A total of 217 space sector start-ups and entrepreneurs received funding exceeding USD 2.5 billion throughout 2017, with 14 having been founded in the Middle East, audiences heard at the final day of the Global Aerospace Summit in Abu Dhabi. Of the 217, 121 are based in the US, according to Mark Boggett, Managing Director of Serphim Capital, who moderated a panel discussion on the space sector as an entrepreneurial haven.
The third and final day of the Global Aerospace Summit 2018 focussed on capacity building and youth engagement programmes across the space and aerospace sectors, as well as outlining the current activities taking place around the world. A total of 150 students from schools and universities around the UAE took part in the sessions, which provided inspiration for youth interested in fields related space and aerospace, as well as demonstrating the increasingly diverse range of career opportunities available.
Opening the day’s activities was Shaesta Waiz, a refugee from Afghanistan who settled in the United States and went on to become the world’s youngest woman to circumnavigate the world solo in a single engine aircraft. Her 25,000-mile journey saw her travel to 18 countries, engaging with more than 3,000 youth around the world to raise awareness about STEM education and the opportunities available for all.
Waiz, whose accolades also include becoming the first certified civilian pilot from Afghanistan, said: “In pursuit of your dreams you are going to face challenges — these are the times you need to press on and not give up.”
Among those attending the opening session was Sahda Haroon, a grade 10 student in the UAE with aspirations to become an astronaut and founded her school’s Scholars’ Astronaut Club. “This event has given me the opportunity to connect to people and plan what’s next for myself and the club. I just flew with Shaesta on the aircraft simulator, so there have been some great experiences for young students here today, and it will allow me to raise awareness and spread more opportunities to other kids in the UAE,” Haroon said.
Also providing motivation for students and future space leaders was Scott Waters, founder and CEO of the world’s deepest diving privately owned submarine, who said: “When you say you want to do something and truly believe it, the only person who can stop you is yourself. You set your own path, no one else sets it for you.”
A panel discussion on improving life on Earth through space sector activities heard from Dr. Prashanth Marpu, Assistant Professor at Khalifa University of Science and Technology, who explained how satellites had been used to develop solar maps of the UAE in order to determine the best locations to build solar panels and farms.
Dr. Marpu encouraged students from all backgrounds and disciplines to get involved: “The space industry requires people from all STEM disciplines. Students need to learn all the different skills and fields involved, and they need to work together on projects in order to understand all the separate requirements that go into building a satellite.”
Echoing the need for collaboration in today’s industry was Alex Moss, CEO and Head Designer of Canaria, which has been developing an earpiece that can be worn by astronauts to monitor vital signs 24/7, as well as detecting specific levels of gas in the air and oxygen in the blood.
Speaking during the panel session on the space industry as the new entrepreneurial haven, Moss said: “If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a small town to start a company — getting help is nothing to be ashamed of. I think we’re entering a new era of business which is a lot more collaborative. There are two companies in the US working on related technologies to ours, but we don’t consider ourselves to be competitors and are sharing research and insights, because it’s such a technologically advanced field.”