EMPLOYEE OWNERSHIP TAKES BRIGHT ASCENSION TO INFINITY AND BEYOND

Dundee and Edinburgh based experts in space technology, Bright Ascension, which specialises in software products and services for satellites, has recently announced its plans to become Scotland’s latest employee owned business. 

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.  Bright Ascension now has a workforce of nine staff and had a turnover of £314,000 last year, including profits of £27,000.

Dr Mark McCrum, who joined Bright Ascension a year after it started and is now technical director, discusses the decision to move to employee ownership and his experience of the transition…

Bright Ascension company, Edinburgh, 14/03/2017: Bright Ascension founder director Peter Mendham (correct, bottom), with technical director / software engineer Mark McCram and a satellite launch control board. Photography for Cooperative Development Scotland / Scottish Enterprise from:  Colin Hattersley Photography - colinhattersley@btinternet.com - www.colinhattersley.com - 07974 957 388

Dr Mark McCrum, technical director at Bright Ascension

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.

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.

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.

Bright Ascension company, Edinburgh, 14/03/2017: Bright Ascension founder director Peter Mendham (correct, centre left) and technical director / software engineer Mark McCrum (centre right), with software engineers Alex Mason (left) and Ed Willson (correct). Photography for Cooperative Development Scotland / Scottish Enterprise from:  Colin Hattersley Photography - colinhattersley@btinternet.com - www.colinhattersley.com - 07974 957 388

The Bright Ascension team

Before moving to employee ownership, our main priorities were to upscale the business by attracting investment and then fully engage our employees to drive performance within it. Employee ownership has allowed us to achieve both of these goals and all nine of our staff members now have a meaningful stake in their company and its future success.

CDS provided invaluable guidance and support to Bright Ascension throughout the employee ownership transition. If you would like to find out more about how your business could benefit from employee ownership in the same way that Bright Ascencion has, please get in touch with one of our expert advisers who will be happy to help.

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