First European Space Technology Harmonisation Conference
“The 50 years of European cooperation in space we celebrate this year has brought our continent to the leading edge of global competitiveness in science, industry and applications for citizens,” underlined Franco Ongaro, ESA’s Director of Technical and Quality Management, as he introduced the first European Space Technology Harmonisation Conference. 


           Franco Ongaro opening the first European                           Poster of the first European
        Space Technology Harmonisation Conference.                   Space Technology Harmonisation

“In particular ESA, its Member States, research entities and commercial companies have cooperated on technology development – which is the key engine of competitiveness of all three of these pillars. Looking ahead, we will need even more cooperation and coordination than in the past.”

More than 200 key participants in space R&D gathered at this inaugural event on 18-19 March. Along with national delegates, planners and business leaders from 21 countries, representatives of the European Defence Agency, the European Space Agency and the European Commission (which co-chaired the session on European Space Technology in Europe), presented their efforts to ensure the continuation of the European success story on Space Technology,  based on the voluntary harmonisation of the R&D efforts across all partners.  

Udo Becker (ESA) and Mats Ljungqvist (EC) chairing the session “Space Technology in Europe”

Speakers from industry stressed the essential nature of the Harmonisation process, with Serge 
Flammenbaum, head of Innovation, R&D and Product Policy at Airbus Defence and Space declaring plainly: “There is no margin for inefficiency in European R&D.”

Harmonisation making space technology spending a wise investment

Every year, just over one Euro per citizen is invested into future space technologies, resulting in approximately 530 million Euros, enabling national and ESA space missions worth billions of Euro. Somewhat more than half of the investments is spent directly by ESA’s technology programmes in its Member States. The remaining amount is invested by various bodies including national space agencies, research institutions and the European Commission. 

ESA plays a critical role in this process, coordinating with research partners across the continent to ensure the maximum effectiveness of this investment.

Such spending extends across beyond the borders of ESA’s Member States to the whole of Europe, but the Agency plays a crucial wider role by facilitating an ongoing process called Technology Harmonisation.

By bringing together key participants in European space technology R&D, a full overview of the activities is achieved, serving to fill technology gaps, maximise efficiency and agree on common ‘roadmaps’ for the subsequent development of key technologies. This allows different R&D projects to tackle different aspects of common problems, building for success. 

Continuously evolving, the Harmonisation process began back in 2001. Faced with global rivals able to outspend Europe by several orders of magnitude – or else mobilise an order of magnitude more engineers – it became clear that every Euro invested in R&D must maximise Europe’s return on investment in order to maintain its lead.

The two-day event at ESA’s technical centre in Noordwijk, the Netherlands, presented the different coordination mechanism and their interaction in Europe,  and discussed many of the resulting fruits of Harmonisation: world-class science missions Herschel and Planck, reliant on harmonised cryogenics technology for ultra-sensitive instrumentation;  global dominance of the satellite startracker market based on harmonised APS technology; harmonised standards for avionics establishing novel markets and ‘multi-junction’ gallium arsenide solar cells produced after Harmonisation identified a strategic gap in the market;  silicon wafers etched with integrated circuits containing various chips designed by different European companies and destined for multiple space missions.

Copyright: ESA – Agustin Fernandez-Leon.

 Silicon wafers etched with integrated circuits for space missions

The process continues to look ahead; e.g. by new topics addressed this year, including highlights like additive manufacturing.

At the conference all participants, being them speaker or audience, highlighted again and again the necessity and benefits of the European cooperation and the voluntary harmonisation efforts for space technology R&D and underlined the need to continue in this direction and strengthen it.

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