New ESA Networking/Partnering Initiative launched

6 July 2006

ESA is taking a new initiative to increase the frequency and depth of its interactions with European universities, research institutes and industry. The ESA Networking/Partnering Initiative addresses the needs of technology developers and complements other ESA initiatives with these partners.

The goals of the initiative are to enhance research for space applications in general and to take advantage of potential spin-in for space from technologies originally developed in other application domains – for example, consumer electronics and material sciences.

The ESA Networking/Partnering Initiative (NPI) supports technology developments in selected universities and research institutes. Preference is given to new ideas or concepts originating in non-space industrial or research sectors. Support from ESA-NPI will be:

  • co-funding – the NPI can co-fund research (up to 50% or 30 k€/year) for a doctorate degree or post-doctoral investigations
  • access to ESTEC laboratories – NPI participants are required to conduct their research at ESA’s European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC) for a minimum of six and a maximum of twelve months
  • technical support – NPI participants can contact ESA experts to discuss proposal concepts and verify their relevance and applicability to space
  • networking (building ‘innovation networks’) – through the links ESA provides, NPI participants have the opportunity of finding potential partners for further cooperation

Upon selection of a proposal, ESA will enter into a contractual arrangement with the proposing university. The researcher will remain a student or employee of the proposing university.

Why Networking and Partnering?

Experience shows that some of the technologies developed for space have significant spin-off for non-space applications. Conversely, some of the very advanced technologies developed in conjunction with universities and research institutes for use in terrestrial industrial or domestic applications can have much potential spin-in for space use.

In recent years, the gap between the technologies used for space application and the technologies used in terrestrial industrial or domestic applications has widened. The level of technology embedded in some advanced portable phones and digital cameras, and the computing power of domestic computers available at low cost to the consumer, far exceeds that which is implemented in today’s satellites.

Of course, the requirements of the space environment impose some constraints which prevent direct re-use of such technologies, but it is felt that the spin-in effort is not sufficient and this has contributed to the widening of the gap.

ESA wishes to intensify its interaction with university departments and research institutes, which often do not have sufficient connections with space institutions and industry to embark on space-related technology research. With more awareness and support these universities and institutes could extend their research activities and interactions in space technologies and make vital contributions to meeting the long term needs of Europe’s space programme.

How to apply

European universities and research organisations belonging to ESA member states are invited to submit innovative doctoral or post doctoral proposals for the types of activities described, involving any technical domain relevant to space applications.

The NPI process is based on a permanent call for proposals with a selection board composed of ESA and external experts convening twice per year, to ensure that funding for selected doctoral or post-doctoral work is synchronised with the academic calendar.

All information submitted as part of Networking/Partnering proposals will be treated as strictly confidential. Interested parties may contact the NPI programme manager, Joerg Wehner, for further information and a proposal template.

Email: joerg.wehner@esa.int

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