenging regulations can be adhered to through innovation and creativity.

“We are building a team that will help take the UK medical cannabis industry’s infrastructure to the next stage, constructing a scalable and reliable system to meet patients’ needs and to support doctors’ understanding of medical cannabis as a potentially valuable treatment for particular conditions,” added Dr Henry Fisher, R&D Project Manager at Grow Biotech.

Last November, the UK government gave specialist doctors permission to prescribe medical cannabis to patients with certain conditions.

Individuals with conditions such as multiple sclerosis, severe childhood epilepsy and those undergoing chemotherapy may be eligible, however they must be assessed on a cas-by-case basis.

Debate is continuing to rage over medical cannabis and CBD in Britain after two severely epileptic children made headlines last year when their families revealed their struggle to access cannabis oil.

The drug significantly improved their condition, the families said, however they were continually denied access to medical cannabis and fighting with UK authorities.

The Home Office eventually changed rules to allow prescriptions, but there has been little movement until now.

Somewhat perversely, despite it’s draconian stance and unfriendly customs attitude, UK is the largest producer and exporter of legal cannabis in the world, with British Sugar growing about 20 tons a year.

Lobby group Health Poverty Action predicts a legal cannabis market could make the UK government between £1bn ($1.29bn) and £3.5bn ($4.50bn) a year in tax revenues, meaning legalising the drug could be a significant boost for the national economy.

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Best Cryptocurrency Exchange in the UK

Finding the best cryptocurrency exchange in the U.K. depends largely on your needs and the type of digital assets you plan to trade. Just about every …

Finding the best cryptocurrency exchange in the U.K. depends largely on your needs and the type of digital assets you plan to trade. Just about every U.K. exchange supports the best cryptocurrency, Bitcoin (BTC or XBT), although other lesser-known cryptocurrencies may not be supported. Several great crypto exchanges are based in the U.K., so pick the one that best suits your needs.

If you have no experience with cryptocurrencies (even if you have prior experience with forex, stocks or futures) you would be well-advised to learnhow to trade cryptocurrency before you open an account with an exchange. One of the best ways to learn cryptocurrency trading involves opening a free demo account with an online broker like XTB.

Regardless of your trading results in a demo account, remember that they could differ significantly when using a live funded account at a crypto exchange or online broker. Your success as a trader typically depends on your trading skills, including how you deal with the inherent volatility of digital assets.

Overview: Cryptocurrency Exchanges in the U.K.

If you plan to exchange one altcoin for another, opening an account at a cryptocurrency exchange might make sense. These exchanges allow you to purchase and sell coins for other digital currencies or for national currencies like GBP, USD or EUR.

Most of these exchanges require identification verification in order to open an account. If you want to make an occasional altcoin transaction, you can use a bitcoin ATM that requires you to have a crypto wallet or you can create one.

In addition to exchanges, peer-to-peer trading platforms can also be used to exchange altcoins. These usually match buyers and sellers in a similar location and take a fee off the top of each transaction. Other exchanges consist of platforms that offer direct person-to-person trading between people in different countries.

Peer-to-peer trading platforms generally do not place a fixed price on transactions, but instead allow each seller or buyer to set their own rate of exchange. Another exchange option consists of cryptocurrency brokers you can physically visit to buy or sell cryptocurrencies at prices set by the broker, much like local cambios do with foreign currencies.

What Makes a Great Cryptocurrency Exchange?

Before placing your first order, do a little research on the different exchanges. The elements listed below can help you find the best ones.

Pick 1: Reputation

Reputation

Reputation is one of the most important factors to consider when choosing an exchange. To research a cryptocurrency exchange’s reputation, visit trusted industry websites and read reviews. You can also go to cryptocurrency forums such as Bitcointalk and find out what other traders have experienced.

Has the exchange been hacked in the past? If so, what action or inaction has been taken on behalf of clients who may have been hacked?

Furthermore, an exchange that does not insure or segregate client funds could subject your money to theft. If you choose to leave your coins or other digital assets in an exchange, make sure that the exchange has a reliable “cold storage” facility to reduce the likelihood of hacking.

