ESA launches initiative for innovation

March 22, 2004

Brussels, 19 Mar 2004

The European Space Agency (ESA) has launched a new initiative aimed at accelerating the 'idea-to-product' process and making the European space industry more competitive.

The Innovation Triangle Initiative (ITI) will support the rapid introduction of breakthrough innovations in the European space industry by favouring close collaboration between the inventor, the customer and industry.

By providing early financing, networking and technical support in favour of new products, technologies and services, the ITI objective is to further boost European industrial competitiveness.

'In the space domain, to go from an idea to a product can take up to 10 to15 years while outside space the innovation cycle in commercial applications typically lasts months or a few years. With this initiative we want to reduce significantly the turnaround time for our space technology research and development, and to utilise new and better ideas much earlier,' explained Maco Gugliemi, head of the technology strategy section in ESA's Technology Programmes Department.

With a budget of 1,500,000 euro for 2004, ESA hopes to finance up to ten projects this year under ITI. Funding will be awarded to proposals for developing technologies not already used in space applications.

Marco Freire, ESA's ITI manager, explained that 'we saw that cross-fertilisation between industry and universities working in diverse application fields can be very effective in identifying and introducing innovative solutions for space.'

Three types of activities have been identified for funding: 'proof of concept', 'demonstration of feasibility and use' and 'internal process review'. 'The closer the involvement between the three parties, the greater the chance of a project being funded,' said Mr Freire.

For a project to fall under the 'proof of concept' category it must involve an innovation that is either new or has not yet been applied to space. The degree of novelty will be the main criteria for evaluation. The budget will be a maximum of 50,000 euro, and the timescale up to nine months.

In the case of a concept having already been verified and requiring development, testing and validation in a laboratory, it falls under the 'demonstration of feasibility and use category'. At least one space customer must have expressed interest in this innovation for it to receive funding under ITI. Up to 150,000 euro is available for this category for a period of up to 12 months.

The 'internal process review' category deals with the evaluation of an existing space product, process or service and how it can be improved using existing know-how or technology from another sector. Criteria for funding will be the added-value brought about by this new concept. The budget is this case will have an upper limit of 100,000 euro, and the activity is expected to last up to six months.

A website has been set up for the submission of proposals, and includes a database of European industries and universities which have worked with ESA to assist in the identification of potential partners. An ESA Technical Evaluation Board will ensure that a decision is taken rapidly on whether or not a proposal is to be selected. For more information on ITI, please visit:

CORDIS RTD-NEWS / © European Communities

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