An on-line viva experience…

Having completed my PhD via an on-line final defence (due to Covid-19), I have been asked by various colleagues to share my experience in order to help anyone preparing for a similar examination.

So, here is a quick summary of my experience.

This summary is written with some internal references pertaining to the University of Edinburgh, but I am sure similar information regarding the use of virtual communication tools is readily available with respect to other universities.

If you have any questions, please, feel free to get in touch with me via e-mail or social media.

There is also a wealth of peer knowledge available about viva preparation at the brilliant Viva Survivors website.

Good luck!

PS: Big thanks go to many who advised me before viva, especially my supervisors (Niki Vermeulen, Alessandro Rosiello, Robin Williams), peers who have already done it, other (senior) colleagues, friends and family. I would like to also thank my really kind and helpful examiners (Marina Candi and Andrew Webster) and the amazing non-examining chair (Lawrence Dritsas)

SAT Visited North-West Highlands and Islands

Between 25th June and 3rd July, our Space and Astronomy Tour visited North-West Scotland, in particular, the islands of Skye and Lewis and Harris as well as Sutherland and Inverness. (Here are some of the past tours to Islay, Orkney and Sutherland).

This was to continue my engagement with the Highlands and Islands communities in the context of potentially expanding space industry, which is one of my research interests at the University of Edinburgh, however, this year, in particular, the visits are also to celebrate the 200th Anniversary of the birth of astronomer Charles Piazzi Smyth (CPS200) and the 50th anniversary of the Moon landings.

As such, the programme was organised as part of the CPS200 celebrations, as well as working with the local astronomical societies Highlands Astronomical Society, Stornoway Astronomical Society and Tarbert Astronomy Group, and other groups and organisations, in particular, the local libraries and community centres and the Travelling Scholars initiative.

Over the 9 days, we travelled 875 miles in total and spent 24 hours talking to our audiences. We delivered rocket and constellation making workshops at seven primary schools (Staffin, Kilmuir, Sir E Scott, Lionel, Lochinver, Achiltibuie, Bonnar Bridge) with a total of 270 pupils and 20 teachers, as well as six evening talks (Portree, Tarbert, Stornoway, Lochinver, Lairg, Inverness) with a total audience of 102. We also held drop-in family activities at Stornoway Library, called “Rocks, Stars and Rockstar Rockets”.

We spoke of early “astronomers” keeping time using stone circles and calendar stones, of 19th century industrial and maritime revolutions and all the way to the modern satellites, providing us with GPS, telecommunication and Earth Observation services. With several potential spaceports being planned both on the islands as well as the mainland in North-West Highlands, there was particular interest in the developments of the Scottish Space Industry, too, questions I attempted to answer as per my recent academic paper.

In all, over 100 (paper) rockets were made and successfully launched as well as over 150 (personalised) constellations. Deep questions were discussed, including what does it feel like to be inside a black hole and what might happen if we ever meet some aliens. Hopefully, fun was had by all and several promises were exchanged to visit again in the near future.


The trip was funded by IoP in Scotland Public Engagement Grant and Royal Society of Edinburgh’s Charles Piazzi Smyth 200 Anniversary Project, with generous contributions from Highlands Astronomical Society, Stornoway and Tarbert Libraries, An Lanntair Centre, High Life Highland Libraries and the Ferrycroft Visitor Centre, Davar B&B and Lochinver Community Hall, and many individuals who gave up their time to help organise and promote these events, as well as warmly embraced us with warm Highland hospitality. Thank you all!


Astronomical Edinburgh: Q&A with Matjaz Vidmar

I have done a short Q&A with Convention Edinburgh, talking about Edinburgh rich past, present and future Astronomy and Space activities:

Matjaz Vidmar, Convention Edinburgh Ambassador, is a postgraduate research student at The Institute for the Study of Science, Technology and Innovation at The University of Edinburgh. Based at The Royal Observatory Edinburgh, Matjaz’s work is closely linked to projects run by The Institute for Astronomy and STFC – Science and Technology Facilities Council’s UK Astronomy Technology Centre (ATC).

Edinburgh’s rich history of scientific and technological development is a great stepping stone to unlock future potential. From famous centres of research, such as the now re-opened City Observatory on Calton Hill, to locations connected to leading people, like the office of Nobel-prize winner Peter Higgs, and even famous attractions, such as Camera Obscura – Edinburgh is filled to the brim with historical spaces and cultural reference points. In fact, you can do several tours around the city centre to explore sites of historical significance to (to help you along, you can download the free Curious Edinburgh app).

Are there any notable historical figures in particular from Edinburgh?

Astronomy, in particular, is responsible for a rich tapestry of scientists, inventions and inspiration! In 2019, we are in an especially celebratory moon, since we mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Piazzi Smyth, a famous (and perhaps somewhat misunderstood) Victorian astronomer. A special exhibition about his life and work is currently on display at Nelson Monument, an “upturned telescope”-shaped tower designed by the architect Robert Burn, where to this day, as Piazzi Smyth set-up in 1853, every day at 1 pm exact a time ball drops from the pole at the top. An interesting curiosity these days, the time ball was of vital importance to ships in the port of Leith to adjust their clocks for navigation. Unfortunately, with the Scottish weather, the ball was not always seen, so a blast from the 1 o’clock gun from Edinburgh Castle was added in 1861 – an unmissable event if you anywhere are near Princes Street at 1 pm!

What are the major Astronomical Institutions in the city?

Home to the (Royal) Astronomical Institution since 1811, Edinburgh had its fair share in the most critical developments over the past 200 years. Now called Royal Observatory Edinburghand located on Blackford Hill, its successor is still a major site for scientific research in all areas of Astronomy and Space Science and technological development of largest ground- and space-based telescopes. For instance, scientist and engineers here are leading the design of one of the main instruments, called MIRI, on the path-breaking James Webb Space Telescope. With the recently-opened Higgs Centre for Innovation, a joint European and UK Space Agencies’ certified entrepreneurial incubator, Edinburgh Astronomy is not only a feature of the past – it is also open to the businesses of the future.

Are there any upcoming space related events to look out for?

The inaugural Space Enlightenment Festival, amongst other things marking another 2019 anniversary – 50 years since first humans landed on the Moon. Bringing together a varied set of people and activities, we are discussing the human perspectives on these advances, for instance in our upcoming Scotland on Space science fiction and essays publication, the Visions of Scotland’s Space Exploration seminar series and Space has Landed in Scotland mini-exhibition. Not just this Summer, walking though the city at any time you are met with our rich astronomical past, present and (no doubt!) future at every step and whether you are in Edinburgh for a day or have lived here all your life – we invite you to join us on a journey to explore it!

Read more about Mat and his work.

Edinburgh: The Space (Data) Capital of Europe

With more satellites being built in Scotland than pretty much any other place outside the USA, our so-called “Space Glen” is part of a new commercial space race with plenty of opportunities for scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs. The satellites built here might be the pocket versions of their more famous counterparts providing you with the GPS signal, satellite TV or that Google Earth image, but they are mightily capable and leading a “New Space” revolution across the industry. Cheaper (consumer) electronics and a wider than ever (on-line) pool of expertise and funding is enabling these 10cmx10cmx30cm (CubeSat) and 5cmx5cmx15cm (PocketCube) boxes, once they are orbiting the Earth, to collect pieces of information about atmospheric and land features as well as human activity such as agriculture, shipping and built environment.

However, the hardware is not the only thing that makes these developments possible – the trick is what you do with the data received! Here, Edinburgh’s world-leading Earth Observation cluster comes to play. Combining the unparalleled expertise in monitoring the Earth from the School of Geosciences and the globally recognised data analytics capability around the School of Informatics, Edinburgh University’s scientists are helping develop several dozen applications to enable smarter urban living and more sustainable and future-resilient management of our ecosystem. Connected together with SMEs through innovative networks, the fruits of this work are shared with governments, companies and public users, to make better decisions about policy, investment and every-day life choices. These range from the tree growth and rates of deforestation to how much heat is “leaking” from our tenements, often using openly accessible data from flagship international efforts, such as the European Union and European Space Agency’s Copernicus programme.

Furthermore, through the Data Driven Innovation programme, designed to make Edinburgh the data capital of Europe, a new generation of collaborative research is being developed through the pioneering Living Laboratory approach. Supported by innovation intermediaries, such as the Space Network Scotland and Higgs Centre for Innovation, a dedicated team is planning to bring together science and engineering, businesses and local residents, in order to co-design solutions to most difficult challenges facing 21st century, from green mobility and energy efficiency to smarter urban design and better living spaces.

However, proving that is actually all rocket science, Edinburgh’s own rocket company, Skyrora, is leading the design and manufacturing of the dedicated launch systems to take the aforementioned small satellites into low-Earth orbit, and do it cheaper and more ecologically friendly than their competitors! With the exciting developments of UK spaceports in the North of Scotland, these rockets (if you look hard enough, you can even see some of the prototypes and models in a shop-window on Princess Street) may soon be taking off Scottish satellites “to the stars”!

Scottish New Space Industry Diagram
A schema of the Scottish New Space Industry value chain/cycle, covering all aspects of economic activities – from upstream satellite manufacture to downstream data applications – making Scotland a “one-stop-shop” for space solutions.

I wrote this blog as a short overview of the Edinburgh part of the New Space Activities in Scotland for the Convention Edinburgh’s outline of key Scottish growth sectors.


