STEM in practice: students encouraged to become space entrepreneurs

Young people are being asked to come up with innovative uses for satellites, while global thought leaders praise International Day of Women and Girls in Science.

Young people are being encouraged to come up with innovative uses for satellites.
The UK Space Agency is offering young people a share of £50,000 for their ideas of how satellites could improve life on Earth. The SatelLife Competition, now in its fourth year, is looking for innovative proposals that could use data collected from space to benefit daily life, such as growing new businesses, improving health services or tackling climate change.Winning ideas from last year’s competition included tracking abandoned shopping trolleys, fighting crime with drones and designing a mobile app to locate public toilets.

Encouraging young people into the space sector

The UK Space Agency explained that satellites support the economy and everyday life, and this competition gives young people the chance to test their ideas with space experts and perhaps one day become part of one of the UK’s fastest-growing industries. The UK space sector already supports 42,000 jobs and could create a further 30,000 opportunities in the next decade.Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom said, “The SatelLife Competition will help our next generation of scientists and innovators unleash their imaginations and turn their ideas into real-life proposals that could eventually transform our lives – from saving our planet from climate change to improving healthcare services.“UK space is booming, and we are at the forefront of the space industry. I would encourage all young people who are fascinated by space to enter the SatelLife Competition and play a key part in the second space age.”

Amazing opportunities for last year's winner

Last year’s individual winner Lowena Hull, an A-Level student from Portsmouth, has continued to develop her idea to track abandoned supermarket trolleys using satellites and has secured a meeting with a major supermarket chain later this month.Lowena, 17, said: “Since winning the SatelLife Competition I’ve had interest in my idea so that shows that anything can happen if you enter. SatelLife is such an amazing opportunity and it’s a great introduction for young people to the space sector, which is important especially with the UK’s space sector growing.”
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The competition, which is open to those aged 11 to 22 and split into three age groups, aims to support the development of science, data handling and technological skills.Lowena is one of a number of previous winners making progress on turning their ideas into reality. In 2018 medical students Christopher Law, 21, Thomas Franchi and Hammad Jeilani, both 22, from London came up with an idea to use satellites and drones to help people in isolated areas who cannot access basic healthcare such as vaccines, birth control or medicine.They set up a company, MEDeus Ltd, which has gone on to win multiple international awards and are currently planning a test drone flight from a private clinic to an NHS hospital. The trio has recently been appointed as NHS Clinical Entrepreneurs and is working alongside the National Institute for Health Research to uncover the potentially life-saving impacts of drones on patients.Hammad said, “The SatelLife Competition is great because not only do you win money but the support that you get afterwards to develop your idea is incredible. The space industry is only getting bigger here in the UK so if you’re successful in this competition there’s a high chance you can go on to achieve something in the industry.”

How to enter

The judging panel will be made up of experts including industry representatives and the UK Space Agency, Satellite Applications Catapult and European Space Agency (ESA). The UK is the leading investor in satellite business applications across Europe and hosts the European Centre for Space Applications and Telecommunications in Harwell, Oxfordshire.All winners will go on to pitch their ideas to a panel of ‘dragons’ at the Harwell Space Cluster on 16 June for the chance to win further prizes. Over the last three years, these prizes have included further funding, patent advice and invitations to discuss job opportunities as well as introductions to the other relevant experts for further help.The competition closes on 3 March 2020, click here for more information or to enter.

International Day of Women and Girls in Science 2020

This week has also seen International Day of Women and Girls in Science on 11 February. To mark the occasion, the president of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen praised the extraordinary achievements of women scientists across Europe, reminding our full potential was reached only if we used “all our talent and diversity”.She acknowledged that not every woman and girl got a chance to realise their aspirations. “Less than 30 per cent of researchers worldwide are women”, von der Leyen said in her video message, quoting UN data. “This must change”, she stressed.In 2015, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a Resolution declaring 11 February as the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, to achieve full and equal access to and participation in science for women and girls.

'Equality for all and equality in all of its senses'

In 2018, of almost 15 million scientists and engineers in the EU, 59 per cent were men and 41 per cent women, according to Eurostat. “Equality for all and equality in all of its senses” is one of the major priorities of the von der Leyen Commission and of the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights. “My Commission will work hard to achieve full and equal access of women and girls in science. A Union of equality is one of our key priorities,” von der Leyen said.Helena Dalli, Commissioner for Equality, also sent a video message where she stressed EU's commitment to inclusion and equality as drivers of progress, innovation, and economic growth. Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth recently launched the EU Prize for Women Innovators 2020, celebrating female leaders in innovation and aiming to inspire the next generation to follow their footsteps.

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