EU space research aims to foster a cost-effective, competitive, and innovative space industry and research community. It ensures that space technology, services and applications meet EU policy needs, as outlined in the Space Strategy for Europe (COM(2016) 705) and the R&I needs of the Space Programme in the period 2021 to 2027 (COM(2018) 447). EU-funded space R&I provides cutting-edge solutions to everyday societal problems, which benefit EU citizens. It also ensures that the EU remains competitive in space and can access and use space with a high level of autonomy.
EU space research is supported through framework programmes. The support of these programmes is critical to the ongoing development of the space sector. In particular:
- It encourages the research community and the private sector to intensify their efforts in the space sector and boost investment;
- It helps to sustain a competitive space industry including manufacturers, service providers, and operators;
- It provides the services and infrastructure necessary for the development and exploitation of new technologies.
The regulation establishing Horizon Europe, the new framework programme for research and innovation for 2021-2027, was adopted in April 2021 with a total budget of €86,1 billion in current prices. In addition, the NextGenerationEU programme, which was set up as a temporary recovery instrument following the COVID-19 crisis, will contribute an additional €5,4 billion.
The programme is structured in three pillars: open science, global challenges and Industrial and Open Innovation. Space is under the second pillar in a joint Cluster' Digital, industry and space' with a proposed envelope of €13,5 billion and an additional €1,35 billion from NextGenerationEU.
For the first two years of Horizon Europe, Space Research and Innovation is structured as shown in Figure below:
The research under:
- foster the competitiveness of the EU space sector
- reinforce the EU capacity to access and use space
is guided by a Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda (SRIA)2 for EU-funded space research supporting competitiveness has been developed with the stakeholder's community and will constitute an important input for R&I programming under Horizon Europe.
Horizon Europe also funds R&I for the new Space Programme of the Union, which regroups in a single programme the four components EGNSS, Copernicus, Space Situational Awareness (SSA) and secured governmental communications (GOVSATCOM). In addition, three horizontal activities support access to space, start-ups and security.
It is foreseen that R&I for the Space Programme will:
- Continue to support the evolution of space and ground infrastructures for the two EU flagship constellations Galileo and Copernicus,
- Foster the evolution of EGNSS and Copernicus services,
- Contribute to the development of innovative downstream applications, including by combining EGNSS and Copernicus services with other services,
- Develop innovative space capabilities for SSA, GOVSATCOM and pave the way for quantum technologies in EU space infrastructure (the last is not part of the Space Programme).
Furthermore, actions will be undertaken to:
- Develop a space entrepreneurship ecosystem called Cassini
- Support activities of interest and cutting-across all the above activity lines such as critical technologies for non-dependence, In-orbit validation ("IOV") and in-orbit demonstration ("IOD") services, contribute to space science and missions, outreach and education activities and international cooperation.
Governance and Implementation of Horizon Europe
The Horizon Europe programme is governed by the Directorate-General in charge of Research and Innovation. More information about the overall programme, which does not only cover Space, can be found here.
For the Space component of Horizon Europe, the implementation of the programme is managed by the Executive Agency HaDEA and, for some areas such as EGNSS and Copernicus downstream applications as well as the Galileo PRS service’s applications, by EUSPA, the EU Agency for the Space Programme.
Horizon Europe also supports actions which are delegated to specific entities, mostly ESA, the European Space Agency, for example related to the evolution of the EGNSS programmes.
In addition, the European Commission has contracted a consortium to manage the stakeholders consultation process for certain areas of EU space research: StarsEU