Fees and Payment Methods

To avoid unpleasant surprises after you’ve started to make transactions, be aware of all the fees the exchange charges. Fees can vary considerably depending on what exchange you use.

Does the exchange let you fund purchases with a credit or debit card? Can you PayPal them the money or would you have to pay for a bank wire transfer instead? Some exchanges do not accept national currencies and only accept other cryptocurrencies to fund an account. An exchange with limited payment options could make cryptocurrency purchases quite inconvenient.

ID Verification

Generally, exchanges that accept credit cards require identity verification and charge higher fees due to the higher risk of fraud or theft. They may also charge higher processing and transaction fees. In addition, purchases made through wire transfers can take considerably longer to process.

Almost all U.K. exchanges require some form of ID verification in order to make deposits and withdrawals. Nevertheless, some exchanges do allow you to remain anonymous, so check with the exchange if anonymity matters to you. Exchange ID verification can often take up to several days, but it helps weed out money launderers, fraudsters and other scammers.

Exchange Rates

Different exchanges can offer varying rates of exchange for cryptocurrencies quoted in national currencies, as well as wider or narrower bid offer spreads. Before you open an account, inquire about the prospective exchange’s dealing spreads.

Exchange rates have also been known to fluctuate widely in fast markets, with the actual volatility observed depending on the currency and cryptocurrency involved.

Below, we’ve rounded up three of the most popular exchanges based in the U.K.

Pick 1: BC Bitcoin

Considered one of the most trusted cryptocurrency exchanges in the U.K., BC Bitcoin is a professional bespoke U.K. cryptocurrency brokerage firm. The company offers a wide range of coins and tokens and buys and sells all major cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ripple, Ethereum and Litecoin.

The company offers clients a professional and customized execution service that targets specific prices with stop-losses and limit orders. Also, since the exchange’s base is in the U.K., transfers to your British bank account are immediate.

BC Bitcoin offers another service, which consists of mining packages since BC Bitcoin operates a mining pool on the Bitcoin blockchain. The company assists its customers that pay for mining packages by supplying cryptocurrencies to upgrade memberships and account packages.

Mining pool packages range from $500 to $5,000, and memberships to the Bitclub network are priced at $99 each. BC Bitcoin facilitates these packages on behalf of the Bitclub network and has no other affiliation with it.

Pick 2: Localbitcoins.com

LocalBitcoins.com is a person-to-person cryptocurrency trading site that networks buyers and sellers from different countries to trade bitcoins or other cryptocurrencies against local currency. The website allows clients to post advertisements stating the exchange rate and payment methods.

People reply to the advertisements and agree to meet with the counter-party to transact cryptocurrencies versus cash or to trade them directly via online banking accounts. The cryptocurrency seller then places it into the Localbitcoins.com wallet where the buyer can pay directly for it with national currency.

Localbitcoins.com differs from centralized exchanges in that its exchange is decentralized and requires you to deal directly with another person. Consequently, the process saves on corporate overhead, thereby making buying and selling cryptocurrencies extremely efficient.

You receive your cryptocurrency immediately, with just about every financial payment method in the user community accepted by the exchange. Also, Localbitcoins.com offers a transaction escrow service to protect buyers and sellers.

The process of opening an account and buying cryptocurrencies usually takes only a few minutes, from the time a user account is created to the cryptocurrency is received in your wallet.

Pick 3: Quickbitcoin

This U.K.-based exchange prides itself on the speed of their transactions that enable people to quickly and easily purchase cryptocurrency within the U.K.. By using standard U.K. bank transfers, the average time for a transaction to take place is under 10 minutes.

With many crypto exchanges, just opening an account and verifying your identification can take as long as a week before you receive your cryptocurrency. While Quickbitcoin may take a short time to verify your application, the process usually only takes a few business hours and verification often occurs on the same day.

