Some €10 million is now available for proposals to use space to improve healthcare and distance learning in response to the coronavirus pandemic, thanks to the Italian national delegation to ESA.
The funding has quadrupled because of the large quantity of high-quality ideas received.
ESA first launched its call for proposals “Space in response to COVID-19 outbreak” on 31 March, in collaboration with the Italian Minister for Technological Innovation and Digitalisation and with the support of the Italian Space Agency.
More than 120 proposals were made within three weeks, almost 100 of which involved an Italian company. In total, companies from 16 countries responded to the call.
Paola Pisano, Minister for Innovation and Digitalisation in the Italian government, said: “Space technologies are drivers of economic development and innovation in a number of sectors, ranging from agri-food to healthcare, from environment to telecommunications. New connectivity means new structures and infrastructures, new ways of augmenting navigation signals and innovations in the molecular domain.
"The space sector is a growth sector, which Italy supports with investments, thanks to the collaborations with the Italian Space Agency and ESA.”
Magali Vaissiere, Director of Telecommunications and Integrated Applications at ESA, said: “We are delighted to support European industry to demonstrate the benefits that space can bring to respond to the current emergency.
“The selected projects, to be started in June, will show the value that space-based applications can bring to operators in healthcare and education, as well as to European citizens. The relevance of the current initiative is testified by the involvement of renowned Italian hospitals and healthcare institutions in the pilot activities.”
Giorgio Saccoccia, president of the Italian Space Agency, said: “I find great satisfaction with the outcome of this first phase of the call and the extraordinary response from national space and health companies.
“Thanks to Italy’s increased ESA subscription, we were able to promptly request an increase in funding, thus helping to provide concrete help to many small and medium-sized enterprises in this time of difficulty.”
The funds will be used to support projects in education and distance learning, social care, support for medical operations, monitoring and security, telemedicine, and epidemiology and resource planning.
In parallel, ESA is undertaking other initiatives to support companies demonstrating the benefits of using space assets during the coronavirus pandemic.
A Europe-wide call for proposals focussed on healthcare is due to be issued shortly. This will complement an existing call for proposals in the UK that is based on the requirements made by its National Health Service.
The work is co-funded with the ESA contribution dependent on the size of the partner – 50% for large companies and up to 80% for small and medium-sized enterprises, universities and research centres.