Developing a Framework for Innovation Intermediation

My exciting journey with the Innovation Caucus started one rainy morning in Spring 2017, when by chance I spotted an advertisement for internship applicants doing the rounds over email. This was followed by an email from my supervisor, asking all of his PhD students if we have seen the call and whether we were interested. Not being someone who declines any opportunity, my reply was immediate – yes!

Having found out about the Innovation Caucus and its work some months previously, when putting together a notice for the departmental newsletter about our engagement with policy, I was really excited by the opportunity to further translate my research interest into useful knowledge for policy-making. Having applied and made it through to the interview, I was ecstatic! Speaking to Tim and his team was interesting and inspiring, and once I was offered the internship, it took even less time than before to say “yes” and accept it.

As I am really passionate about my PhD research topic (social aspects of technology development and innovation) and my subject matter (Space Industry – yes, the stuff “up there”) I took quite some convincing to take on new challenges within the Innovation Caucus brief. In part, this was because I really wanted to create a new space of shared knowledge and sense-making, i.e. to challenge the theoretical concepts with empirical findings and policy realities – and I could only envisage doing so within the topics about which I was already somewhat knowledgeable.

However, in discussion with Innovate UK and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), I did eventually reshape my interest into developing a broader framework and typology of innovation intermediation in any geographically bound sectoral system of innovation. This was of value to Innovate UK, since it supported the ongoing development of their portfolio of Catapults and Knowledge Transform Networks, as well as other projects and policies.

This experience was a great lesson for me, not only in working with and delivering for a policy-making system, but also in expanding my own research interests into domains I did initially find uncomfortable. Presenting the headline findings of this work at one of the most prestigious innovation conferences in the world, DRUID (2018), helped me appreciate the power of broader generalisation of academic knowledge, in order to achieve more substantial societal impact.

The lessons learned and experiences from this project also enabled me to engage better with new concepts, unfamiliar settings and unknown stakeholders in my subsequent work. For instance, these skills have proved critical in working on a consultancy project for the OECD and as a Research Assistant in academia.

I have to express my big thanks to Tim and his team for their support and mentorship and to all involved with the Innovation Caucus, particularly Innovate UK and the ESRC teams involved with my internship. It was your determination and generosity that turned this project from a 3-month desk-job into a transformational professional journey.


This post has been published in October 2018 at Innovation Caucus blog: Developing a framework for innovation intermediation.

Find out more about Innovation Caucus.

Co-creation, research work and collaboration: Developing graduate attributes through research practice

I was delighted to contribute to the Edinburgh University’s Teaching Matters blog again, writing about using research as a tool for teaching and learning co-creation.

You can find the blog here.


From Orkney to Outer Space (Again!)

I have been invited to deliver a series of knowledge exchange and outreach events for Orkney International Science Festival (OISF) between 6th-12th September 2018. This is my third appearance at OISF, having visited the 2015 and 2017 editions of the festival.

I am particularly excited that though some of the events I will deliver will be held on Orkney mainland I will yet again also visit some of the more remote islands in the archipelago.


Hence, on 8th and 9th September I will be visiting the islands of North Ronalsday and Sanday, where I will speak to the local community about going From Standing Stones to Blasting Rockets: Scotland is Off to Space!

The talk is based on my extensive ESRC-funded doctoral research of the development of (“New”) Space Industry in Scotland, in particular examining emerging networks, innovation intermediaries and changes to new product development processes. With the recent announcement of UK Government investment into the creation of vertical launch capability in the North of Scotland, this is a particularly topical contribution to the discussion in many communities.

Furthermore, I have also been invited to present some thoughts on the deep connections between scientific research, arts and society as explored through my participation in the recent Social Dimensions of Outer Space network’s Edinburgh Futures Institute project. I will outline the main points from my essay on the topic in a talk entitled Universe: The Love Story, as part of the skyranMoon exhibition in Stromness on 11th September (7pm).


Finally, in partnership with a young team of rocket engineers from Spacelink Institute, we will have a plenary discussion about the future of small-scale spaceflight in an event called Make it, Fire it Into Orbit! in King Street Halls in Kirkwall (Wednesday, 12th September, 11.30am). Details and tickets here.

As is my practice with such visits, I will also speak to pupils of local schools, both on Sanday as well as at Kirkwall Grammar School, to discuss a variety of opportunities to engage in science, technology and innovation, including studying it form a social-scientific perspective.

As such, I am delighted to be yet again complementing a variety of colleagues form the College of Science and Engineering, including Prof Peter Higgs, who will support the festival with a host of other events and activities.

I am very grateful for the generous support of my OISF 2018 visit provided by the festival, as well as Science, Technology and Innovation Studies Group at the University of Edinburgh.



It’s Time for (Outer) Space and Food

Absolutely thrilled to be announcing my upcoming Edinburgh Fringe show: “Is Astronaut Food the Future?”

The event is part of the Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas series (CODI), which is a joint Beltane Public Engagement Network and Fair Pley production. This is my third time at the Fringe, you might even rememner the 2016 show “Let Big Brother Watch!” and last year’s collaboration with the amazing Pippa Goldschmidt on “Outer Space – The Next Empire?

So this year we will be talking all things Food and (Outer) Space, from consumables sent “up there”, “space microwaves”, baking bread and growing salad on International Space Station and Earth Observation technologies controlling global food production of the future.

To find out more why this matters, here is a little interview I did for the CoDI Blog.

Finally, speaking of freeze drying, there might be some interesting samples to taste…

Though the plan is to have as much fun as possible, there are interesting questions surrounding food production, nutrition science and the role of “consumers”, PS: that is you and me, in all of this.

Most importantly, I will be wanting to hear your opinions about what high-tech might do to food standards, quality and also is end in sight for food poverty.

If you want to find out how this links to my research and teaching, I have written a Teaching Matters blog: CoDI: Is Astronaut Food the Future?

So, join me on 20th August at 8.10pm in the Stand’s New Town Theatre (George Street; Fringe Venue 7) to have your say about having astronaut food for dinner!

More info and tickets:

Kindly supported by the Student Development Office at the School of Social and Political Science. 


Lift-off for Sutherland Science Festival with a SAT Roadtrip

The Sutherland Science with Travelling Scholars is the inaugural issue of an upcoming Sutherland Science Festival. The festival has been held between 6th and 17th March 2018, roughly aligned with the British Science Week (9-18 March 2018). We have been invited along to support the festival with our trademark Space and Astronomy Tour (SAT) to engage with school and generals public on topics related to Astronomy and Space Exploration and Industry.

A Road 750 Miles Long…

As part of the festival programme, a mix of school and public events was delivered. In total, we travelled 1230km (approx. 750miles) and delivered a total of 14 different events and sessions. A map of all schools and venues in Sutherland visited by the tour is shown on the map below.


We have met with pupils from six primary schools in Sutherland, namely Scourie Primary School, Kinlochbervie Primary School, Durness Primary School, Tongue Primary School, Gledfield Primary School and Edderton Primary School. The classroom activities included Meteorite Handling, examining a Space Payload (Skylark 140 and 141 missions) and Constellation Making.

Amongst the secondary schools, the tour visited Dornoch Academy and Kinlochbervie High, at both of which we delivered talks about Space Exploration and Astronomy research (including interacting with the Space Payload and Infra-red Camera) as well as the emergence of Space Industry in Scotland, including many future academic and job opportunities. This tied in with the national programme of outreach.

We have also delivered two public events entitled From Dark Skies to Outer Space in the Kyle Centre in Tongue on Wednesday, 7th March and in The Hub at Bonnar Bridge on Thursday, 8th March. These events also included a mix of content, highlighting the current work across Scotland on access, research and utilisation of Space.


Meeting the Sutherland Community

The tour reached 191 people in total, of which nearly 75% (139) were children. We have also interacted with 37 other local residents outside the school visits, in particular through the two public events. Given this is a hard-to-reach remote rural community, such high numbers of attendees and high levels of engagement can be understood as a significant success.

Several very positive comments were received both from schools as well as from the public audiences. One of the attendees ever wrote as a thank you e-mail noting:

“I attended last night at The Hub in Bonar Bridge and I took my daughter along, we both really enjoyed the talk and she insisted we stop on the way back to look at the stars, Orion was in full view between the clouds…”How many is 1 with 22 zeros after it?” she asked. “A lot” was the best I could do.”

In many of post-event interactions, there were very specific references to the high value of our effort to reach out to the more remote communities. This is one of these comments:

“I thought I should drop you a line to say ‘thank you’ for making the effort to travel up to the Highlands to give your talk Dark Skies to Outer Space. […] We don’t get the same opportunities to take our kids along to these things as parents in the cities so it is very much appreciated when people like yourself make the effort to come up.”

We believe, however, that the public engagement interaction should be grounded in an open and honest two-way dialogue. In particular, in our engagement with the community at Tongue, we were informed of a severe lack of public discourse over the proposed Melness/Sutherland spaceport. It became clear that the developers have not been engaging the local community, past the direct landowners, in the development of the proposal. This led us to take steps to inform relevant stakeholders that a public forum over these matters should be initiated.

Sutherland (27).JPG

This project benefited from funding from a / UKSEDS public engagement grant and a significant investment through the British Science Association (BSA) Community Connecting Grant and BSA regional branch funds. We are very grateful for their support and this amazing opportunity to bring the cutting edge in Astronomy and Space Science Research, as well as the Scottish Space Sector development, to communities across Sutherland.

When will Space Mining be a “Thing”?

Earlier this year I have been asked by the BBC to do a short comment piece about space mining opportunities and development timelines.

This was to accompany an introduction to the UK’s first space mining company, the Asteroid Mining Corporation.