The process for making cryptocurrency purchases could not be simpler:

  1. First, select the amount of coins you wish to purchase.
  2. Then, fill out an order form and submit it.
  3. Next, make a bank transfer to Quickbitcoins that provides you with bank details.
  4. Your purchased cryptocurrency then gets delivered to your wallet’s public key.

Final Thoughts

Finding a great cryptocurrency exchange in the U.K. is far easier than you might imagine. There are a number of exchanges available locally, as well as on the international and semi-international exchanges, so it’s only a matter of determining your needs and finding an exchange that best fits those needs.

Take into account exchange reputation, transaction fees, other costs, exchange rates, dealer spreads and customer service. Don’t forget to consider the time needed to open an account, as well as how long it takes for you to receive the cryptocurrencies you purchase.

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London to Scotland in 30 minutes! Interactive map shows how ultra-fast hyperloop could one day …

The Hyperloop system involves pods travelling over an electro-magnetic track enclosed in a low-resistance tube with very low air pressure, essentially …

A new interactive map shows how fast the proposed super-speed Hyperloop network could transport passengers to major UK cities across Britain from the capital.

The map, compiled from data made pubic about the system so far, estimates that for people wanting to travel from London to Leeds it would take a mere 15 minutes compared to 1.5 hours on a normal commuter train.

According to the data, connecting Edinburgh to London would take 30 mins, compared to the time it takes to get there by National Rail, which takes just under five hours.

There are also Hyperloop projects proposed for routes across the world, including the US, the Middle East, Europe and Asia.

If given the go-ahead, the transport infrastructure would revolutionise the way we travel, making it faster than any other mode of ground transport currently available in the world.

The Hyperloop system involves pods travelling over an electro-magnetic track enclosed in a low-resistance tube with very low air pressure, essentially it is a long tube that has had the air removed to create a vacuum.

The project is currently just a concept, backed by Elon Musk’s Boring company and Richard Branson’s Virgin Hyperloop One.

If the project becomes a reality, the main north to south branch in Britain would see journey times slashed to as short as three minutes from London to Southend, whereas on regular trains it would take 51 minutes.

Scroll down on the module below to reveal the map

The map was created by engineering firm RS Components, who are backing the University of Edinburgh’s proposed Hyperloop project.

They picked 20 of the UK’s biggest cities for the map based on population information gathered by the London based Centre For Cities, a think tank dedicated to improving the performance of UK city economies.

They gathered journey time information on journeys between these urban centres using National Rail’s journey planner, using direct train times with no changes.

They also restricted searches to the same time-and-date to make sure the data on trains was fair across cities and avoided weekend and bank holiday delays.

They then found the fastest train times between pairs of cities, for example London to Manchester.

For the Hyperloop speed calculation, then assumed a top speed of 670mph (1,078 kmh), somewhat short of the claimed maximum speed of 760mph (1,200 kmh) when the system was first unveiled.

They also took into account the fact that cities and their stations will be connected via special underground tunnels laid directly ‘as the crow flies’.

They then calculated the amount of time it would take to cover the distances between various cities and London.

TIME IT TAKES TO CONNECT LONDON TO THE REST OF THE UK VERSUS NATIONAL RAIL
Destination National Rail (mins) Hyperloop time (mins) Time saved (mins)
Birmingham 83 9 74
Manchester 125 14.4 110.6
Glasgow 269 30.6 238.4
Newcastle 171 22.2 148.8
Sheffield 129 12.6 116.4
Leeds 134 15 119
Bristol 89 9 80
Nottingham 100 9.6 90.4
Liverpool 135 15.6 119.4
Portsmouth 96 6 90
Edinburgh 260 29.4 230.6
Leciester 65 7.8 57.2
Bournemouth 110 8.4 101.6
Swansea 181 14.4 166.6
Southampton 79 6 73
Stoke 88 12 76
Preston 132 16.8 115.2
Cardiff 124 11.4 112.6
Southend 51 3 48
Coventry 62 7.8 54.2
Hyperloop One set on an idea laid out by billionaire Elon Musk, the entrepreneur behind electric car company Tesla and private space exploration endeavour SpaceX. It is essentially a long tube that has had the air removed to create a vacuum (artist's impression pictured)

Hyperloop One set on an idea laid out by billionaire Elon Musk, the entrepreneur behind electric car company Tesla and private space exploration endeavour SpaceX. It is essentially a long tube that has had the air removed to create a vacuum (artist's impression pictured)

Hyperloop One set on an idea laid out by billionaire Elon Musk, the entrepreneur behind electric car company Tesla and private space exploration endeavour SpaceX. It is essentially a long tube that has had the air removed to create a vacuum (artist’s impression pictured)

WHAT IS THE HYPERLOOP?

