European Commission: powering strategic autonomy in space

Source: European Commission (DG DEFIS)

Ensuring access to critical space technologies is key to our economy, society and security. This is why bolstering space research activities in support of EU’s strategic autonomy is a key priority for the European Commission.

The European Commission is enhancing technological sovereignty through greater investment and cooperation.


Investment in key space technologies

Through its Horizon 2020 program, the Commission has invested €100 million to promote European non-dependence on key space technologies to underpin the maintenance, development and evolution of our space systems and components, and for which there are presently no alternatives in the EU.

The Commission will now increase investment in Horizon Europe to respond to the needs caused by the current geopolitical context: as of 2023, €20 million will be allocated to critical space technologies on a yearly basis.

Horizon Europe is the EU’s primary funding programme for research and innovation. Its main objectives are to enhance European industrial competitiveness and ensure strategic autonomy in the space sector.

Over the past decade, the European Union has taken significant strides towards enhancing its technological sovereignty in space. Notably, the EU has invested heavily in microelectronics for space applications, with a focus on GaN (Gallium nitride) technologies, rad-hard Systems on Chips (SoC), space solar cells, and advanced high dissipative packages, among others.

One major example of this investment is the funding of the first rad-hard space graded FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Array) entirely based on a European supply chain. This development has resulted in the creation of a series of 4 FPGAs products (NG-MEDIUM, LARGE, ULTRA and ULTRA7) that have been developed or are currently under development through EU funding. These FPGAs are crucial components for all types of space missions, including Copernicus and Galileo, and are key enablers of future advanced on-board computing capabilities (e.g. autonomous systems).


Renewed cooperation with the European Space Agency and the European Defence Agency

In 2008, the Commission, ESA and EDA established a Joint Task Force (JTF) with the objective of ensuring autonomous and unrestricted access to these technologies. Since then, the JTF has mapped critical space dependencies and identified relevant actions.

In this context, the Commission, ESA and EDA have given a fresh impetus to the Joint Task Force to lift up their institutional cooperation.

The JTF Evolution will lead to new activities, including the development of common JTF roadmaps, institutional synergies, and enhanced collaboration to address the growing technological dependencies faced by the EU in the field of space research. Through these efforts, the EU is taking a bold stance in promoting its strategic interests and ensuring its continued leadership in space research and innovation.

In particular, the JTF will enable:

  • Greater political focus and top-down approach.
  • Greater focus on closing technological gaps. Beyond the identification of critical dependencies, the JTF will lead to joint technological roadmaps and implementation plans.
  • Greater and coordinated interaction with Member States and industry.

Close cooperation has been central to the success of research and innovation project. It has enabled alignment of efforts between EU institutions, agencies, Member States and industry. It has   strengthened the links between research, development and manufacturing, with positive impact on uptake of technology, market innovation and EU strategic autonomy in the field of space.

Through these efforts, Europe will be prepared to meet the challenges of the 21st century and maintain its competitiveness in the rapidly evolving global landscape.

The 2023 JTF cycle will be kicked off on May 17th 2023 and completed by early 2024.



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