Here is the resulting video (via BBC Science and Environment):

The 22-year-old running UK’s only asteroid mining business



What is not to like about regeneration?

 and  wrote a short piece about regeneration for Manchester Policy Blogs, as part of a collaboration inspired by Postgraduate Forum in Science, Technology and Innovation Studies (PF-STIS) workshop “What is at Stake?” in December 2017 at SPRU in Brighton.

The blog-post is available here:

What is not to like about regeneration? 

The Empty Triumph of the Geeks?

Space is back! Well, back in the news, that is. A spectacular launch (and 2/3 landing) of the SpaceX‘s latest and so far the most advanced system, the Falcon Heavy, was broadcast around the world with an amazing speed and determination. News items heralded a beginning of a new era and some (over)excited reporting even looked upon it as a revival of the Apollo era excitement for Space, helped by the fact it launched from the same launchpad at Kennedy Space Centre as Apollo 11, with one of the first Moon-walkers looking on.

The amazing technical achievement is, of course, a great reason for celebration. Sticking three rockets together and make them work as one is a no mean feat. Getting them back to Earth and landing two of them simultaneously is also awe inspiring, and should, I believe, be shown with a backdrop of classical music, preferably something from the Swan Lake. This picture will, I think, in time become the iconic image marking this transformational moment in human’s space exploration. (And the fact that the core rocket did not quite manage to land on a barge in the middle of an ocean, is really but an insubstantial footnote.)

But then we get to the car… specifically the Elon Musk’s red Tesla Roadster (here pictured in the space payload fitting):


Now, I like the principle behind Tesla (the company) a lot, and the world certainly needs more capable batteries and many more electric cars, though much like SpaceX (over)reliance on public procurement orders, Tesla is still by and large unprofitable and enjoying quite a decent bit of what is called “state aid” everywhere, but in the US. However, launching one of Tesla’s creations into the Outer Space is the exact opposite to the go-green agenda or even good business sense.

I don’t buy into the narrative that this is just a bit of PR for Tesla as, with key limiting factors being slow production and sky-high price tag, I don’t quite envisage a rush for Roadsters materialising in the next few weeks.  And even if it does, the un/intended consequences of this payload deployment are far more worrying than just wasting a perfectly good car and $90m on an advertising stunt.

On top of some decent critical analysis, such as Nathan Robinson’s piece in the Observer , noting the emptiness of such move as an investment to “change the world” and Marina Koren’s solid analysis of just what a break from the past universalism in Outer Space exploration this development is, there are two other critical issues, not getting quite as much attention:

Firstly, the environmental impact. Whilst Falcon Heavy’s re-usability (at a reasonably low cost) is a big win for the traditionally wasteful space launch capabilities, its reliance on fossil fuels (in a some contrast to another billionaire’s project, Blue Origin, experimenting with liquid hydrogen), is not to be celebrated. Even more worryingly, though payload (the car) itself will not pollute the low-earth-orbit (one of the most challenging issues for modern space industry is precisely the amount of objects already circling around the Earth, potentially blocking access to Space), sending such purposeless object in Space sends the wrong kind of message as to the attitude industry and public should adopt towards “space junk”.

Secondly, there is a more subtle, though on the long run perhaps an even more important issue – the message it sends as to what humanity’s intentions in space are and who is doing it. As Koren noted in her piece in the Atlantic, geopolitics aside, space race was actually quite considerate in its feats; today, that rule-book has been thrown out of the window. Moreover, this has ostensibly been done to “please” “the geeks” (note references to Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, blasting out Bowie’s Space Oddity, planting circuit boards with secret messages, etc.) – the up and coming engineers, developers and entrepreneurs, who having had a hard time in the US’ sports-obsessed educational system, believe the ultimate realisation of their dreams and aspirations might now lay in working for Elon Musk.

As such, it becomes apparent that Musk’s PR stunt’s audience is the “New Space” workforce, not his automotive customers. By exposing SpaceX as a “fun” geeky paradise and himself as an unashamed geek, as “one of us”, he can in one move placate the overworked and exploited workforce, instilling in them that they are doing something meaningful, as well as on the other hand, exploit that very same culture to justify a free pass to do whatever he wants in Outer Space.

Here is the sticking point – though the now iconic red Roadster might have become the Falcon Heavy’s first payload, because it is a “replaceable loss”, it was then carefully and masterfully transformed as a cultural reference point to legitimise and enshrine SpaceX and its ethics as the new norm in Space Exploration and Industry. It is meant to be a holy shrine of progress to the growing mass of young people, whose work-life balance is to be routinely sacrificed on the altar of “cool tech”, and all for substantial, taxpayer subsidised ego-boosts for the few on top. And that is very worrying indeed.


Space and Astronomy Tour (SAT) to Visit Orkney International Science Festival

I am delighted to announce that I have been invited to deliver a series of outreach events for Orkney International Science Festival (7th-13th September 2017). I am particularly excited that though most events will be held in Orkney’s capital, Kirkwall, some will be held on the more remote islands in the archipelago.

Let’s have a quick look at the highlights of this latest instance of what has by now become my trademark Space and Astronomy Tour(s) (or SATs):

To begin with, in order to support the North Ronaldsay’s community bid for International Dark Sky Island status, I will be visiting this fantastic island (with no street lighting!) to deliver a Dark Sky Discovery capacity development workshop and an evening event called From Dark Sky To a Bright Future. I will be visiting this most Northern outpost of the Orkneys on Thursday,  7th September, with the evening events being held at the Bird Observatory, starting at 8pm.

Image result for north ronaldsay bird observatory at night
North Ronaldsay Bird Observatory (C) 2016, Visit Orkney

To complement the traditional “Families’ Saturday” programme, on 9th September, in the King Street Halls, I will lead a drop-in workshop stall on Family Fun with Constellation Making. Doors open at 10am and we should have enough constellation making supplies to last us until 4pm.

In a partnership with Lewis Hou from Science Ceilidh we will be running a special science and music event at the Papa Westray Community Centre on Monday, 11th September. The event with a provisional title Celestial Harmony, will feature parts of my talk on the link between everyday objects and Astronomy and Space Science, What Has the Space Ever Done for Us? A Sign-posted Guide to Astronomy and Space Exploration in 8 Technologies, and Lewis’ musical exploration of Space in the form of Space Ceilidh dances. Whilst at “Papay” we will also be visiting the most Northern school in Scotland (if you, perhaps unjustly, exclude fair Isle and Shetland Islands).

Also, as part of a longstanding partnership with Kirkwall Grammar School (KGS), which includes and exciting project to take students to visit the Russia’s Star City in 2018, I will deliver a series of interactive sessions with National 5, Highers and Advanced Highers students, called The Discovery of Space, and based on celebrating the first century of scientific Space Exploration.

Finally, together with a former astronomer and now an acclaimed writer, Pippa Goldschmidt, we will reprise our recent Edinburgh Fringe show using fiction, and science to explore Tales of the Outer Space. The literary-scientific exploration will be held in Supper Room, Town Hall, Kirkwall on Wednesday, 13th September, at 2pm.

Pippa and me promoting our Fringe show…

In addition to my own events listed above, I am also part of a collaborative project involving Dr Howie Firth (OISF) and Dr Edvard Kobal (Slovenian Science Foundation), on exploring the life and work of Fanny Susan Copeland. On Sunday, 10th September, we will present a talk entitled “The Astronomer’s Daughter and the Lost Armada Ships. Fanny Copeland is the daughter of Ralph Copeland, who was the Astronomer Royal for Scotland in late 19th and early 20th century. I have completed extensive research in the Royal Observatory Edinburgh archives in support of this project. Come and find out more about her amazing life and work, as well as try out some fine Slovenian baking at Skaill House, Sandwick, at 6pm.

I will also be assisting in organising and delivering celebrations to mark the 20th Anniversary of Partnership with Slovenian Science Foundation, including the delicious celebratory banquet: From Rocky Karst to Sunlit Sea (7pm, Wednesday, 13th September, Town Hall, Kirkwall), and helping to deliver some of the other events, for instance Cloud Chamber Workshop planned by Alan Walker from the Particle Physics for Scottish Schools (PP4SS).

I suspect I don’t have to tell you just how excited I am about this amazing series of events and how much I am looking forward to visiting Orkney again. However, I do have to say massive thanks to OISF organisers for inviting me, to the Institute of Physics in Scotland for their generous financial support and to the Dark Sky Discovery / STFC for the privilege of representing the Dark Sky Discovery project.







Outer Space – The Next Empire? (A Brief Interview)

Matjaz and Pippa’s CoDI show ‘Outer Space – The Next Empire?’ is on at 1.50pm, Saturday 5th August at the New Town Theatre (Fringe Venue 7).


Tell us a bit about yourselves

Matjaz Vidmar – research student in Science, Technology and Innovation Studies Space Exploration and Industry in Scotland at The University of Edinburgh; science communicator at the Royal Observatory Edinburgh and elsewhere; occasional blogger and writer; involved in many “out-there” ideas, including a project proposing a geostationary space station.

Pippa Goldschmidt – a “recovering Astronomer” with a PhD from The University of Edinburgh/Royal Observatory Edinburgh; worked on Outer Space policy in the UK Government, including puzzling questions such as “What is Outer Space and where does it start?”; now an acclaimed writer about science in fiction. Winner of 2016 Suffrage Science award (for women in science). Author of novels, short stories, poems and essays.

How does your CoDI show fit in with your research?

