The development of technology – making new things to do new things – is central to ESA's existence. The Agency spends around 8% of its budget on direct research and development, an activity mandated in the ESA Convention. It runs many preparatory programmes to do this, covering various different inventions, each leading activities based on their technical maturity or their field.
- TDE The Technology Development Element is responsible for early development stages across all service and technology domains, taking cutting-edge ideas and testing their suitability for space applications.
- GSTP The General Support Technology Programme is an optional programme that takes previously proven innovations through to succeeding stages of engineering, finally evolving fully-tested hardware ready for adoption by future missions.