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Space, education, and skills high on CBI conference agenda

CBI-ConferenceNational Space Academy Director Anu Ojha took part in a panel session on space sector opportunities for business and innovation on Monday as part of the CBI Conference’s packed programme featuring Prime Minister Theresa May and leader of the opposition Jeremy Corbyn.

Anu joined fellow panel members from Airbus Group, the UK Space Agency, the UK Space trade association, and the Satellite Applications Catapult centre, to put forward the case for using satellite technology and data to enhance business and develop new commercial opportunities.

 

The panel session was well received by delegates, who were surprised and pleased to hear that the space sector contributes over £12bn to the UK economy annually and employs over 37,000 people – figures that are increasing year on year.

Although the session started with an overview of the inspirational effects of British ESA astronaut Tim Peake’s Principia mission to the ISS, all panel members were keen to stress that everyday life in the UK is ‘space-enabled’, from satellite communication and modern tools such as satnav, to using satellite data for agriculture, maritime services, urban planning and environmental studies.

The importance of education and training for the next generation of innovators was also highlighted, echoing the words of the Prime Minister in her keynote address, and referenced again in points strongly made by Jeremy Corbyn at the end of the programme.

The CBI Conference is the annual gathering of the Confederation for British Industry, a powerful voice for UK business interests. This year’s conference theme, Innovation, Growth and Prosperity in a World of Disruption, sought to explore how business leaders and captains of industry could find opportunity in disruptive technologies as well as rapidly changing social and political climates.

The National Space Academy supports UK government goals for the growth of the UK space sector through working with young people to develop the skills the sector needs, and its inclusion in the panel shows the CBI’s interest in future generations as innovators and drivers of change. As UK government makes plans to develop its third Space Innovation and Growth Strategy, the timing of the inclusion of space sector leaders at the CBI conference couldn’t have been more timely. The focus on business and commercial development of the sector is key, but the need for highly-skilled talent to enter the sector, and therefore the need to support STEM teaching and learning in schools and beyond, cannot be ignored.

National Space Academy Director Anu Ojha said:

“We need to remember that space inspires, but inspiration alone is not enough. There are swathes of communities in the UK that are disengaged. Having a future workforce literate in science and technology – they are the most valuable qualifications you can have. The future of our economy depends on it.”

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