Research Impact


Sharing the lessons of space technology development

Training session

10 December 2014


The UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory (MSSL) has developed a range of professional management courses for industry that promote a forward-looking approach to the management of technology projects. The training has improved customers' engineering capability and organisational effectiveness, helping them to deliver excellent performance - to budget, on time and with the quality and functionality required.

The courses cover systems engineering, project management and technology management, and build on insights UCL MSSL gained from decades of instrument development for space missions. Clients include some of the world's largest aerospace, defence and engineering companies, such as the European Space Agency (ESA), General Dynamics UK, SELEX ES, BAE Systems and General Electric.

Industrial customers are better able to deal with the challenges of modern, complex projects, such as achieving high reliability in network-enabled systems that need to perform in the harshest environments.

Space agencies operate in a highly developed systems engineering environment where project failure of any form is not tolerated. UCL MSSL's experience of this, and its research into systems engineering practice, has enabled it to develop a set of principles in these areas that underpins the training. There is a common focus on delivering value in the face of unpredictable or changing requirements, as today's complex projects demand.

All of the courses seek to share theory and best practice in the management of technology projects, including technology decision-making, risk management and ensuring projects are well managed. This training reduces the risk of major project failure, such as overspend, late delivery, inadequate functionality or failure in service.

One company that has made increasing use of the training courses is Ultra Electronics. With around 5,000 employees worldwide, this company identified the need for systems engineering training following a number of engineering 'near misses'. The company's chairman said: "The feedback from Ultra's engineers has been extremely positive and in my view has had a significant beneficial effect on Ultra's engineering capabilities", adding that "through the adoption of best practice, senior management has the confidence to compete for large engineering programmes without the necessity of including excessive contingencies in competitive bids. As a result the company has been successful in securing more business through competition and which it has executed successfully and continues to do so."

Over the past few years, BP has become much, much better at understanding technology risks in the context of the facilities and equipment it needs to develop. The importance of this cannot be overstated. - BP on specially developed web-based training course in technology management

UCL MSSL has also contributed to a systems engineering competency framework that is now used worldwide in the professional certification of systems engineers and was adopted by the International Council on Systems Engineering in 2010. It has been rolled out across a number of companies as a basis for career development and standardisation of systems engineering practice, including at major organisations such as Thales, General Dynamics, BAE Systems, Atego, Bombardier and the Ministry of Defence.