Hyperloop is a proposed method of travel that would transport people at roughly 700mph between distant locations.

It was unveiled by Elon Musk in 2013, who at the time said it could take passengers the 380 miles (610km) from LA to San Francisco in 30 minutes – half the time it takes a plane.

It is essentially a long tube that has had the air removed to create a vacuum. For safety reasons, Hyperloop tunnels need escape hatches in case of fire.

The tube is suspended off the ground to protect against weather and earthquakes.

There are now a number of firms vying to bring the technology to life, including Elon Musk himself, Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, and Virgin Hyperloop One.

As several firms vie to create the first operational Hyperloop, Elon Musk’s vision of a radical transport system that could ferry passengers above land at 760 miles per hour continues to inch closer to reality

As several firms vie to create the first operational Hyperloop, Elon Musk’s vision of a radical transport system that could ferry passengers above land at 760 miles per hour continues to inch closer to reality

As several firms vie to create the first operational Hyperloop, Elon Musk’s vision of a radical transport system that could ferry passengers above land at 760 miles per hour continues to inch closer to reality

Hyperloop would transport passengers at roughly 670mph (1,078 km) between distant locations in a short amount of time.

It was unveiled by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk in 2013, who at the time said it could take passengers the 380 miles (610km) from LA to San Francisco in 30 minutes – half the time it takes a plane.

The Boring company have already opened the Boring test tunnel under the city of Los Angeles in December in a project that cost $10 million (£8 mn). It is currently being used for research and development.

The US start-up hoping to create Hyperloop has already released a list of 35 routes in locations around the world vying to put the near-supersonic rail transit system to the test.

At present the idea is just a concept with companies like Elon Musk's Boring company and Richard Branson's project Hyperloop One competing schemes and insisting that they have the best solution for the UK

At present the idea is just a concept with companies like Elon Musk's Boring company and Richard Branson's project Hyperloop One competing schemes and insisting that they have the best solution for the UK

At present the idea is just a concept with companies like Elon Musk’s Boring company and Richard Branson’s project Hyperloop One competing schemes and insisting that they have the best solution for the UK

Hyperloop One currently has the only working testing facility in the world, the DevLoop track in the Nevada desert (pictured). It allows pods to rocket along rails through reduced-pressure tubes at speeds of up to a theoretical maximum of 760 miles (1,200 kilometres) per hour

Hyperloop One currently has the only working testing facility in the world, the DevLoop track in the Nevada desert (pictured). It allows pods to rocket along rails through reduced-pressure tubes at speeds of up to a theoretical maximum of 760 miles (1,200 kilometres) per hour

Hyperloop One currently has the only working testing facility in the world, the DevLoop track in the Nevada desert (pictured). It allows pods to rocket along rails through reduced-pressure tubes at speeds of up to a theoretical maximum of 760 miles (1,200 kilometres) per hour

Meanwhile, Virgin Hyperlink One has built a 500-metre test track in Nevada, and is working on a hyperloop connecting Mumbai and Pune in India.

They released a list of 35 routes in locations around the world vying to put the near-supersonic rail transit system to the test.

The proposed routes will connect over 75 million people in 44 cities, spanning 3,100 miles (5,000 kilometres).

Hyperloop’s tube is suspended off the ground to protect against weather and earthquakes.

Passengers would sit in either individual or group pods, which would then be accelerated with magnets.

Capsules carrying six to eight people would depart every 30 seconds, with tickets costing around $20 (£13) each way.

