The Directorate of Technology, Engineering and Quality drives the performance of the Agency by marshalling the ongoing innovation and technical excellence needed to achieve ESA’s future goals.
New technology is the starting point for everything the European Space Agency does.
While other ESA directorates incorporate their own specific research and development programmes, the Directorate of Technology, Engineering and Quality is responsible for longer-term technology development – including generic technologies bringing benefit for all technical domains – while also supporting research and development infrastructure such as laboratories, test facilities and specialist sections covering every aspect of the space environment.
The Directorate’s primary goal is to ensure enabling technologies are available at the very point when new ESA and European missions need them – one definition of innovation being ‘the right technology at the right time’.
Technology is also a key element of competitiveness, to underpin the European space industry’s continued viability – considering that approaching 50% of its turnover comes from commercial global markets. Novel technologies open up fresh markets and enable innovative applications.
The Directorate oversees a set of R&D programmes aimed at sourcing innovation beyond the immediate market horizon while also serving to de-risk the innovation process for industry. The reach of these programmes extends far beyond the main industrial primes and system integrators to small-medium enterprises (SMEs), recognised as Europe’s leading source of technical innovation.
It also oversees the coordination of European standardisation efforts to boost industrial cost effectiveness and the general technical state-of-the-art, while also levelling the playing field for smaller companies - opening up new opportunities to compete based on standardised working and interfaces.
The Directorate is organised by technical disciplines into four departments: Electrical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, System Engineering and Product Assurance and Safety. But the services it offers the rest of ESA and European industry can be categorised within three main functions:
- Technology Development
- Engineering Support
- Ensuring Quality
These functions cut across the four departments in practical terms. For instance the Product Assurance and Safety Department is engaged in researching the technical basis of new standards as well as advising projects on how best to implement current standards. In effect the Directorate operates on a cross-functional matrix basis, facilitating the constant exchange of knowledge and experience between specialists and mission teams.