Paul Sheerin: Space could be the new frontier for our engineering field | Jobs Vox


At the end of 2019, in an effort to enthusiastically welcome the new decade ahead, I referenced the ‘Roaring Twenties’ a hundred years ago and how that name was based on economic and cultural optimism. Both the world wars and the Spanish flu pandemic came to an end.

Given how 2020 has begun our decade, a cynic might ask if I mean roar without fire, as it has been largely forgettable so far.

So we started the decade with a global pandemic that was never the easiest of introductions, and it seems hard to believe that only a year ago our primary focus was on potentially more harmful forms of the COVID 19 virus, such as Omicron. There was concern for further mutation.

A year later and while a small number of people may still be carefully monitoring that particular health concern, it is striking how quickly it has fallen from concern to the general public to an almost non-topic.

Instead of a time of calm that we would welcome with open arms, 2022 had other ideas, most devastatingly Russia’s invasion of Ukraine at a heavy human cost for both defender and aggressor, while global energy security revealed some geopolitical inconvenient truths. Had to underline. supply.

These harrowing events have only served to underline how important the producers are to Scotland and the UK.

In the early days of the pandemic we learned how complex product supply chains were, and how much of that industry was actually essential to society, putting pressure on them to engineer safe ways to operate and keep production running.

Events in Ukraine remind us of the importance of excellence in defense infrastructure.

A real strength for Scotland, and one where we are an essential supplier for many important projects here and around the world. As for energy security, the move away from Russian production has seen increased manufacturing demand supporting oil and gas projects, while the future balance from renewables may be well served by offshore wind investment that is only open to sequestration. have the opportunity.

These examples help us understand why our most recent survey was out of whack with reporting broad concerns, an overall positive order, output and even an optimism outlook for the economy. This is unfortunately not the case for every construction company in Scotland, but given the wider landscape, even being in this net upbeat position is something to be celebrated.

This is not the only reason to rejoice, and one Scottish engineering sector that has recently been highlighted is our space industry, with Mangata Networks planning to build its research and development, manufacturing and core network operations hub at Prestwick International Aerospace Park. With the announcement, Ayrshire. The operation will create over 500 jobs with the aim of producing and testing satellites that deliver affordable, reliable, secure high-speed 5G connectivity on a global basis.

If your next question is why Scotland, the answer lies in today’s overview of the space sector. Glasgow builds more small satellites and hosts more informatics companies – needed to turn satellite data into utility – than any other place in Europe, and Scotland has a disproportionate fifth of UK space sector jobs. is, and the value flows down to the local supply. Chain in high-tech, high-value precision engineered components.

Recognizing that success comes with a depth of great examples, but to pick just three to be proud of, let’s start with the UK Astronomy Technology Center in Edinburgh, whose engineers proposed, designed, and produced one of four science instruments. and led the construction. Less than the James Webb Space Telescope.

Contrasting the long established with the newest, AAC Clyde Space goes a long way in being one of Scotland’s first commercial space sector companies, formed in 2005, and is now an award winning SME specializing in small satellite technologies and services Which enables applications from weather forecast. Precision farming and environmental monitoring.

And my final example of excellence is Celestia UK, whose offices on the Heriot-Watt campus are one of two in the UK working on exciting innovative technology that is creating new options for the satcom marketplace. Celestia was boosted this year by the addition of Dr. Carol Marsh as Head of Digital Systems, bringing her not only a wealth of relevant technical expertise, but also industry-wide contributions. Carol is well known and respected in our engineering community as a champion of STEM for all, rightfully recognized for her services to equality, diversity and inclusion with an OBE in 2020.

I could go on, but I don’t have the space or maybe you have the attention span to continue. More importantly, all will tell us that the top of their priorities right now is ensuring a pipeline of skills to fuel their growth, and they will honestly tell us that this is a significant challenge.

If the space sector in Scotland can achieve such stellar growth in less than two decades, then might it not be beyond us to help them find a way to deliver those skills collectively? A high-value career Designing, building and manufacturing satellites, launch vehicles and the digital systems that enable them doesn’t sound like the toughest sell.

Paul Sheerin is the Chief Executive Officer of Scottish Engineering.


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