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ESA Grand Challenge

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The Grand Challenge is a competition that proposes inspiring goals far from market reach. It is derived from ESA's Space 4.0 strategy. 

This strategy is driven by a set of Agency objectives that fulfil goals for the next Ministerial Council meeting and beyond.

As part of this, it is stated that ESA will “promote and facilitate, the creation of a sustainable ecosystem of innovation-led start-ups and new ventures developing a new breed in European entrepreneurs by highly-leveraged, incentivised competitions”.

ESA Grand Challenge is the tool to create a new European ecosystem of entrepreneurs and start-up companies competing to develop solutions to the challenges proposed by Industry, be they technical, scientific or societal.

The Grand Challenge attracts wide communities of thinkers and problem solvers, catalysed by ESA and space, to address your specific challenges with unconventional and disruptive approaches. This may also trigger development and exploitation of unforeseen spin-off businesses.

Your ideas to shape the future: ESA wants you!

Are you a leading Industry experiencing a shift into new paradigms?

ESA Grand Challenge offers you the unique opportunity to propose the challenge that interests your business.

ESA promotes your challenge with the space community of problem solvers.

You obtain disruptive solutions and have a chance to influence the space exploration agenda for future decades.

Partner benefits:

ESA Grand Challenge brainstorming
ESA Grand Challenge brainstorming
  • Open the challenge to potential new unconventional solutions developed beyond the Partner’s traditional R&D approach
  • Obtain exclusive procurement rights on innovative technologies
  • Increase the effectiveness of research funds, thanks to a multiplier effect by leveraging on the funds raised by competing teams, reducing the risk
  • Alleviate the administrative or bureaucratic burden of R&D
  • Offer high visibility and increased outreach by associating your brand with space and ESA through its media partners (primary media channels).

Co-design a challenge

You, as collaborative partner, will be key in developing and co-designing an exceptional challenge, and you will be involved all phases of the Grand Challenge.

With the technical support of ESA space engineers, you are called upon to define a problem to be solved (a technical, scientific or societal challenge), the reward for solving it, and the rules of the contest. 

The Statement will be:

  • Clearly defined, with no room for interpretation on the intended objective
  • Neutral, no suggestions about specific technology developments
  • Feasible, with clear expected results, easily measurable.

Areas and themes

Grand Challenge themes under investigation
Grand Challenge themes under investigation

ESA is currently gathering ideas for suitable Grand Challenge areas and themes.

Potential domains for competitions currently under investigations include – but are not limited to – the following:

  • Energy and resources extraction
  • Aging and physically challenged citizens
  • Cyber security
  • Mobility (autonomous vehicles, drones)
  • The UN Sustainable Development Goals.


To submit your ideas for a Grand Challenge, act quickly and contact the ESA team at:

Follow us on Twitter at @ESASpaceEconomy

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