The EU invested in space R&I and implemented various programmes to ensure that the EU remains competitive in space and has the capacity to access and use space with a high level of autonomy. EU space research introduced several framework programmes. Horizon 2020 is the framework programme covering the period from 2014 to 2020. It was preceded by FP7, which ran from 2007 to 2013, and FP6, which ran from 2002 to 2006.
Horizon 2020 is the financial instrument implementing the Innovation Union, a Europe 2020 flagship initiative aimed at securing Europe's global competitiveness. Running from 2014 to 2020 and with a budget of just over €70 billion, the EU’s framework programme for research and innovation was part of the drive to stimulate growth and create jobs in Europe.
Space research was supported in Horizon 2020 under the priority "Industrial Leadership", one the three main priorities of the programme. The main objective and challenge was to ensure Europe’s independent access to space and the development of competitive space technologies. This included critical technologies for European non-dependence. It is important to reap the benefits of European investments in the space sector, notably through the Galileo and Copernicus systems, but also through space science and exploration missions. The work programme also supported the protection of space assets in and from space, with priorities covering space weather research, as well as networking and improving the performance of Space Surveillance and Tracking (SST) at European level.
The total budget for Space R&I was almost EUR 1.5 billion. The budget was distributed under three priorities:
- Maximising benefits of space for society and EU economy, in particular with services and applications developed thanks to the Galileo and Copernicus infrastructure for global positioning, navigation, timing and for Earth observation
- Ensuring a globally competitive and innovative EU space sector by focusing on space technologies, including for European non-dependence, and space science
- Providing access to space in a secure and safe space environment, taking into account aspects such as space weather and space traffic management.
The detailed structure is represented in the diagram
The 2018-2020 work programme addressed these challenges and priorities through a set of calls for proposal, normally in the form of grants, and through a set of 'other actions' comprising a variety of funding instruments.
In 2018, the call on Earth observation (EO) topics covered market uptake and the evolution of Copernicus services. The goals here were to foster the market development of EO applications, to match the needs of public authorities, and to support the research needs for the evolution of Copernicus services. In 2019, the topic on market uptake is covered again, together with a topic on CO2 emissions monitoring, cross cutting applications between Copernicus services and a topic addressing international cooperation.
Topics related to space business and entrepreneurship (BIZ) aimed at fostering technology transfer and business generator initiatives. The focus in 2018 was on support to 'space hubs' linked to Copernicus Relays and Copernicus Academy. Outreach and education activities were also subject of this call, focusing on the dissemination of space research activities in Europe and on promoting space education and research collaboration.
Topics dedicated to boosting the competitiveness of the European space technology (TEC and SCI) addressed the development of critical space technologies for European non-dependence and competitiveness in 2018 to 2020. In 2018, there is support the 'strategic research cluster' on space robotics as well as generic space technologies and EO technologies. Satellite telecommunication systems and sub-systems represent an important technology niche that is addressed in 2018. Also covered in 2018 is the development of scientific instrumentation for space science and exploration missions.
Topics related to access tospace and secure and safe space environment (SEC) addressed launch system reusability and advanced manufacturing and launch infrastructures (in 2018) as well as space weather (in 2019).
In 2019 and 2020, the calls for satellite navigation (EGNSS) addressed the scope of research and development actions for the study of enhancements and new features for already defined services (e.g. Galileo Open Service, EGNOS Data Access Service, etc.), as well as developing concepts for new services (Galileo Emergency Warming Service, Ionosphere Prediction Service for EGNSS users, etc.).
The Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) encouraged the development of new concepts in space transportation and space technologies. It also aimed to reduce the vulnerability of space-based systems and services.
Through FP7, the EU financed research and development activities to:
- develop space-based applications for European Society, in particular 'Copernicus- the EU's flagship space programme (formerly known as the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security - GMES);
- strengthen space 'foundations' such as space science and exploration, space transportation, and space technology, whilst also working together with the European Space Agency (ESA) and other European, national, or regional entities;
- support cooperation with specific countries such as Russia, Ukraine, China, or African countries;
- support research that benefits small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and develop studies in certain policy areas (so-called "cross-cutting activities").
A budget of EUR 1.4 billion was allocated in FP7 for space-related projects. From this amount, 85% went to Copernicus and the remaining 15% was used to support space science and exploration, space transportation, and space technology. The ESA received a specific grant of about EUR 700 million from the FP7 Copernicus budget. A total of 262 space projects have been supported by FP7.
The Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) supported the European strategy for space with ‘application-oriented’ research projects from 2002 to 2006, in collaboration with the European Space Agency (ESA). The budget allocation to FP6 for the duration of the programme was EUR 1.182 billion.
Through FP6, the EU financed research and development activities for:
- Satellite navigation, positioning, and timing systems for the Galileo programme;
- Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) - now Copernicus;
- Satellite telecommunications.
Within these areas, GMES (now Copernicus) was the central pillar of FP6 for space research.
The programme was evaluated for the European Commission in the FP6 Programme Evaluation Report.
FP6 projects focused on “Global Monitoring for Environment and Security”, “Satellite Telecommunication” and “Space Transportation”.