Closing the skills gap for young researchers through innovation and entrepreneurship training

12 March 2021

Project SKIES will train astronomy graduate students in transferable skills for academia and industry

The EU-funded project SKIES (SKilled, Innovative and Entrepreneurial Scientists) aims to provide PhD students and young doctoral researchers in the field of astronomy with a new set of skills integrating open science, social innovation and entrepreneurship topics. The IAU E-ROAD based at Leiden University, in cooperation with the Erasmus Centre for Entrepreneurship, Stichting dotSPACE and five astronomy higher education institutes, will develop the training modules. The project kicked off on the 1st of March 2021 and will run for 18 months.

Innovative thinking and knowledge of open science are assets for any research career. However, given that approximately 10% of astronomy doctoral graduates will remain in academia*, there is a real need to avert a skills gap in order to ensure that graduate students are equipped with the skills they need to successfully enter the workforce. The employment opportunities of graduate students can be enhanced through knowledge of entrepreneurship by bringing a range and depth of expertise beyond traditional academic programmes to employers. Graduates can then utilise this additional expertise in careers benefitting both the public and private sectors.

SKIES will be implemented in astronomy research organisations in Germany, The Netherlands, Poland, Portugal and South Africa, reaching 500 astronomy graduate students and young researchers. With this new skills training, young researchers will be gaining substantial experience equipping them for a career to fulfil their potential within and beyond academia and to contribute to the economy and societal challenges. A Train the Trainer programme will build the capacity of the teaching staff in each partner country so that they have the knowledge and tools to continue the programme beyond the lifetime of the project.

Astronomy is an open, collaborative and international research field, training students in diverse skills ranging from theoretical approaches and big-data science to observations and laboratory work. This presents a unique opportunity to build on the existing programme and integrate a modern skills course. The SKIES training will consist of three modules co-created by academic and industry partners: one on open science and Responsible Research and Innovation; one on open innovation and entrepreneurship; and a career-oriented masterclass including mentoring. To support the project partners and other organisations interested in running similar courses, online training will be made available in the form of a mini Online Open Course (mOOC). This mOOC will remain available after the project has ended to ensure its impact and legacy.

SKIES is a project of the IAU E-ROAD that aspires to contribute to sustainable development and the UN SDGs through astronomy with a special focus on education and capacity building. The skills training of SKIES falls under the strategic goals regarding capacity building, by training a generation of astronomers that will conduct responsible and open research, and is able to employ their skills for societal and economical benefit in non-academic settings.

Additional Information and links

Project summary:

The SKIES project is funded under the H2020 Science with and for Society programme, Topic 8 ‘Research innovation needs & skills training in PhD programmes’ of the European Commission. Projects under this call aim to contribute to the New Skills Agenda and prepare PhD students for both a research career and for career paths in the public and private sectors.

The International Astronomical Union’s European Regional Office of Astronomy for Development (IAU E-ROAD) is one of 11 regional offices coordinated by the headquarters in Cape Town. It is a partnership between the European Astronomical Society and Leiden University. The office aims to use astronomy as a tool for socio-economic development in Europe and globally, specifically by contributing to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs).

Contact information

For more information about the role of Erasmus Centre for Entrepreneurship in the H2020 SKIES project, or if you are interested in how we can support your organisation with entrepreneurship and innovation programmes, get in touch with Annique de Greef:

For more information about the H2020 SKIES project in general, please contact Michelle Willebrands, H2020 SKIES Project Manager:


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Photo by Riccardo Annandale

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