Programmes and initiatives within ESA that could be of particular interest to SMEs are listed below. Note that this list is not exhaustive, and not all activities are targeted exclusively at SMEs.
ESA programmes and initiatives
- Procurement actions reserved for SME and "Non-Primes" (C1-C4 clauses)
- Technology Research Programme (TRP)
- General Support Technology Programme (GSTP)
- TRP and GSTP Open and Intended Invitations to Tender on EMITS
- The Core Technology Programme (CTP)
- General Studies Programme (GSP)
- Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems (ARTES)
- ARTES Entry initiative
- Kick-Start Activity
- Technology Transfer Programme (TTP)
- Permanently Open Calls for New Member States (NMS)
For an up-to-date overview of all current and upcoming ITTs, Open Calls and AOs, please visit ESA’s procurement system, EMITS.
Procurement actions reserved for SME and "Non-Primes" (C1-C4 clauses)
To guarantee fair access to its programmes for all categories of companies, ESA has designed and implemented a set of clauses, known as the 'C1–C4 clauses', which are applied for certain types of procurement.
For instructions on how to find an Invitation to Tender (ITT) under the C1–C4 clauses, click here.
Technology Research Programme (TRP)
ESA's Basic Technology Research Programme (TRP) enables researchers to explore new ideas from the very earliest stages, starting with the first time they ask themselves 'what would happen if…?‘ TRP is the only ESA technology programme that supports all Agency directorates across the entire spectrum of technical disciplines, providing the technological nucleus for most future developments.
Procurements plans are made annually, with 100% of contracts offered to industry and universities on an open competitive basis. Invitations to Tender are issued continuously throughout the year on ESA’s EMITS website, with registration needed for access.
Ideas can be also proposed to open initiatives. Calls for Star Tiger exercises are made yearly via the designated website. Innovation Triangle Initiative proposals for research are accepted online and evaluated periodically three to four times a year.
Detailed information about the TRP programme is available here.
General Support Technology Programme (GSTP)
ESA's General Support Technology Programme (GSTP) exists to convert promising engineering concepts into a broad spectrum of mature products – everything from individual components to subsystems up to complete satellites – right up to the brink of spaceflight or beyond.
This is achieved through the development of engineering models or 'breadboards' whose space-worthiness can be verified not only in the lab but also within the less forgiving environment of ESTEC's set of simulators – including exposure to acceleration, temperature or radiation extremes – and increasingly all the way up to orbit on demonstration missions.
The GSTP also includes work on product and process improvements, aiming for a flexible response to the needs of ESA programmes, Member States and European industry, and growing the number of European-made space-qualified parts made commercially available.
GSTP Invitations for Tender are issued regularly on ESA’s EMITS website, which requires registration for access.
GSTP Element 3 “Fly” with its Open Call for Technology Flight Demonstrators and Carrier Flight Opportunities might be of particular interest to SMEs seeking flight opportunities.
Detailed information about the GSTP is available here.
TRP and GSTP Intended Invitations to Tender on EMITS
Easy access to EMITS lists of Intended Invitations to Tender for TRP as well as 'GSTP Element 1 - Develop' and 'GSTP Element 2 - Make' is provided here.
The Core Technology Programme (CTP) is an integral part of ESA's Science Programme. Its objective is to ensure early and effective preparation of ESA's future science missions by advance preparation of the critical enabling technologies required for successful mission development. The initial stages of new technology development, leading up to experimental verification, are pursued through ESA's Basic Technological Research Programme (TRP). The CTP then applies these new technologies to the specific technical requirements of future science missions. CTP-related request for proposals are issued continuously throughout the year on ESA's EMITS website, available to all European firms on a 100 percent funding basis. In some cases SMEs are favoured as subcontractors to primes.
More information about the CTP is available here.
General Studies Programme (GSP)
The General Studies Programme (GSP) interfaces in different ways with all of ESA's programmes, but its main role is to act as a "think tank", laying the groundwork for the agency's future activities.
GSP funds studies to gather knowledge in different areas that can than be utilized by other ESA directorates. Therefore in order to allow for a great variety of ideas and inputs the GSP encourages small companies and universities to also participate.