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The proposed system involves pods travelling over an electro-magnetic track enclosed in a low-resistance tube with very low air pressure, essentially it is a long tube that has had the air removed to create a vacuum

The proposed system involves pods travelling over an electro-magnetic track enclosed in a low-resistance tube with very low air pressure, essentially it is a long tube that has had the air removed to create a vacuum

The proposed system involves pods travelling over an electro-magnetic track enclosed in a low-resistance tube with very low air pressure, essentially it is a long tube that has had the air removed to create a vacuum

At present the idea is just a concept with companies like Elon Musk's Boring company and Richard Branson's project Hyperloop One competing schemes and insisting that they have the best solution for the UK

At present the idea is just a concept with companies like Elon Musk's Boring company and Richard Branson's project Hyperloop One competing schemes and insisting that they have the best solution for the UK

At present the idea is just a concept with companies like Elon Musk’s Boring company and Richard Branson’s project Hyperloop One competing schemes and insisting that they have the best solution for the UK

The cost of building a line from LA to San Francisco has been estimated at $16 billion (£10 billion) – although critics say it would be nearer $100 billion (£65 billion).

Dubai announced last year its plans for building a line linking it to the Emirati capital of Abu Dhabi within the next five years.

Representatives from groups behind the planned lines in the UK and Europe met with Hyperloop One this week to make their cases for the best option for the continent.

In the UK, three routes have been picked, that could see lines built from London to Edinburgh, Glasgow to Cardiff and a third route connecting cities in the North to Scotland.

These will face competition from six other routes across the continent, including Corsica to Sardinia in France, Tallinn in Estonia to Helsinki in Finland, an Autobahn route in Germany, the Dutch Loop in the Netherlands, Warsaw to Wroclaw in Poland and Madrid to Tangiers in Spain.

A number of designs have been submitted for how the pods themselves would function, including for the LA to San Francisco line (artist's impression pictured). The construction cost has been estimated at between $16 billion (£10 billion) and $100 billion (£65 billion)

A number of designs have been submitted for how the pods themselves would function, including for the LA to San Francisco line (artist's impression pictured). The construction cost has been estimated at between $16 billion (£10 billion) and $100 billion (£65 billion)

A number of designs have been submitted for how the pods themselves would function, including for the LA to San Francisco line (artist’s impression pictured). The construction cost has been estimated at between $16 billion (£10 billion) and $100 billion (£65 billion)

more videos

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Is Orbex the European SpaceX?

Entrepreneur-led and with soaring ambitions for transforming commercial spaceflight – not to mention a name ending in -ex – Orbex has drawn …

Entrepreneur-led and with soaring ambitions for transforming commercial spaceflight – not to mention a name ending in -ex – Orbex has drawn inevitable comparisons to SpaceX. But despite reaching for the stars, the UK-headquartered company has its feet firmly planted on the ground.

Last week, Orbex unveiled a completely-engineered prototype of its Prime rocket at the opening of its new facility in Forres, near Inverness, in the beautiful surroundings of the Scottish Highlands.

The factory will bring rocket manufacture closer to the proposed UK vertical launch spaceport on the A’Mhoine peninsula in Sutherland on Scotland’s north coast, about an hour and a half by rocket-toting truck; perfect for the polar orbit market Orbex is targeting. Orbex was part of the consortium with Lockheed Martin and Highland and Islands Enterprise (HIE) to bid for the Sutherland spaceport and received £4.5m of the funding when the project moved to the next stage in July 2018.

Prime is a second stage rocket, and this first example was built at Orbex’s existing facility in Copenhagen before Forres takes over manufacturing. Launched atop a 10m first stage rocket, it will insert satellites into sun-synchronous or polar orbits at altitudes up to 1,250 km (776 miles). It will be powered by the world’s largest 3D printed rocket engine made in a single piece with no welding, made by German additive manufacturing specialist SLM Solutions.

