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Here Be Dragons: SENSE Industry Symposium 1st November 2023

The second in person SENSE industry symposium took place in Edinburgh on 1st November 2023. This was part of our cohort building week where all four cohorts of SENSE students were in Edinburgh.

The purpose of the symposium is to connect our students with our industry partners and also to help them think about and focus on life after their PhD by developing skills giving them experience which they can take forward in their careers.

The opening activity of the symposium was a showcase of the work of our Cohort 1 students who are now in their fourth and final year of their PhDs. For this session rather than scheduling a series of talks we invited each student to give a 1 minute pitch and then we had a ‘bus stop’ session where attendees were invited to visit a student for fifteen minutes and talk to them about their work. After fifteen minutes a bell would ring (and yes we had an actual bell) and the groups would move on. Some of the students had brought posters as a visual aid while others used slides or just talked and answered questions. Some feedback on this session

Really good! I much prefer this format to the traditional poster sessions

Loved it! Getting a chance to see the breadth of what the students are doing and to feel their enthusiasm is just so rewarding

This year we were delighted to be joined by Jon Styles and Alex Cornelius from Assimila and the rest if the day was focussed on responding to an ESA (European Space Agency) Initial Invitation to Tender. Assimila are very experienced (and successful) with this and started the session with a presentation from Alex giving lots of information and hints on the processes of responding to an ITT. This is something that many of our students are likely to be involved in during their future careers whether they chose to stay in academia or enter industry. Alex had some really useful information and dos and don’ts like do include block diagrams and coloured flow charts the illustrate your approach and don’t leave uploading your document to the last minute incase if technical problems. Alex also included some interesting EO information in his presentation which was enjoyed by the audience.

Our attendees fed back

From an industry perspective I found this interesting (always good to get competitor insights!), and think that the students saw the value in this too.

Helping students (and the rest of us) to understand the tips and techniques to a successful application is invaluable. Many students may go on to more funding applications so coaching in any / all of these things is a very positive thing

Then is was over to the students and industry partners for the rest of the day as they were given a assignment to come up with a response to a ESA open call and had to come up with an idea and present by the end of the day what their idea was, why they had a suitable team to do it. The students had already been assigned areas of expertise based in their particular research areas and after lunch and a bit of networking everyone set to work.

At 4pm after tidying up their presentations and assembling their groups it was time to present to out very own sense dragons made up of Jon Styles from Assimila, Professor Kathy Whaler (SENSE University of Edinburgh Director) and Professor Phil Livermore (SENSE director from University of Leeds).  Each of the dragons gave a score on different areas of the presentations based on the kind of criteria which ESA would make their ITTs (objectives, experience and choose approach).

We had some fantastic ideas from the students and some very well polished presentations.

After some very tight scoring the winners were announced and team Un-scatter were the winners with their proposal for a system which would remove clouds from earth observation images to improve the detection of multi spectral properties.

Of this exercise the attendees said:

This was a good session with just the right amount of time allocated. As a student, with 2 people from industry on our table it was useful to hear about how they approached the problem. Keeping the presentations short was also good.

Having the students basically needing to form a team and deliver I thought was excellent.

The team was really happy to collect their prize and the event ended with a drinks reception and networking session.

We are very grateful to Andy, John and Alex from Assmilia who supported us in preparing this event and also all of the industry partners who attended on the day and the SENSE students for their excellent presentations and group work. The event was organised by Dr Gary Watmough the SENSE Deputy Director for Industry and Outreach assisted by Eleanor Graham the Edinburgh centre manager