The General Studies Programme publishes on a regular basis studies in the EMITS system.
More information about the General Studies Programme is available here.
Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems (ARTES)
The TIA Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems (ARTES) programme enables European and Canadian industry to explore, through research and development (R&D) activities, innovative concepts to produce leading-edge satcom products and services. ARTES offers varying degrees of support to projects with different levels of operational and commercial maturity.
Businesses located within ESA member states involved in the satcom industry - whether small or large, new or experienced - can submit proposals via the various elements of the ARTES programme. Every ARTES element includes a funding framework and follows certain criteria that must be met by satcom companies wishing to participate.
Information about the various ARTES elements is available here.
ARTES Entry initiative
The ARTES Entry initiative is of particular interest to SMEs who would like to enter into the field of satellite communications. This initiative is designed to support SMEs through the stages of research and development for the satcom market. The scheme awards development contracts with financial support up to 75% of the activity cost (max €250,000). The Always Open Call for Proposals for this element is published on ESA's Electronic Tendering System (EMITS) under AO8595.
Further information about the ARTES Entry initiative is available here.
A list of ARTES ITTs and Open Calls is available at: https://artes.esa.int/funding
Kick-Start Activity is ESA’s new Business Applications funding scheme which is being launched in 2017. Activities will be funded at 75%, with ESA providing up to €60 000 per contract. Kick-start call for ideas are open to any industry in participating Member States. They are expected to be particularly interesting for SMEs and start-ups looking for opportunities to develop their ideas for new services.
Further information about the Kick-Start activities is available here.
Through InCubed, companies developing innovative systems, components and products in the Earth observation business sector can approach ESA at any time for support to make their venture technically viable and commercially competitive. Proposals could be about satellites, constellations, instruments or big data analytics, for example. InCubed will, in most cases, co-fund up to 50% of a proposed venture. It can also provide access to ESA expertise and technical support. Proposals must be of sufficient technical readiness and market viability, meaning that the project would eventually be sustained by the market, without further public funding.
More information about InCubed is available here.
NAVISP is the new satnav technology and innovation research programme, managed by ESA’s Galileo Programme and Navigation Related Activities directorate. Under NAVISP Element 2, the Agency has issued a Call for Proposals for the development of innovative competitive products in the Satellite Navigation and wider Position, Navigation and Timing domain. The objective is to boost Member States’ industrial competitiveness in the fast- evolving navigation sector.
More information about NAVISP is available here.
Technology Transfer Programme (TTP)
ESA’s Technology Transfer Programme Office (TTPO) aims to strengthen European industry by identifying new business opportunities for providers of space technology and systems. It enhances the know-how and competitiveness of these providers while broadening their business horizons.
The office has with its technology broker network successfully transferred over 200 space technologies to non-space sectors for applications as diverse as cooling suits for a Formula 1 racing team, ground penetrating radar to detect cracks in mine tunnels and several health-care innovations.
Whether start-ups or spin-offs, ESA Business Incubation Centres (BICs) help to create viable business and new jobs by providing support to over 100 companies every year in Europe. More than 400 new companies have received support to date.
Further information about the TTP is available here.
Prodex (PROgramme de Développement d'Expériences scientifiques) is an ESA optional programme that offers institutions and industry the opportunity to work on ESA experiments by funding the industrial development of scientific instruments or experiments, proposed by Institutes or Universities in the Participating States, that have been selected by ESA for one of its programmes.
Prodex helps countries to obtain a fair return on their ESA investments through targeted industrial contracts. It also promotes scientific and industrial excellence and competitiveness in the participating states.
More information about PRODEX is available here.
Permanently Open Calls for New Member States (NMS)
Permanently Open and Top Down Calls for New Member States are available on EMITS.
ESA administers both Permanently Open and Top Down Announcements of Opportunity for Outline Proposals under the Industry Incentive Schemes of Estonia, Hungary, Poland and Romania. Companies are invited to submit an outline proposal under the ongoing calls on EMITS.
Further information about the Permanently Open Calls for NMS is available here.