The exciting CoDI show we are hatching together fits perfectly with Matjaz’s work in trying to use arts to understand the role and importance of Space Exploration and Industry for society at large and Pippa’s creative work on how science and technology inspires and informs artistic expression.

Why is the topic ‘dangerous’?

The topic dares ask a question about what are we humans doing in and to Outer Space? In the not very distant future, humans will for the first time visit another planet (Mars). Later on we will likely establish some interplanetary outposts.

What does this mean for society down here on Earth? By reaching so far away from our planet, are we taking enough care over the possible harm we might cause to other planetary environment and life, and the possible harm we might do to ourselves?

Are Outer Space resources ours for the taking? Even if they are – who are “we”? Will it be whoever first plants the flag or do we come to a broader agreement on sharing?

How do we make sure we don’t choke our own planet in Space Debris, which is bits of disused space craft and rockets already swarming around the Earth and possibly increasing exponentially in the next few years?

Does it rightly have this label? Is the topic unjustly controversial? 

If Space Debris starts raining down on Earth, as outlined in one of Pippa’s stories, it will get pretty dangerous pretty quickly! And that is only one of the topics we will explore in the show! It may also get very dangerous for Space Dodos (whatever they are)!

The severity of danger is really in the eyes of the beholder, but we think we need to have an inspired and inspiring conversation about the scientific, technological and societal implications of exploration of Outer Space and how it touches upon other aspects of the everyday life of us Earthlings (as well as Martians!).

Describe your show in three words

Serious Space Fun

Why should the unenlightened Fringe-goer attend your show? What will they learn?

They will learn a bit about what we are up to in Outer Space and what possible futures await us.

There will be examples of how Scotland is “reaching for the stars” and how it contributes to more space waste. We will discuss whether humans are ready for space travel and if so, where you should buy your ticket!

We will talk about science, technology, ethics, politics, achievements, beliefs and imagination, mix them all together and throw in a big measure of drama and humour.

We will read some short stories and see if we can disentangle facts about Outer Space from Science Fiction.

To sum up, we will have some serious fun with some serious issues – and all in the name of science!

Are we trying to build a new Empire in the Outer Space?

As part of this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival, I am teaming up with an ex-astronomer and acclaimed science fiction author, Pippa Goldschmidt, to debate the future of human activity beyond the Earth in a show titled: Outer Space – The Next Empire?

Pippa is a Royal Observatory Edinburgh graduate and has later worked both at Imperial College, London, as well as in civil service, including on outer space policy. She has since been writing fiction about science and scientists, including a novel about an astronomer who discovers the Universe and loses her mind, ‘The Falling Sky’ and a collection of short stories ‘The need for Better Regulation of Outer Space’. Pippa has been writer in residence in several science and social science research centres and is currently Visiting Fellow at the Science, Technology and Innovation Studies Group (my “home” department) at the University of Edinburgh.

In an hour of literary drama, comedy and engaging discussion with the audience, Pippa and I will be exploring big questions such as: Who does outer space belong to, and are humans its only intelligent tenants/owner-occupiers? Will colonising space soon become our business-as-usual, and should we be doing it at all? Can we cause any harm to whoever else might be out there or are we likely to be harmed ourselves?

The event is part of the Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas series, which is a joint Beltane Public Engagement Network and Fair Pley production, successfully taking science to the Fringe for the fifth time in 2017. You might even remember that I have done another Cabaret show last year, called “Let Big Brother Watch!”

Hence, I am delighted to be returning to the Fringe with this show, as we are planning to make it as exciting for the audience as any of the big Fringe productions, but with more discussion and engagement. Pippa is an amazing story-teller and I am so honoured to be working with her to create this very special event.

Though we will intertwine fact with fiction to set the scene, we are looking forward to talking about the scientific and social impact of space exploration, whilst also questioning some of the accepted norms and challenging pre-conceptions. Arts, and especially literature, is great in enabling an open and frank discussion about not only the present, but also the future of scientific and technological development.

 This is very well illustrated in this review (by Iain Maloney) of Pippa’s collection of short stories, ‘The Need for Better Regulation of Outer Space’: “Science is a tool for understanding the universe, but in Pippa Goldschmidt’s hands it is also a metaphor through which we can better understand ourselves.”

Outer Space – The Next Empire? is on 5th August, 1.50pm, at the New Town Theatre in George Street.

Tickets can be bought via the Fringe Box Office or on-line: 


It is “Ignition” for UK’s Spaceport(s)!

The UK is well on its way to establishing the first set of spaceports outside the USA. Though the first Government consultation on the issue completed as far back as 2014 and preparations are well underway at several locations, the publication of the draft Spaceflight Bill in February has finally put on paper the future outlook for UK space access capabilities, with first launch activities scheduled for 2020.

The joined ministerial statement accompanying the launch of the draft Bill noted: “We want to see UK spaceports enabling the launch of small satellites from the UK, as well as sub-orbital spaceflights and scientific experiments. Our new laws will put British businesses at the forefront of these new space services and create jobs in communities that have not previously considered themselves to be part of our space sector.”

Instead of direct targeted government investment, which has been discussed in the past, the draft Bill is making provisions for a licensing scheme, enabling any spaceport operator to acquire permission for multi-phase launch from mainland UK, as long as they are satisfying safety requirements and having a viable business case. To assist the development of spaceports Government grants could be made available to successful applicants.

Though most operators are considering what is called a “horizontal launch”, i.e. a modified aircraft deploying a rocked powered 2-stage vehicle over the Atlantic Ocean after a “normal” runway take-off, the Bill is making provisions for “vertical launchers”, i.e. free-standing rockets, as well.

The scheme could see the establishment of a whole series of spaceports, with specialist airfields from Newquay in Cornwall, Snowdonia in Wales, and Sutherland, Campbeltown, Prestwick and Southern Isles in Scotland all separately attempting to bid for licences.

However, Stuart Macintyre from Orbital Access, who are developing a horizontal launch system to operate from the UK, sees potential for a more networked approach. He told the BBC recently that they “envisage a system of collaborating spaceports and a system of operators whose needs will describe the capabilities that are required at those spaceports.” In particular, as they would “need a diversionary site if for any reason we cannot land back at the runway from which we took off.”

But the Bill is not all about “health and safety”. The science minister, Jo Johnston, noted that “spaceflight offers the UK the opportunity to build on our strengths in science, research and innovation” and that “it provides opportunities to expand into new markets, creating highly-skilled jobs and boosting local economies across the country. That is why it is one of the key pillars of our Industrial Strategy.”

So, while not quite in the lift-off stage yet, the vision of UK spaceports clearly got to “ignition”!


This brief analysis was published in the May-June 2017 edition of the Popular Astronomy magazine by the Society for Popular Astronomy. Image copyright: Orbital Access.

New Space Strategies for “New Space”

Two reports published over the past couple of months clearly indicate that the “New Space” concept has well and truly landed. “New Space” is the label attached to the radical shift in the Space Sector make-up, which is looking to exploit the advances in technology development and new sources of funding to establish rapid design, manufacturing and deployment of small, cheap and dispensable (or even replaceable) satellites for an increasing variety of applications, accessible to a growing number of users worldwide.

On 27th October, the OECD published its Space and Innovation report, analysing in great detail the current trends in the Space Sector and the variety of policy responses countries have been adopting. It suggests three approaches for state (and private) actors: reviewing policy in light of new developments, direct involvement in new (downstream) space activities and capturing spin-offs and technology developments. The report optimistically predicts that a new “the space sector seems to be on the verge of a new cycle of development”, with new scientific breakthroughs, technological achievements and a growing market for space(-powered) applications – and all very beneficial to the global economy.

The key contribution of the Space Sector to the economy is also recognised in the European Commission’s Space Strategy for Europe, published on the 26th October.  It sets out ways in which the EU seeks to boost growth in the sector and knowledge spill overs in other domains, both through flagship programmes such as Galileo (satellite navigation) and Copernicus (satellite imaging), science and infrastructure investment, as well as financial support for start-ups and spin-outs based on space-related technologies.

Hence Elżbieta Bieńkowska, Commissioner for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, noted that although “Space is a key industrial sector in Europe’s economy, and a strategic asset supporting Europe’s autonomy of action at the global stage […], it needs more entrepreneurs and more private investment if it is to stay ahead of the curve.” This can of course only be achieved through public and private actors working together and pulling the (financial) weight.

Of course, these are long-term strategies and it is unclear in what way the UK Government will pursue them, though UK leadership in this area has been very strong in the past. If fact, UK National Space Policy, last updated in December 2015, is very much at the heart of the current OECD and EU thinking, however the changing global context, in particular the role of the UK in European affairs, may well jeopardise our hard-earned  position of global leadership in the Space Industry.

We may have to wait until next year’s UK Space Conference, this time in Manchester, to measure the strength of the new Government’s commitment to the sector and also global partners’ reaction to our changing position in the world.



This brief analysis was published in the January-February 2017 edition of the Popular Astronomy magazine by the Society for Popular Astronomy. Image copyright: European Commission.


To Space We Go! (But let’s reflect a little on the direction as well…)

Overall, it has been a great couple of months for Space Exploration activities. Recovering from a quite spectacular rocket failure in early September, SpaceX was out to impress at the International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico, by unveiling their private plans to start colonising Mars by 2022. Space probe Juno is getting closer and closer to the gaseous atmosphere of Jupiter, ESA’s Rosetta mission came to a controlled crashing end and the first stage of another ESA’s project, ExoMars mission, has arrived to its destination.

