Written Evidence Submitted by Dr Peter Shaw, Senior Lecturer in Astronautics, Kingston University London


I am writing to you in my capacity as a Senior Lecturer in Astronautics at Kingston University London. I have 15 years’ experience within the UK Space sector having had extensive involvement with the manufacturing and commissioning of four currently orbiting spacecraft. I also have extensive experience with research and development having held positions at;

I am involved with several committees and working groups including the Space Academics Network, the Space Universities Network and the UK Propulsion Working Group. I am a Co-proposer of the Rocketry, Research, Teaching and Training Initiative which has the intention of raising funds to support 100 PhD’s over the next 10 years in Rocketry and Spaceflight research and innovation.

From my reasonable experience of both UK academia and industry in the space technology and satellite sector, I can see there is a growing skills gap between the needs of industry, the capabilities of academia and the intentions of Government. If these are not highlighted there is a real possibility that the actions required to drive growth in the UK Space sector will be missed and I hope my views, opinions and experience can help make positive change to the decision-making process. I would appreciate if you would consider my below response for the UK space strategy and UK satellite infrastructure consultation on the following topic;

What are the strengths and weaknesses of the current UK space sector and research and innovation base;

The UK Space Agency has been tasked to help meet the target of 10% goal of the global space market and 100,000 employees within the UK sector by 2030. With less than 9 years to go to hit this target a step change is required to double current employment figures, where current growth is 2.3% and to meet targets it is required to be 8.4%[1]. The UK Space Agency (UKSA) has run several important projects and initiatives, each meeting strategic goals, but the reality is that the growth these are producing is not on par with current government goals and ambitions.

One might presume that a growing Space Industry would automatically mean there is a growing academic base feeding new diverse confident talent with Higher Education qualifications with the right skills into the sector. However, from my perspective this is not the case. Kingston University London has a proud heritage of a large BAME community. In 2019/20 the BAME population was 63% of the total 16570 student population. On the Meng/BEng Aerospace, Astronautics and Space Technology course we currently have around 80 students total and on average 20 graduate each year. Currently of those graduating 10% will seek post graduate education (MSc or PhD) in a Space related topic and a further 10-15% will enter the Space industry. The remaining 75-80% will opt for jobs in the aviation or other sectors. When trying to understand the lack of uptake in students pursuing a Space career, the real issue that needed to be understood was that of personal confidence. When informally interviewing the students, who did not enter the Space sector, the underlying theme that kept appearing, is a lack of self confidence in applying for jobs in the Space sector. Although they had been taught the subject to a level expected from a graduate, a significant proportion did not believe they possessed the skills that the Space industry required. The issues and solutions are explored below.

I hope the above commentary and potential solutions offer some valuable independent insight into the current issues and possible solutions that could be addressed in a future Space Strategy document. Please do not hesitate to contact me should you require any further information.

(May 2021)

[1] Size and Health of the UK Space Industry 2018 (Report)

[2] https://spaceskills.org/problem

[3] UKSEDS Space Projects

[4] UK Space Agency Annual Report and Accounts 2019-20

[5] EPSRC Budget s and Finances

[6] Research and Development Tax Relief

[7] Skills demand for early career space jobs – Space Skills Alliance