ESA launches new initiative to foster research

6 December 2006

A new initiative to increase interaction between ESA, European universities, research institutes and industry has just begun. Through its Networking/Partnering Initiative, ESA is offering to support research carried out by institutes and universities in advanced technologies with space applications.

The goals of the Networking/Partnering Initiative (NPI) are to enhance research for space applications and to take advantage of potential ‘spin-ins’ for space from technologies originally developed for application in areas such as consumer electronics and material sciences, as well as new developments in the nano and microtechnology domain.

This new initiative will support technology development in selected universities and research institutes, giving preference to new ideas or concepts originating in the non-space industrial or research sectors. Proposals accepted by the NPI will be offered support in a number of areas:

  • co-funding: the NPI can co-fund research for up to 50% or €30 000 per year for a doctorate degree or post-doctoral investigations
  • access to ESTEC laboratories: NPI participants will be able to use the facilities at ESA’s European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC) in The Netherlands for a minimum of six and a maximum of 12 months
  • technical support: NPI participants will have access to ESA experts with whom they can discuss proposal concepts and verify their relevance and applicability to space
  • networking: NPI participants will be able to search for potential partners for further cooperation and build ‘innovation networks’ through links provided by ESA

Upon selection of a proposal, ESA will enter into a contractual arrangement with the university or research institute concerned as the researcher will remain a student or employee of the university or institute.

Why networking and partnering?

Technologies developed for space often have significant spin-offs for non-space applications and some of the very advanced technologies developed by universities and research institutes, for use in industrial or domestic applications, have potential ‘spin-in’ for use in space.

In recent years, the gap between technologies used for space applications and the technologies used in industrial or domestic applications has widened. For instance, the advanced technology embedded in some of today’s portable phones, digital cameras and home computers far exceeds some of the technology used in satellites.

Although the requirements of the space environment impose certain constraints which prevent direct re-use of such technologies, these can often be overcome providing there is strong cooperation between space agencies, research institutes, universities and industry. ESA has developed this new initiative to foster such cooperation.

By intensifying its interaction with university departments and research institutes ESA hopes to strengthen their links with space institutions and industry so as to enable them to embark upon space-related technology research. With more awareness and support, many universities and institutes could extend their research activities and interaction in space technologies, and make a vital contribution to meeting the long-term needs of Europe’s space programme.

How to apply

ESA invites universities and research organisations in its Member States to submit innovative doctoral or post-doctoral proposals for research in any technical domain relevant to space. Technical Officers from ESA are available to provide assistance with elaborating proposals and ideas, and to assist in the application process.

To ensure that funding for selected doctoral or post-doctoral work is synchronised with the academic calendar, applications to take part in the NPI will be examined twice yearly by a selection board composed of ESA and external experts. All information submitted will be treated as strictly confidential.

Universities and research organisations interested in taking part in the NPI can contact Joerg Wehner, the NPI Programme Manager, for further information and a proposal template.

Email: Joerg.Wehner @ esa.int

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