However, in the midst of all of this excitement, little time has been given to understanding the bigger picture – why success and failure have been so abundant recently and whether the individual objectives and the collective vision for Space Exploration are being met. Of particular interest are two related streams of development: the recent almost fictional optimism of both private and governmental Space Sector players and the somewhat obvious shortcomings of their plans. Adding to this is the fact that though the two groups seem to be talking to each other, the messages pass by unreceived.

Hence, let’s take a minute for reflection and take those two issues in turn.

Potemkin’s Village on Mars

As said, Elon Musk of SpaceX announced their plans for Interplanetary Transport System for taking humans to Mars, which includes 200 “seats” per vehicle at potentially $200k ticket a-piece. However, as these plans are unpicked, there are many questions which remain to be answered and some doubts about parts of the project were already expressed, in particular on safety grounds, in addition to concerns about the validity of the business model, in particular availability of funding.

Concept art of a Dragon 2 spaceship landing on Mars (C) SpaceX via Wikimedia

The excitement of this announcement reminded me of the initial excitement surrounding Mars One project, another colonization ambition with a commercial interest. Similar doubts were expressed then as well, though after the initial enthusiasm died down, targets were revisited and though the mission remains nominally on track it no longer occupies the centre-stage in the planning of the future of Space Exploration.

It struck me recently that these projects, often dubbed PR exercises, are perhaps more meaningful than cynical attempts at self-promotion for the individual proponents and their respective companies/organisations. And here I do not mean setting goals and establishing future trajectories as such – after all Mars has been a destination for over a century! What such “news” does, however, is setting the new norms and expectations, and the closer we are getting to actually bridge the famous gap of “Mars landing is 50 years away” the more important the content of these outlandish proposals may be.

In many ways, the success of the “news” was as guaranteed from the start as was the failure of the actual proposal – as space exploration easily catches public imagination, it is no surprise that such “news” is gets discussed in both science as well as media mainstream. But even through failure of the actual mission, the concept of space exploration gets re-defined. Most worryingly, it seems, its risk factors.

The Mars One project is a one way ticket from the onset. No return to Earth means that “survival” becomes a very relative term. If you were to die on Mars anyway, does it matter if you die on descent due to catastrophic failure of the underdeveloped or untested live support systems? If SpaceX are shipping hundreds of people to the Red Planet, does it matter if a few die en route of the radiation sickness? The somewhat cavalier attitude to such questions, recently displayed by Musk and to some extent Mars One creator, Dutch entrepreneur Bas Lansdorp, is perhaps precisely the intended effect.

If the risks of the next stage in the Space Exploration are initially presented as sky-high and brushed off as unproblematic, this could pave a way for a completely different risk perception once a much more realistic proposal from a more “down-to-Earth” consortium comes along. How better to do that than to shock the public with a radical (and unrealistic) proposal, focus on messages of hope, rather than fears or legitimate concerns and so when a still radical re-evaluation of acceptable risk comes along, it will be measured not against past standard of actual precedents, such as NASA’ Shuttle programme, where each of the fatal failures stopped all flights for years; but new benchmarks such as risks posed by some of the other more outlandish visions.

In all, this new fictional reality is far more dangerous that is seems, if accepted it assumes human life is entirely expendable in the achievement of a higher goal; if it is not accepted, then missions planned with revised risk levels might come crushing down (to Earth) if or when there is legitimate public outrage at loss of life in Space.

Jack of All Trades, Master of Luck?

Whilst no one could accuse the European Space Agency (ESA) of lowering the standards for acceptable risk in human spaceflight, the recent ExoMars mission’s Schiaparelli lander failure is perhaps exposing another of the Space Sectors’ vices – its narrow-minded competitiveness. ExoMars’ two part mission was to insert an orbiter to study methane gas in Martian atmosphere and put a lander on the ground.

The mission is still painted as 96% success which makes one wonder if only 4% had to do with landing, why bothering to land anything at all? Perhaps, given that Schiaparelli lander was a technology demonstrator for future landing technology, its mission should be treated as 100% success – it demonstrated the current ESA landing system doesn’t work. This demonstration, however, is hardly needed. Beagle 2 (whose problem might not be crash-landing or damage from it) notwithstanding, luck, if anything, was a key element in ESA’s most successful recent mission – Rosetta – managing to land the Philae lander on the 67P comet. Harphones not firing could easily meant a fatal bounce-off the surface, but luckily the comet was a bit larger than expected, and the had a stronger gravitational pull, which resulted “only” in 1km high jump for the probe.

Yes, engineering played a significant part, too (for instance in reducing the jump by shock absorbers), and yes, most missions go wrong in one aspect or another and luck regularly “saves the day”, and another yes: the dearing of the Philae descent was truly inspirational – the fact remains that ESA’s “new norm” of combined missions (orbiter + lander) often hang on a cliff edge (or land underneath), due to technology problems, which were seemingly overcome by their counterparts.

For example, in a stark contrast to Beagle 2 and Schiaparelli lander failure, NASA has recently had four successful landings on Mars, the last one, Curiosity rover, being delivered via an automated rocket-powered sky-crane. In light of these developments, has anyone wondered why Space Agencies around the world, who cooperate on many joined projects, still prefer to develop their own parallel technology for practically every element of space exploration missions (ISS notwithstanding)?

The answer is probably – to show they can! And it is perhaps less to do with technology development and scientific advancement as such and more with proving geo-political points. Whilst the International Space Station truly leads the way in multi-faceted international collaboration, even at times when its founding partners are at loggerheads politically on Earth, many “less challenging” programmes still seem to be deeply divisive, which might be precisely the element making them less successful than they could have been.

Perhaps it is time to pause and reflect on what kind of strategy we want for the future of Space Exploration. And perhaps we should look again at the concepts of risk, safety, and international collaboration – let’s face it, in all of the excitement, we might have got them somewhat wrong.

I-SAT: Heavy on Flavours, Heavy on Space!

This is a slightly late update on another outreach project I was involved with this Summer. Between 10th-14th July 2016, “Heavy Flavour – Quo Vadis?” workshop was organised by the Particle Physics Group, School of Physics and Astronomy, The University of Edinburgh, at the Ardbeg Distillery on Islay.

The aim of the workshop was to the future direction of research for heavy flavour physics, so-called as it involves the study of the heavy beauty and charm quarks that are produced in large numbers at the CERN Large Hadron Collider.

In parallel with the workshop, a series of public outreach events were held at Bowmore High School between 12th-14th July 2016, organised on behalf of the Particle Physics Group by Alan Walker, Director of Particle Physics for Scottish Schools (PP4SS), and the local Science teacher, Russell Pollock. This comprised of three joint exhibitions: Particle Physics for Scottish Schools Exhibition, From Maxwell to Higgs Exhibition (Royal Society Edinburgh) and I-SAT: Islay Space and Astronomy Tour.

Poster 2


The latter, Islay Space and Astronomy Tour (I-SAT), was a new invited project I designed specifically for this event on the basis of an IoP in Scotland Public Engagement Grant. In particular, I was asked to develop an interactive display related to my research, which concerns the applications of basic research and innovation partnerships between scientists and local entrepreneurs in the Space Industry in Scotland and to give a talk about science, technology and innovation in Astronomy and Space Science at the evening public session.

Interactive Display and Exhibition Talks

The display included a rolling loop explaining key features and current finding of my research and a selection of relevant info-sheets produced by Science and Technology facilities Council (STFC) and Institute of Physics (IoP).

I-SAT tweet

I was near the display for most of the time exhibition was open and have regularly given short (15min) informal talks small groups of people to explain my work further.

It IS Rocket Science! – Building Scotland’s Space Sector

Building on detailed micro-level studies of innovation process my research suggests that the further development of Scottish Space Sector rests on matching the right people and institutions, who can then trade resources, knowledge and skills

Hence, I am using Social Network Analysis to map out the knowledge network(s) of the Space Industry in Scotland in order to identify its key systemic characteristics and outline the contours of the interactions (knowledge flows) between new product development (NPD) processes and its environment are the key for understanding which external factors most significantly influence the success of commercialisation of emerging Space technologies.

However, illuminating this network and characterising its effects is not trivial – after all, who said it was not rocket science?

Evening Talk

The series of events also included a public session with two presentations, one by the organiser of the workshop, Prof Franz Muheim, on “Higgs Bosons, Antimatter and all that” and the other my own on “Astrotechnology – and how it changed the World”. The event was well attended and well received by the local community (see below).

Evening tweet.JPG


Astrotechnology – and How it Changed the World?

Astronomy research is both driving the technological advances as well as being shaped by them. From ancient telescopes to modern infra-red detectors simulations, the practice of Astronomy is very much rooted in physical objects – most of them located down here on Earth!

Using an example of such an object, an ordinary DSLR camera, this talk will afford a fly-by tour of the key astronomical technologies, how did they come about and what did they do for the science as well as for the society. We will examine the way Space innovation is allowing us to see the past and the future, the distant and the invisible, to experience reality well beyond our imagination and then emerge in the world to change it for the better.

What have the Space ever done for us, again?

So, how did it go?

Though our initial estimate was to attract about 300 visitors to the exhibition and the evening event combined, this turned out to be relatively ambitious, in particular as the events happen to coincide with unusually good weather for Islay, which led to many (in particular younger) audiences to try and spend more time outdoors. In the end, we have had approximately 100 unique visitors to the events in total, the evening talk being attended by around 30 people. Given the small population on Islay (around 3000 total), this is still a significant turnout.

More importantly, the visitors were very interested in the events and thought them to be of high quality. Some commented:

“Great interactive exhibition.”