It is the first commercial rocket engine designed to work with biopropane, a clean-burning, renewable fuel source that cuts carbon emissions by 90% compared to fossil hydrocarbon fuels, supplied by Orbex’s BioLPG fuel partner Calor; delivering an environmentally-friendly solution was a key element to gaining the support of HIE and crofters of A’Mhoine.

The rocket body is made from specially-formulated lightweight carbon fibre and aluminium composite making it 30% lighter and 20% more efficient than other vehicles in the small launcher category. The first-stage rocket will incorporate as-yet-undisclosed new technology to reduce space junk.

Orbex: the European SpaceX?

Orbex Prime: the maiden flight

The maiden flight of Orbex Prime will take place in 2021 in partnership with Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL) carrying an experimental payload, followed by an SSTL demonstrator satellite in 2023.

SSTL managing director Sarah Parker says: “We are extremely excited about the development of a sovereign UK satellite launch capability. This is something SSTL has been advocating for many years, and it will benefit the entire UK space industry. We have been impressed with the rapid progress Orbex has made in a short time, and we look forward to working with them towards the first launch in 2021 and beyond.”

Switzerland-headquartered Astrocast will also use Orbex Prime rockets to launch as many as 10 CubeSat nanosatellites by 2023 in support of its global Internet of Things (IoT) network. These will form part of a constellation of 64 satellites in eight planes of eight in low-Earth orbit. They will be used for a range of applications including environmental monitoring, security, maritime, mining, and oil and gas.

Astrocast CEO Fabien Jordan says: “We are excited about the prospect of launching our nanosatellites from a European launch site. To deploy and maintain our constellation, we need regular access to launch services. Launching from Europe will be beneficial to us in terms of our production schedule and launch campaign logistics.”

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The European SpaceX?

All in all, this is a great line-up for a company which CEO Chris Larmour says he set up “for a wheeze”.

“I put the first euro into the company in early 2015, and [spacecraft designer] Kristian von Bengtson set it up,” Larmour says. “We were lucky with the timing that bidding for the [Sutherland] spaceport came along; we decided to build a rocket and it just so happened that the wave came along at that moment.”

After raising money from friends, family and investors, Orbex won £10,000 via the UK Space agency from Horizon 2020,EC funding for research and innovation including approximately €200 million per annum for the Space Work Programme. Larmour says that gave Orbex the “badge of authority” that led to incremental amounts of funding flowing in.

Larmour hopes the new facility will give back to the Highlands’ economy in terms of new jobs.

“This year we’ll grow to about 30, maybe 40 by the end of the year. Longer term, a total of about 150 in Scotland, about 130 in this area; not all in this factory, we’ll probably have another facility, then about another 20 at the launch site itself,” he says.

Larmour believes being able to offer all-European launches is a big selling point.

“One of the customers from today is UK – SSTL – and the other is Swiss – Astrocast and they see a strong advantage in European launches,” he says. “I think the European market is massively underserved in this domain and they’re all going to India or America to launch simply because there isn’t a good option locally.

“You could get on a launcher like Vega, but my feeling is they’re not super-interested in those small satellite businesses. Their sweet spot is 500kg plus because that’s what pays the bills. Whereas in my sector 10, 20, or 50kg is a good customer for me.”

Orbex: the European SpaceX?

Brexit’s extraterrestrial impact

However, the effects of Brexit look like they could stretch even to Earth’s orbit.

“The UK Space Agency is going to continue funding via the European Space Agency (ESA), and ESA is not a European Community thing, it’s a sort of private members’ club,” he says. “However, the EU has recently announced a €16bn fund for space. It puts a lot of money on the table for space from the European Community rather than ESA, and it’s not clear what that’s going to do to the dynamic in Europe of UK versus ESA.

“Europe lacks the equivalent of a SpaceX. We don’t see ourselves as that company, by the way, but this region lacks that competitive dynamic, and I think if a company like that came along, it could be an interesting catalyst in the dynamic of European space life.”

And while Elon Musk and crew thrive on making space cool, Orbex is more pragmatic.

“We’re not cool in this company!” says Armour. “We’re the most boring people you’ve ever met, so down to earth it’s unbelievable. People think space is cool, but my job is buying new carpets, figuring out the insurance policy and getting the painter paid on time.”

