Europe builds on a history of technology transfer in aerospace

April 28, 2005

Brussels, Apr 2005

When it comes to illustrating the technology transfer opportunities inherent in the aeronautics industry, where better to start than the German automobile industry? At least two of Germany's famous car manufacturers started out by designing aircraft engines - Porsche and BMW. The engineers involved discovered soon afterwards that their technology could be applied to surface transport.

Indeed the technology that first took humankind into space was based on that developed for aeroplanes, and as knowledge and experience of space has increased, so has awareness of how these novel technologies can be used for other applications.

For example, as Dr Horst Mehrländer, Secretary of State for the Economy in the German state of Baden-Württemberg highlighted at a space technology transfer forum in Brussels on 26 May, 'our communication system would not work the way it does today without astronautics.'

Some 75 per cent of all satellites are communication satellites, and around 40 per cent of German households receive their television programmes via satellite, said Dr Mehrländer.

Europe has so far been very successful in this area, and should continue to play the role of pioneer, according to the secretary of state. For this reason, sufficient funding should be made available for space technology within the Seventh Framework Programme for research and the European Space Agency (ESA), he said, adding that Europe must also continue to support Ariane in order to assure independent access to a rocket launcher.

Dr Mehrländer was also confident that cross-border cooperation is the key to Europe's success. While astronautics has yet to match the success of the Airbus A380, the pan-European approach adopted by this project is the way to go, he said.

Deputy Director-General from the European Commission's Enterprise and Industry DG Heinz Zourek had reassuring words for those concerned about future EU funding for space research and technology transfer.

'A programme on technology transfer and space would have a good chance of receiving funding under FP7 [the Seventh Framework Programme] and CIP [the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme],' said Mr Zourek. 'Let's hope that the Member States agree on the budget soon so that we know how much we can spend in these programmes.'

For now, Europe is already leading the way with Galileo, its satellite navigation system. 'If there were not the Galileo project, we would have to invent it!' said Alexander Mager from Galileo Industries. A number of applications will be developed that will 'facilitate the daily life of citizens', he promised. For example the satellites could be used to guide tourists to a certain attraction, to find a nearby family restaurant, or to respond to emergencies.

Galileo will close the technology gap between Europe and the US and will provide Europe with access to one of the biggest road markets in the 21st century, said Mr Mager.

Mr Mager also had some advice for Europe's space industry: Europe would be 'well advised to cooperate more with Russia', which is the only country in the world with its own satellite navigation system apart from the US, and Europe must not delay the launch of the Galileo system. The US is planning a new Global Positioning System (GPS) for civilian use, and Galileo must be on the market before this, Mr Mager warned.

CORDIS RTD-NEWS / © European Communities
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