Anders Larson, CEO of RUAG Space
29 September 2020

Anders Larson, RUAG Space: ‘We're one of the few companies that supply SpaceX’

Gothenburg and West Sweden have a long space-related history and a prominent position in the international space industry, with companies both large and small, outstanding space research and world-class education. More than half of the people working in the Swedish space industry are found here, and West Sweden accounts for two thirds of the Swedish space industry's turnover.

In this article, we meet Anders Larson, CEO of RUAG Space.

Anders has devoted his entire working life to space, aviation and defence. For just over two years, he has been country manager for RUAG Space in Sweden and CEO of the Swedish subsidiary, with some 300 employees in Gothenburg and about 120 in Linköping.

Tell us about RUAG Space?

"RUAG Space is the biggest in Sweden when it comes to space, and we have by far the largest commercial operations of all our competitors. We've essentially kept on growing since we were founded 30 years ago, and today our turnover totals just over one billion Swedish crowns. Space is an industry closely linked to government agencies and sovereign states around the world. It has a slightly different business logic and very many companies are completely dependent on government contracts for their business. This is where RUAG stands out in Sweden – last year, 25 percent of our income came from the Swedish Space Agency, and 75 percent from contracts we won in competitive procurement processes around the world. The latter can, of course, come from other state-owned end customers. We're also active in the purely commercial telecom market. There's a lot happening in the field of space right now, and different stakeholders are starting to enter the market, with SpaceX probably being the most famous. While these provide another source of funding from investors, not even SpaceX is independent of the US government. It's a complex market, to say the least."

In recent years, we've heard increasingly more talk of new space as opposed to old space, with simpler and cheaper routes out into space – does this mean new territory for you?

"This is true, we're starting to see space mature. From having been simply science and exploration, we're starting to see the emergence of industrial logic in the industry. Something that very few people reflect on is that we're involved in building an infrastructure in space that we really can't do without today. Mobile telephony, GPS, navigation, Earth observation, Google Earth and so on. Space is a business too, and that means it's also subject to demands for optimisation and industrialisation. We're really starting to see it gather momentum now. And we shouldn't forget that many of the people trying to enter new space have a history, they have difficulty letting go of traditional, demanding requirements. So, we're at a breakpoint – it's to be cheap and industrial but with the same requirements. RUAG Space has new products very well suited to new space as well, and I think we're one of the few companies that supply SpaceX, which is cool. Today, there's still a little more weight resting on the traditional leg, but moving forward we're confident that growth and development will be seen in the second leg, meaning it probably won't be too long before we reach equilibrium."

What are the strengths of the space cluster in West Sweden?

"First and foremost, the space cluster in West Sweden comprises a sizeable chunk of Sweden's space expertise. This, together with the university, creates a market where individuals can develop and grow, and bring with them expertise from different companies. In this respect, we're unique in Sweden. We'll never reach the same volumes as SKF or Volvo, that's not how space works. But that expertise and approach to logistics and production will slowly but surely also be adopted by our industry, and we're in the perfect region for it. This makes the labour market our greatest asset. We also have a partnership with the other companies, enabling us to leverage each other's expertise and products and to work together. It's a dynamic cluster that also does business together."

What concrete benefit does the rest of the region gain from being home to this expertise?

"I believe that space has appeal when it comes to young people and technology. We have about 300 children visit us each year, to see what we do and to learn a little more about space. And if we consider the older children, there's huge interest in space as an area of technology. So, I think we play a major role in attracting young people, not least young women, to get them involved in technology. Another benefit is that the technology we're involved in creating, or are experts on, is what's found in cars and telecom products today, and very many sectors use this infrastructure. I think we could do a whole lot more in West Sweden if we start to make better use of this expertise. There are other regions in Sweden with a considerably smaller involvement that have profiled themselves as space specialists, but the fact is that West Sweden accounts for two thirds of the space industry's turnover in Sweden and more than half of the people working in it."

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