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Blockchain posited as solution to Brexit stalemate

Blockchain has been cited as a possible solution to the most contentious aspect of … Blockchain or distributed ledger technology certainly has some …

Blockchain has been cited as a possible solution to the most contentious aspect of Brexit. With 43 days left before Britain leaves the European Union, can the nascent technology play its part in resolving the logjam?

The Brexit conundrum

On March 29, Britain may leave the European Union with or without an agreement in place. The main stumbling block to reaching a deal appears to be the Irish backstop. Thebackstop is a fallback position to agree to maintain an open border between the UK and Ireland without a fully detailed deal having been determined.

The matter is contentious as the region has enjoyed an open border in line with the Good Friday peace agreement which came into effect in 1999. It’s amatter of debate as to whether a hard border definitively breaches the terms of that peace accord.

However, there is no doubt but that a hard border would affect the freedom of movement of people along the border region. This could have implications and unintended consequences in terms of security potentially. Notwithstanding that, if duties are not harmonised between the two jurisdictions, some form of control will be necessary.

Blockchain as a potential remedy

It’s with the backdrop of this issue that some have considered blockchain technology as a solution. At the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham last October, the UK’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, implicated blockchain technology as a remedy to the situation:

“…There is technology becoming available, …I don’t claim to be an expert on it but the most obvious technology is blockchain.”

“I don’t claim to be an expert on it but the most obvious technology is blockchain.”

UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond

Blockchain or distributed ledger technology certainly has some characteristics which could lend itself to this use case. At its core, it acts as an irreversible, immutable, shared single source of truth which is tamper-proof and unchangeable.

Aresearch paper published by the World Customs Organization (WCO) last year suggests that the technology has merit in terms of its application in the context of Customs and cross border trade. The study concludes that blockchain is “a giant leap for Customs in the 21st century”.

In aLinkedIn post last year, digital ledger technology practitioner Gary Spence considered whether a solution to the Brexit conundrum could be ‘coded’. He suggests an approach using various technologies including blockchain, incorporatingsmart contracts. In arriving at a conclusion he states:

“Could smart contracts solve cross border customs checks? Yes, but in a BREXIT context, would, paradoxically, involve more cross border co-operation.” And: “The EU or the UK as a standalone entity could utilise this technology to create truly frictionless trade within Europe and beyond”.

Customs authorities inMexico andSingapore are already using the technology for certain elements of their processes – albeit on a trial basis. Switzerlandintends to digitize border interactions with the EU by 2026.

This technological approach is not without its problems. Some physical checks would still be needed as any system is not foolproof. Blockchain can’t solve the problem of smuggling, an activity that was vigorously pursued prior to either Britain or Ireland joining the European Union. It can’t legislate for goods that never come in contact with the system in the first instance.

Since the 1999 Good Friday peace agreement, borders between Ireland and the UK have remained open. Many fear that a potential ‘hard’ border created by Brexit can jeopardize the peace between the former conflicting parties. Image courtesy: Jaime Casap on Unsplash.

The clock is ticking

Although distributed ledger technology has been around for quite some time, it’s only more recently that work has begun in earnest to develop the technology to the point of real-world use. Given the timeframe, with a Brexit deadline of March 29 and a transition period of 21 months, it remains to be seen if this will be sufficient to effect such a complex technological solution.

Whilst it does present the opportunity to do away with bureaucratic processes toward more frictionless trade, technology changes faster than attitudes. To implement a blockchain based solution, there would have to be a strong commitment from both jurisdictions and at European Union level.

Certainly, at a conceptual level, it would seem that blockchain could fulfil its role in facilitating frictionless trade. Given the political will, actual implementation is not insurmountable. Therefore, it could solve the bulk of the problem but the peripheral items that remain could then become the most contentious aspects of the overall implementation. The use of automated number plate recognition (ANPR) systems, closed-circuit TV and the need for physical checks (even at a minimal level) are unlikely to be palatable to border communities.

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