“Great initiative – never had anything like that on islands when I grew up.”

“When are you coming back?”

Importantly, we engaged with several groups of high school children, who are thinking about studying science, and have said that this positive experience motivated them even more. Furthermore, noticing the event activities on Twitter (announcements alone reached over 6,700 impressions and 115 engagements), some were already advocating future locations to visit, which we would be more than happy to follow up!

More information (including more photos) about the activities on Islay can be found

Finally, none of this would be possible without financial support from the IoP in Scotland Public Engagement Grant and the Particle Physics Group at the School of Physics and Astronomy, and the generous hospitality of the Islay High School, Bowmore.

It Ain’t a Pi(e)

Pies come in all shapes and sizes and with various fillings, but very few are as extraordinary as the Raspberry Pi, which instead of juicy fruit contains a silicon chip and has metal frame replacing crusty pastry. The talk here is, of course, of the revolutionising educational tool, which is changing the way in which computer science is taught in primary and secondary schools. The humble Pi is much more than a didactical prop, it is stirring innovative thinking amongst its users, by asking them to develop programme code to run different processes on the standardised Pi hardware.

Perhaps most exciting of these challenges is currently underway in my native Space Sector, as British astronaut Tim Peake deploys Astro Pi, a space faring version of the credit-card-sized mini-computer, as part of his visit to the International Space Station. A UK-wide competition was run amongst schools to develop a most interesting Space experiment, to be run by the winning team, using the basic sensing and processing capabilities available on the Pi platform.

The aim in this is, of course, to stimulate interest in innovation and entrepreneurship from as young an age as possible, leading the cutting edge development of the  Space Industry by bringing science and technology in step and on the horizon of young innovators and future astronauts. As the data collected by the Astro Pi unit becomes available to any Raspberry Pi user down here on Earth, an unchartered ocean of possibility awaits young coders.

Hence, though Raspberry’s surname actually relates to the original coding language used, Python, its advancement of STEM subjects certainly places it proudly as the raspberry on top of the pie (cherries and cakes are outdated!). Lets hope that as many young bright minds as possible get their πr2/x share.

(This is sort of a day late as it was an outreach piece written to celebrate the Pi Day, but was eventually not published where initially  intended.)

One Morning in 2065…

Here is a little bit of futuristic imaginings I did for ESRC/SAGE World in 2065 Competition, published at the ESRC’s Shaping Society blog. (There is another version at the Social Science Space blog.)

It has been such an amazing ride – many thanks to ESRC and SAGE for the opportunity!

(There are also some photos from the awards ceremony in the House of Commons here.)

ESRC blog

Matjaz Vidmar is a postgraduate research student in The Institute for the Study of Science, Technology and Innovation; part of Science, Technology and Innovation Studies Subject Group in the School of Social and Political Science and Entrepreneurship and Innovation Group of Business School; at The University of Edinburgh

His main area of research is acceleration of business incubation and development of Space Sector in the UK and specifically in Scotland.

Matjaz Vidmar

His piece ‘One Morning in 2065…’ finished in the top 10 of the ESRC’s writing competition, The World in 2065– in collaboration with academic publishers, SAGE.  You can read it below:

One Morning in 2065…

‘Beep, beep, beep…The alarm goes off ringing – my personal assistant, Thor, is scheduled to wake me up as ever for 7.30am. Would be easy to hit the red button now, kill Thor off, and enjoy some more peaceful slumber next to my…

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Networking 101

This is a belatedly late post about some of my (early) research findings  – and my efforts to disseminate them.

This is build around Phase 1 of my research into the facilitation of technology transfer from basic research into high-tech industry, which is (hopefully) leading to overall economic growth and prosperity.

I am focusing on the Space Sector, the historic development of which is in its 3rd phase, sometimes referred to as the “New Space”, – after the initial state monopoly (1st phase) and the technology being commercialised by large multinational corporations (2nd phase), it is now being democratised through innovation and entrepreneurship as the (previously complex and expensive hardware becomes smaller, more standardised and cheaper (Space IGS, 2010). In the context of this transition and growth of the sector, there is a government target of increasing the UK share of global Space market from 7% to 10% by 2030 (Space IGS, 2010).

For small and medium size enterprises (SMEs) – which are the subject of my research – this is also denoting a transition in SMEs from “technology-push” to “market-pull” new product development (NPD) orientation, based on a shift from “supplying” to larger companies to “selling” to end customers/users, which is also moving from “mass-manufacturing” to developing Complex Products and Services (CoPS) (Hobday, 1998) and vertical value chain integration.

In order to help facilitate technology transfer at this transition point – one of the objective of my research – a key link between the systemic understanding of the sector and the innovation processes and practices in companies must be established. Given the prevalence of network research – which is at the core of Innovation studies both at macro as well as micro level (Freeman, 1991), due the fact that it covers the crucial aspect of knowledge commercialisation, namely interaction – this is an obvious choice to bridge the two.

In particular I am using ego-centric Social Network Analysis (SNA) (Scott, 1988; Giuliani, 2007) to plot the business network for each of the three studied companies (see table above). This is based on a survey-style questionnaire, with multiple-choice answers, but options for other (more expanded) answers as well. This enabled me a comprehensive analysis of the knowledge network, in particular the flows of knowledge and a qualitative analysis of the NPD process, by examining the specific “innovation moments” (i.e.  points at which decisions about developing an innovation into a product take place) (Edwards et. al., 2000), the role external partners play in those instances and how the differences in companies’ network make-up affect the creation of new products (and vice-versa).

Presently, the study is in its pilot incarnation, focusing on three case studies, carefully selected to represent key elements of the population of the field (upstream /downstream; hardware/software; start-up/spin-off; “Classical”/”New Space”; products/services), i.e. a set of typical cases (Yin, 2009), as summarised here:

Analysed SMEs and their properties (Vidmar, 2015)

In short, these are the key findings so far:

  1. The networks are larger for the “New Space, rich with open innovation, and significant knowledge flows across the firm’s boundary are detected (see the network plots below). This dynamics is gradually diminishes as we examine the other two cases, with the “classical” Space company having a very one-directional flow (and retain all of their IP within the company) and a relatively small core network.
  2. The more “New Space” a company is, the more it relies on knowledge flow from public institutions for R&D, BD and commercial transactions, and the more such partners it has. In contrast a more “classical” Space company has more private sector partners, mainly engaged in purely commercial activities, such as distributors and suppliers, through which it is sourcing components and maximising the reach of its supply.
  3. Interestingly, when analysed through the framework of Open Innovation (Chesbrough, 2006), we again find a very clear divide between hardware and software; upstream and downstream; and “classical” and “New Space”, with hardware upstream (“classical Space”) companies tend to exhibit more “closed” innovation models than software and downstream (“New Space”) ones.
  4. Analysis of the companies participating in the pilot suggests that the more the innovation process is “open” the less hierarchical it is, but also the more structured/standardised and formalised. This is in line with anecdotal experience from most successful high-tech areas, where more formalised, yet less restrictive, NPD protocols are being to be established in order to capitalise on as much innovation as possible (Neapole, -2015).
The network plot for Classical (left); Transitional (centre) and New Space (right) SMEs. (Vidmar, 2015)

Of course, these are only preliminary observations and substantial further research is being planned to further this work, including expanding the study to analyse all Scottish Space Sector companies.

If you are interested in a more full account of my research click through for the full paper presented at Reinventing Space 2015 conference  (Oxford, 9th-13th November 2015)

Here is also a photo of my poster (from SUPA Cormack Meeting 2015):

At SUPA Cormack Meeting, Royal Society of Edinburgh, 23th November 2015.

Space is Up!

The Global Space Innovation Conference (GLIC) 2015, which was held in Munich between 23rd and 25th June 2015, was preceded by an “unconference” based on the Space Up template Space UP GLIC.

This template means, that the “participants decide the topics, schedule, and structure of the event”, which in this instance was themed around Innovation and Entrepreneurship in the Space Sector. We aimed quite high; for instance, one of the (preparatory) questions from Twitter reads:

The day was mainly filled with short presentations from a variety of speakers presenting on topics ranging from protection against Near Earth objects (NEOs):

to dancing in zero gravity:

I also added my ramblings to the mix; I ended up wrapping up the presentations section with my talk “It IS Rocket Science!” about studying innovation, New Product Development (NPD) and networks in the Space Industry:

This was followed by some debate time drawing on two key questions: What is innovation? and Does investment stimulate innovation or vice versa?

The outcomes of this discussion and a summary of our contributions was also presented at the close of the “main” conference, including a video vlog of the day:

For my part, on top of being introduced to a variety of interesting ideas and projects, I was also introduced to so many exciting and very talented people, all passionate about space and ready to actively participate in the future of Space exploration. That in itself made this event the place to be for any budding Space enthusiast and I am looking forward to meet my new friends again, as soon as might be.

Embedded image permalink
“On top of Munich!”

Perhaps, we might even get SpaceUp to Scotland some time soon…

Think Global, Act Global!

Few and far in-between are times when an interdisciplinary researcher working across different fields, such as myself, find themselves at a conference comfortably covering nearly the entire theme of their work. Most often, I myself sit with two crowds – innovation studies researchers’ meetings cater for participating in academic discussions and I attend the gatherings of the space community to keep up to speed in the trends in my research area, the Space sector.

However, the importance of bringing together of these two crowds has recently been noted within the international Space community and from 23rd to 25th June 2015, I have found myself in Munich attending the “conference of my dreams” – the Global Space Innovation Conference.

