Professor Sir Martin Sweeting
Professor Sir Martin Sweeting has been fascinated by telecommunications since childhood, and a love of science fiction, particularly the writings of Arthur C Clarke, fostered his enthusiasm for technology.
At school his best subjects were English, French and Latin, but in those days it was hard to combine sciences and arts. So he did A’levels in chemistry, maths and his favourite, physics, going on to gain a degree in electronic and electrical engineering at the University of Surrey, and a PhD.
In 1985, Sir Martin set up Surrey Satellite Technology with about £100 and four employees. The company pioneered rapid-response, low-cost and highly capable small satellites, on which much of our modern life depends. In 2008, SST was sold to Airbus Defence & Space for £50m, but Sir Martin is still executive chairman. The company now has 400 professional staff, annual revenues of more than $100m and total export sales in excess of $1bn to 25 countries. Among its many focuses is clearing up the increasing amount of space debris, which represents a significant threat to the next generation of satellites.
Sir Martin was awarded an OBE in 2002 and won the 2008 Arthur C Clarke Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2016, he was made an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society and listed by Sunday Times as one of the 500 most influential UK citizens.