When asked to describe myself, I tend to say I am a professional space technology engineer, working in academia. I’ve worked in the space industry my whole career, at University of Glasgow as an undergraduate and then postgraduate student, and then as a member of research staff. I then joined SCISYS Ltd. and worked on a number of projects including LISA-Pathfinder and ADM-Aeolus, before returning home to Glasgow to work at the University of Strathclyde.
I enjoyed my time in industry, experiencing and learning a lot that you can’t get in academia. But likewise in academia I’ve experienced and learned a lot that I couldn’t have in industry. Today, I often find myself working at the interface between the two as Director of SoXSA (the Scottish Centre of Excellence in Satellite Applications)
It is this experience of working at the interface between academia, industry, and government that I hope to bring to the Steering Board.
The UK has a strong space sector, a sector that has shown itself robust to economic shocks and challenges, growing at 8% per year throughout the global financial crisis of the last decade. Continuing today to grow at similar rates. We have world leading universities and companies, employing world leading staff throughout the UK.
This strength provides us a sound basis to face a challenging period of transition in the coming years. The space sector, and indeed much of academia and industry have concerns about this transition. The likely end of free movement of people within the European Union, our possible exit from the Common Market and the Customs Union, the uncertainty over participation in future European Union research activities and whether the Union will continue as a customer for our industry — all must be addressed by the Steering Board, and by the Agency.
The UK’s relationship with a number of globally leading, space-related European organisations such as the European Space Agency (ESA), the European Organisation for Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT), and the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), will by and large continue unaltered. However, the increasingly intertwined nature of these organisations with the European Union will also present a challenge to a UK outside of that union. A challenge we must overcome to ensure the UK’s continued contribution, and subsequent economic value from participation in European and global space activities. Despite our new political realities.
So, while the UK does face a challenging period we also have a strong foundation to exploit new opportunities, and to strengthen relationships with existing friends — in Europe and around the world.
To do this, the Agency needs to embrace and support science, innovation, and growth across the whole of the UK, recognising the need for on-going support to established areas of strength whilst providing the regulatory and support mechanisms for new ones to emerge, wherever they may be. Space is a predominantly export-led sector, and we are naturally an international community. This must continue.
So, let us be known for the strength of our will and the force of our minds, with an eye on the future. Let us be known for our kind hospitality, a hard-working, outward looking, and dependable part of the global community.