GLIC conference banner, (c) IAF

For me, the event was two part, as the “main” conference was preceded by the SpaceUp GLIC “unconference”, which provides an alternative platform for facilitating networking and discussions amongst (younger/young at heart!) Space enthusiasts. Little snippets from this event are published separately in the post “Space is Up!”.

The theme of the conference was “From Government Programmes to Entrepreneurial Actions” and was based on two main premises:

1. There is significant appetite, both from the government as well as industry point of view for more private-public partnerships or direct private enterprise to get involved in the (national and international) Space exploration efforts, including but not limited to benefiting from the (civil/non-space) applications of technology originally developed for Space exploration. 

2. There are important (negotiated?) roles for all stakeholders (public, private, academic, non-profit, etc.) in the entrepreneurial system the industry is embedded in. This system was defined along the lines of (Gnyawali and Fogel, 1994):

  • Socioeconomic Environment,
  • Entrepreneurial and Business Skills,
  • Non-financial Support,
  • Financial Support, and
  • Government Policies and Procedures

These five elements were also the themes of the GLIC’s five key discursive panels (2-6):

  • Panel 1. The View from Entrepreneurs
  • Panel 2. Socioeconomic Environment for Entrepreneurs
  • Panel 3. Entrepreneurial Education and Training
  • Panel 4. Non-Financial Assistance for Venture Creation
  • Panel 5. Financial Support for Venture Creation
  • Panel 6: Policies and Laws for Entrepreneurship

The key findings, in my view, are that stakeholders have to work to reduce the burdens on the entrepreneurs by, on one hand, (public and private) funders increasing investment in early-stage technology development and on the other, providing clever institutional support (mainly in business development) to the entrepreneurs. In theory, this should also lead to a (more) competitive and dynamic Space economy, including breaking corporate monopolies currently supported by targeted government procurement.

However, the appreciation of the complexity of the products in the Space sector is necessary and my own research here is in many ways an embodiment of the above programme and an expression of the anxiety associated with it in particular with respect to the need for a more detailed understanding of the product development processes (NPD) and the role the different stakeholders play in it. In particular, the entrepreneurial networks through which expertise and action are channelled play a crucial role here as, the project complexity requires an increased knowledge flow into the NPD or innovation process.

In fact, this was the main part of my contribution to the event, made in the context of the SpaceUp GLIC, where I outlined these important concerns and my plans to address them in the context of my research in Scotland/UK.

Presenting the talk: “It IS Rocket Science!” at SpaceUp GLIC, Munich, 23rd June 2015

More of those plans to follow in a white paper draft to be published later this year…

Quantified Correlated Impacts (QCI) – ER4

To start building a (more) coherent picture of impact evaluation in science and technology programmes, we need to look for a constellation of many different methods to provide a meaningful insight into the need for, and success of, an intervention. Consequently, evaluation research is/should be organisational modus operandi, rather than a set of separate top-level exercises.

I propose a new paradigm in impact evaluation of investment and development in science, technology and innovation, namely Quantified Correlated Impacts (QCI). This approach is based on both quantitative as well as qualitative data collection, as bibliometric and econometric figures are correlated with ethnographic methods – interviews, focus groups and surveys – to determine the perceived causal contribution of the different factors, with particular focus on those pertaining from the intervention.

At it’s core, QCI are underpinned by a logic model; which is connecting the intervention with the evidence justifying the planned outputs; and leads form the inputs through action towards short-, mid- and long- term outcomes.

Logic model for the proposed networking strategy in UK/Scottish Space Sector

As part my research project, for example, I am involved in an intervention driving economic growth in the UK/Scotland through stimulating the collaboration across the UK/Scottish Space industry by increasing sectoral networking. This is a particularly important part of my research in business incubation in the Scottish space sector and the related (sectoral) systemic properties, such as institutional framework, networks of actors, and knowledge creation and dissemination (following Malerba’s Sectoral Systems of Innovation approach (Malerba, 2005)). Also, there is a wealth of evidence about the importance of networking for the success (and growth) of small businesses (Brüderl and Preisendörfer, 1998; Ostgaard and Birley, 1996).

The suggested action to generate these positive effects is to support the growth of small to medium sized businesses by integrating them in a wider network across the sector and wider. This will be facilitated by the creation of, and enrolment of actors into, an on-line database/forum/platform to provide easy access to contacts. Having established that, there are also provisions to host networking events (thematic or generalist), to solidify the ties and introduce more actors into the network, particularly from the non-core businesses.

In terms of evaluation, key facilities need to be established prior to the beginning of the evaluation of outputs (database and its uptake, and the networking events). The database growth can be analysed quantitatively (i.e. number of enrolled individuals, organisations, etc), while the networking event qualitatively (i.e. interviews, feedback, ethnography).

The key next step is to tie the intervention with the outcomes/impacts through an advanced cost benefit analysis. In the example given, this can be done by analysing the investment made with respect to the growth and revenue of the companies most interconnected within the newly established network, comparing to the more peripheral ones, or ones outside the network.

The last part is the crucial correlation, which provides tangible benchmarking for the overall success of a programme (within the cost benefit analysis). This is done by comparing the noticed trends in key parameters (in our case job creation, revenue growth, etc.) with corresponding regional, sectoral, national or global trends. The key objective is to trace any significant difference which can then be (in part! – see below) attributed to the intervention.

Crucial information, however, comes from the collected qualitative data which maps the action to its value for the participants, i.e. what was the contribution of a specific intervention to the overall change. For instance, in the example above we investigate the effect/importance of the networking on business success. This data can only be obtained by interviewing the participants in networking events, and running surveys and focus groups with representatives of the companies/individuals on the database. The key questions to ask will be: What made the difference?; How?; and How significant was it? We can then comment on the part the intervention played in the difference found between the participants performance and correlated trends.

Overall, this approach enables the evaluator to marry the desirable clarity of cost benefit analysis, where standards of success/failure can be contested, with a more balanced set of criteria and tangible links. The key features are quantified data (engagement figures, costs, returns, growth, etc) about the intervention, which is qualitatively (interviews, focus groups, etc.) examined as a contribution towards the difference in participants’ performance with respect to correlated background trends (sector growth, national job creation, GDP, etc.) – revealing the impact of the programme.

As said, this new, Quantified Correlated Impacts (QCI), framework is currently under development and I am sincerely opening its tenets to comments and suggestions. (And, please, do have a look at the other posts in the series, too: ER1, ER2, ER3.)

Many thanks in advance!

Cost Benefit Analysis: “What Have the Romans Ever Done for Us?” – ER3

Cost benefit analysis is an attractive evaluation method, as it can provide concrete, often quantified, data about interventions, usually in a form which is easily communicated to the clients, policy makers, funders and the general (lay) public. In its core and at its best, cost benefit analysis is a very direct and straightforward evaluation process, whereby inputs and outcomes are weighted against each other and logical conclusions about the efficacy of a programme can be reached.

However, all three of these elements – inputs or costs, outcomes or benefits, and efficacy or the relationship between the two – are highly contestable. To begin with, defining your parameter space and acknowledging constrains and assumptions is the key element of this approach to evaluation. These decisions, even if very well argued for, are ultimately just decisions; a global cost benefit analysis, if such a thing was ever possible, would need to encompass much of the factors and effects left on the other side of the dividing line for the evaluation to be a true representation of the net impact of the programme.

Secondly, even though the aim is to have a quantified data as possible – best if every input and impact are turned in some sort of monetary measure – both costs as well as benefits are often indirect or intangible. In Cellini and Klee’s most stark example (2010, p. 500): what is “the value of wilderness or an increased sense of community”? Furthermore, even if a measure can be put to notions such as wellbeing, another – perhaps most challenging of all – decision has to be made, namely what ratio between costs and benefits defines effectiveness of even efficiency?

However, in my limited experience, cost to benefit analysis is effective if the intervention being evaluated is narrow and well defined in terms of the available resources, the scope and the intended outcomes, or better still, when all of the above have an intrinsic monetary value attached. The intended outcomes I look for in my research are related to innovation and consequently increased economic activity, contributions to GDP, business growth, job creation, etc., hence quantification of these parameters is not very difficult as they often come as monetary values to begin with.

The most challenging for me is to benchmark the efficacy of this cost to benefit ratio and, to be honest, even though it would be to a degree possible to put a judgment on how significant the benefits have to be to deem a programme a success, I prefer to correlate these ratios to background trends such as global economic activity, comparisons to global GDP growth, global business and job creation, and add qualitative data where possible, as I believe the later provides a broader judgment on how the intervention is impacting those in and close to it.

This advanced cost benefit analysis can then feature prominently in a new paradigm of impact evaluation – the Correlated Quantified Impacts (QCI) – the topic of the next post.

“Means, Motive, Opportunity” – ER2

In order to frame this enquiry, let’s begin with a small the exploration of the motivations behind commissioning and performing the evaluations in the first place. Though examples here are from social research, these are easily compared with parallels in any intervention, including investment in the development of the science, technology (and business support facilities and services (for example STFC, 2014:5-7).

Firstly, an important part of the evaluation research is process evaluation (Rossi, 1972:34), used in order to improve on the delivery of the intervention, or – as beautifully listed in an interview with Waverley Care (a Edinburgh charity) CEO – “what we need to stop doing, what we want to keep doing and what we are not doing that we should be doing”. When working along this strand of evaluation, it is crucial that the researcher provides recommendations that can be acted upon. The best way to carry out such evaluation is often to focus on a specific small area of the intervention, for example how does an organisation collect feedback and implement changes reflecting the concerns raised by internal and external customers. Having said that, conclusions and recommendations can often be very general.

