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Space for Good, Growth and Skills

Date: 28 Jun

We recently joined the Cornwall Space and Aerospace Technology Training programme at Spaceport Cornwall for a deep dive into the education and training needs of the space, aerospace and engineering sectors in Cornwall.

With the promise of expert insights, cutting-edge technologies, and ample networking opportunities, attendees eagerly gathered for a day that would ignite their imaginations and propel them into the future of Space Skills. The event kicked off with an opening address by representatives from CSATT. Their words resonated with the crowd, emphasising the significance of space skills in today’s ever-evolving technological landscape.

The first expert insight of the day came from Lieutenant Tony Nairn of the Royal Navy’s 700X NAS. Attendees were told to get to their feet and gather round a Banshee drone. The room buzzed with excitement as attendees asked questions and learned about the cutting-edge technologies employed by the Royal Navy and the vital role an Agile approach to developing digital skills plays in maintaining their operational edge.

Next, Ross Hulbert, representing Spaceport Cornwall, took the stage. Ross shared how Spaceport is developing collaboration with local businesses as well as their new office space. Ross put a particular emphasis on how Spaceport is using Space for Good and a focus on sustainability. He shared that though satellites did not reach orbit everything from Cornwall’s side was done correctly and the data from failure can be used as a tool for learning.

The Royal Navy has taken delivery of new jet-powered Banshee drones capable of flying up to 400mph. Picture: LPhot Barry Swainsbury

Richard Tanner, from Blue Abyss then delved into the world of deep-sea exploration, highlighting the parallels between space and oceanic research. Blue Abyss wants to build a globally unique aquatic centre that will house the largest and deepest indoor pool of its kind in Cornwall. The pool will have several entrance points and feature multi-stepped depths to accommodate for a variety of activities and simultaneous use, leading down to the 50m shaft. On one side of the pool, a large table-like area at 12m will be able to house, for example, a mock section of the International Space Station for commercial astronaut training. Richard said supporting STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) education is important to Blue Abyss. They hope to inspire children to become the next generation of aqua- and astro-nauts, explorers and scientists, with hands-on learning at primary level, right through to opportunities for under-graduates to work on live research projects.

As the afternoon session commenced, James Fairbairn, representing Cornwall Space Cluster, shared his expert insights on the thriving space industry in the region. Attendees were enlightened about the dynamic ecosystem of companies and organizations working together to drive innovation and create new opportunities for space skills development. James also spoke about how the sector can work to help people pivot between sectors to better utilise and grow their skills.

Heidi Thiemann, from the Space Skills Institute, followed with her presentation. She shed light on the importance of nurturing talent and cultivating the skills needed for the future of space exploration. Her passion and dedication to empowering individuals in the industry resonated deeply with the audience, sparking conversations about the role of education and training in shaping the workforce of tomorrow. Heidi highlighted that ‘space inspires like nothing else’ but despite this the tech sector has around 600,000 vacancies compared to around 1000 space vacancies making them small fish in a pool of many shared skills. As a result of this the space sector needs to create more flexible and accessible opportunities and to create and develop pathways like those in the tech sector.

Jon Hurrell, from Sellectronics, then took the stage to discuss how the Cornwall Manufacturers Group (CMG) is addressing future skills gaps. His insightful presentation highlighted the innovative approaches being taken to ensure a continuous supply of skilled professionals in the rapidly evolving digital landscape. Most notably Jon highlighted the incredible global reach the Cornwall manufacturing sector has, from springs in Teslas to creating IVF technology that is creating a baby a minute around the world. He highlighted how with this existing manufacturing pipeline the sector can help to grow the Space supply chain here in Cornwall.

The day concluded with a question time session led by Heidi Thiemann. Attendees seized the opportunity to gain further clarity on the topics discussed throughout the event, engaging in thoughtful discussions and sharing their own perspectives. It will be interesting to see how events such as these help businesses collaborate and grow Cornwall’s Space Sector.