In the process evaluation, there is further check on the identifying emerging needs and (geographical, social, economic) individualisation of the delivery of outputs. This is particularly important for social projects (such as the Waverley Care), where there is significant variation across the different locales in which they work. However, this is also important in terms of social and geographical inclusiveness of science and technology investment. Hence, evaluation research in this context can provide important checks on the “fairness” of the intervention whilst it is underway.

Then there is the often missed – but in my opinion very important objective in evaluation – the inward facing component, i.e. the improvement of morale of the people engaged in the programme/intervention/organisation by celebrating their success. It is very important for the staff to appreciate the whole picture, “take a step back” to frame their work within a wider context. This is both a good motivation for future work as well as a huge morale boost as one can see how they personally and as a team are making a significant difference to people’s lives.

Finally, the primary motivation for impact evaluation is (always?), to understand the impact/difference an intervention/organisation is making. Evaluation is often considered important for funding applications, i.e. both assessing the need for the intervention as well as monitoring the delivery of outcomes (to evaluate the VALUE generated).

My research is similarly linked to the need for accountability when spending public money (Nutley, Walter and Davies, 2007:254) and in particular the effectiveness of the investment in natural sciences research (mainly cost benefit analysis), which is currently epitomised in cost benefit analysis, but that is already the topic of the next post…

“The Case for Space” – ER1

To start at the beginning, as you might know my main research is in innovation form (basic) natural sciences and its commercialisation in the form of spin-outs and entrepreneurship. My specific field is Space Technologies here in the UK and in Scotland, so I look at emerging technologies ranging from satellite hardware to the use of the expertise developed in large telescopes for designing medical devices, such as Retinal Densitometer.

My research is tied in with the development of a new Space-related business incubator in Edinburgh, the Higgs Centre for Innovation. The expected growth of this sector is part of a wider UK government’s initiative to grow the UK’s share of the global Space Sector to 10% by 2030.

The design for the Higgs Centre for Innovation building (bottom right) at the Royal Observatory Edinburgh. (C) STFC

As such, a major part of my work will be the evaluation of past and present incubation programmes, to learn about their effectiveness and suggest examples of good practice. This work is done in collaboration with my research partners, the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), who are launching the said new incubator and who run frequent impact evaluation exercises to justify the investment of public funds and bid for further funding allocation.

I have worked on some impact evaluation previously, for example I have recently written a summative report about the impact of CERN (the European Organisation for Nuclear Research) on science in general and on the UK economy and society in particular, spanning the first 60 years of its operation (up to 2014), which is partially included in a chapter of the last STFC Impact Evaluation Report (2014).

However, while impact evaluation frameworks in the context of science and technology policy are well developed (see STFC example), I have come to realise that their methodology is less so and that there is little available literature to easily form a new coherent approach to this topic (Autio, 2014; Zuijdam, 2011; Markman, Siegel and Wright, 2008). Crucially, most methodological discussions included in the impact evaluation exercises that I have been drawing upon, often focus solely on econometric parameters and their calculations, rather than discussing any holistic framework of evaluation or any of the qualitative or comparative methodology.

Hence, I am looking at programme evaluation elsewhere to cross-reference the methods I encountered in my past research with the well developed theories of policy evaluation in social sciences, in particular concerning social policies and to come up with a rounded impact evaluation logic. Even though my past and present impact evaluation is about research in natural sciences and its impact on the socio-economic situation in the UK, many themes emerging from social policy evaluation match directly the ones I encounter(ed) in my research.

Impact Evaluation Series – ER0

Hello, finally a “proper” post after a while!

In fact, this post may not be so “proper” after all, as it is only marking a start of a short series about impact evaluation, an important part of my research in science, technology and innovation.

The plan is to have four posts (ER1-4): (1) an introduction to my research in (impact) evaluation; (2) an exploration of key themes in evaluation research; (3) an analysis of the cost benefit analysis model, dominant in the policy sphere; and (4) an outline of a new methodology -Quantified Correlated Impacts (QCI).

This is very much work in progress so, perhaps, more posts will appear later on and I would very much like to hear your comments on any of it!

Importantly, this effort is part of 2015 incarnation of  Evaluation Research Methods course, a postgraduate course in the School of Social and Political Science at the University of Edinburgh.

Please, do spare a minute or two and have a look at a host of other contributions at our collective blog and follow our Twitter discussion marked with: #evalres15.

Student Research Films (SRF)

And here is another! Video about my research, that is.

I have now started the Student Research Films (SRF) initiative, a video series of Edinburgh University students briefly (should be under 1min) talking about our different research projects. (If interested to take part, check out the resources page!)

The idea came from all the video work I have done recently and the Research in a Nutshell series, a similar initiative for academics (1min videos about their research). In particular, I found these 60 second introductions very useful when meeting new staff, looking for information about my interests and seeking advice about my research.

As part of the Innovative Learning Week 2015 I got some funding to put together a small workshop to exchange ideas, present the template to other students and challenge us all to make a video each (there were also two prizes for the best entries – congratulations to Nurun and Alastair!). We got five videos in total in this first batch including mine…

I am very grateful to Siri Rodnes, Bob FisherAlyssa Newman and Helene Frossling Mattsson for all their help and enthusiasm for this project.

We are hoping to grow this initiative over the years, so if anyone seeing this is interested, do have a look at the project page and/or get in touch with me!

Edinburgh is My Perfect Match…


Another video of mine is out, this time about why do I do my research at the University of Edinburgh.

This is part of the “The University of Edinburgh is My Perfect Match Because…” Video Challenge.

There are more videos from the Challenge available at EUSA YouTube Channel.

CERN – A Truly Innovative Space

In July 2014 I travelled to Geneva in Switzerland to visit the largest scientific experiment in the world, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, better known after its acronym: CERN. On top of the visit to CERN’s facilities in Geneva, this trip was intended for me to get to know two key programmes at CERN which I have a special interest in: knowledge transfer and public engagement.

Apart from the usual concerns about travelling, I was not much worried about this visit, as I have been to Switzerland before and have had many contacts in CERN who were to receive me. I pre-arranged not only the travel details, but also a series of meetings with some key people at CERN in particular the Head of Education and Public Outreach, leading CERN’s public engagement activities, and a Knowledge Transfer Officer, working on a portfolio of innovations that CERN released to the member states.

Fortunately, due to current LHC shutdown, I got to see three detectors up-close, two of the LHC’s four experiments: LHCb and ATLAS, and also a museum piece, part of the previous Large Electron-Positron (LEP) collider, called DELPHI. Excitingly, all of them are located in large underground caverns about 100m below surface.

Me in a hard hat in front of the LHCb detector, ATLAS and DELPHI.

Being a Physicist by background, I did understand some of the context perhaps a bit better than your average visitor, but the sheer size and complexity of the structure and the technology is breath-taking. Very helpful guides explained us what individual parts do and how it all comes together and answered our (naïve) questions. But best of all – I got to wear a CERN hard hat!

Over-ground, I spent a few hours in both of the CERN’s exhibitions, taking part in the sensorial experience of “the Universe of Particles” and having a glance at the history and science of CERN in “Microcosm”. But perhaps the best part of the over-ground experience was meeting people, either just being part of the buzz of CERN’s main canteen or in the meetings I pre-arranged.

The meetings were very exciting and illuminating as I got to know specifically what Knowledge Transfer Office looks like from the inside and was familiarised with some of the outreach efforts currently underway, including a pre-view of a brand new interactive classroom for school visitors called “S’Cool LAB”. I would have accepted a job offer in either of the groups there and then!

Meeting Dr Rolf Landua, Head of Education and Public Outreach at CERN, and one of the core team, Conrad, letting me have a look inside “S’Cool LAB”.

On my last day, I have had a few hours – and some sunshine – to spare, so I went to Geneva city centre, about 2miles away, to have a look around the historic old town, do a quick stroll by the lake, take a ride on a tourist-train through the famous diplomatic district (hosting the Red Cross HQ, a variety of international organisations and one of the HQ of the UN) and poke inside a few interesting museums: The Natural History Museum, The History of Science Museum , The History of Art Museum and The Red Cross Museum. Particularly the last of this list was impressive in its simple, yet powerful narrative of being human in the face of conflict and (natural) catastrophes.

Geneva Mus
In front of the UN HQ and The Museum of Red Cross.

Unfortunately, my trip was a very short one and too soon it was time to head back to Geneva Airport. However, it was packed with exciting new experiences and I am hoping to visit Geneva and CERN again in the future.

Geneva Walk
One last look at the famous Jet d’Eau on Geneva Lake, a lovely traditional street and the oldest house in town.

I would like to thank from the bottom of my heart the Principal’s Go Abroad Fund for making this trip (financially) possible, to Stephanie Hills, who was my primary contact in arranging my visit and to all the people that made it so interesting and enjoyable both at CERN as well as in Geneva generally.

A Welcome

Dear Reader,

I am surprised you are looking at this, though who knows, maybe in time it will lead to something.

For now, -this is my first post – I am finally about to start a blog about my research, after hearing (too!) much about the importance of doing so in order to fight for your spot under the sun (and hopefully not in the Sun!) of today’s science media.

This is mainly going to be about my research into science, technology and innovation – focusing mostly on innovation from research facilities and primarily in Space and Astro technologies – but some other (related) stuff might end up appearing here as well.

Hope you find my writing as interesting (or more!) as I (hopefully) will.