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Programme: Horizon Europe - Cluster 4 - Destination 5: Open Strategic Autonomy in Developing, Deploying and Using Global Space-based Infrastructures, Services, Applications and Data

Horizon Europe - Cluster 4 - Destination 5: Open Strategic Autonomy in Developing, Deploying and Using Global Space-based Infrastructures, Services, Applications and Data
Acronym HE-CL4-SPACE
Type of Fund Direct Management
Description of programme
"Horizon Europe - Cluster 4 - Destination 5: Open Strategic Autonomy in Developing, Deploying and Using Global Space-based Infrastructures, Services, Applications and Data"

Today EU citizens enjoy watching satellite TV, increasingly accurate global navigation services for all transport modes and users (e.g. mobile phones and car navigation systems), extended Earth monitoring for land, marine, atmosphere and climate change, global meteorological observation and accurate cartographies of a wide number of variables. Space also makes important contributions to security crisis management and emergency services. These are key assets for the EU policies on climate, environment, transport, agriculture and secure society (e.g. Maritime Strategy, the Arctic Strategy, the Digital Agenda, the Common Security and Defence Policy, the Sustainable Development Strategy, the SGDGs). Finally, the space sector is a source of economic growth, jobs and exports.

This destination will directly support the following Key Strategic Orientations, as outlined in the Strategic Plan:

  • KSO A, ‘Promoting an open strategic autonomy by leading the development of key digital, enabling and emerging technologies, sectors and value chains to accelerate and steer the digital and green transitions through human-centred technologies and innovations.’
  • KSO B, 'Restoring Europe’s ecosystems and biodiversity, and managing sustainably natural resources to ensure food security and a clean and healthy environment.
  • KSO C, ‘Making Europe the first digitally led circular, climate-neutral and sustainable economy through the transformation of its mobility, energy, construction and production systems.’
  • KSO D, ‘Creating a more resilient, inclusive and democratic European society, prepared and responsive to threats and disasters, addressing inequalities and providing high-quality health care, and empowering all citizens to act in the green and digital transitions.’

Proposals for topics under this Destination should set out a credible pathway to contributing to the following expected impact:

Open strategic autonomy in developing, deploying and using global space-based infrastructures, services applications and data, including by reinforcing the EU’s independent capacity to access space, securing the autonomy of supply for critical technologies and equipment, and fostering the EU's space sector competitiveness.

This expected impact is fully in line with the Space Strategy for Europe and the proposal for the Space Programme. Horizon Europe R&I funds will contribute to this expected impact along 2 main axes by:

  • providing support with R&I funding to the EU space sector at large
  • making a specific impact with the EU action with R&I to prepare the future evolutions of the Space programme components

This Destination is therefore structured along the following headings:

  1. Foster competitiveness of space systems
  2. Reinforce EU capacity to access to space
  3. Evolution of Space and ground infrastructures for Galileo/EGNOS
  4. Evolution of services: Copernicus
  5. Development of applications for Galileo, EGNOS and Copernicus
  6. Innovative space capabilities: SSA, GOVSATCOM, Quantum
  7. Space entrepreneurship ecosystems (incl. New Space and start-ups) and skills
  8. Targeted and strategic actions supporting the EU space sector

While headings 1, 2, 7 and 8 will support the EU space sector at large and are largely based on the recommendation of the Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda, headings 3), 4), 5), and 6) will be supporting the Space Programme components as well as the emerging quantum initiative.

All headings will contribute to the 'Open strategic autonomy in developing, deploying and using global space-based infrastructures'. This is the underlying goal when investing in R&I to ensure the future of existing space programme component infrastructures, services and applications (Heading 3) and with R&I to investigate new future services (Heading 4) or to develop innovative space capabilities such as SSA, GOVSATCOM and Quantum (Heading 6). This autonomy would however not be complete if we did not have the capacity to access space, to launch these infrastructures (Heading 2) and to propose opportunities for In-Orbit Demonstration and In-Orbit Validation (Heading 8). As the EU space sector relies on a smaller share of institutional investments compared to other regions, this difference needs to be compensated by a more competitive sector (Heading 1). R&I and a strategy for critical technologies for non-dependence is another important axis of action (Heading 8). A guarantee for such autonomy is also to have a vivid and competitive downstream sector and entrepreneurship eco-systems in the EU (Headings 5 and Heading 7). A description of the headings objectives and targeted achievements is provided below.

Foster competitiveness of space systems

The European space sector and space economy need to improve space-based capabilities, capture new markets, adapt to rapidly changing markets whilst staying competitive in the satellite communication, navigation and Earth observation sectors. This requires the development of new competitive technologies for space and ground systems, such as very high throughput and flexible satellites, very high-resolution sensors, radiation-hardened electronics, on-board and ground Artificial Intelligence (AI), optical communication and quantum technologies, as well as advanced robotics. We also need to prepare the ground for future modular, flexible and intelligent satellites. In the mid to long term, the future space ecosystem should include hybrid, smart and reconfigurable satellites, which can be manufactured, assembled and serviced directly in-orbit, and with a de-orbiting capacity.

Digitalisation and automation will enable advanced design and manufacturing methods (including additive manufacturing) and “Digital Twins”, plug-and-play modularity, as well as model based system engineering. This will yield reductions in mass, cost, emission, energy consumption and development time.

Disruptive technologies and concepts should be further developed to bring breakthrough innovation to the space sector, while at the same time advancing technology maturation in the view of qualification on ground or via In-Orbit Demonstration and Validation activities.

Reinforce EU capacity to access to space

Two specific challenges stand out. Firstly, the highly competitive global market for launch services, which is characterised by an increasing number of competitors, secondly, the emerging opportunities in space transportation that have not been yet seized by European launch actors characterised by new uses of space (e.g. small satellites, larger constellations, payload recovery, payload quick deployment), new services (e.g. direct orbit injection, in-orbit servicing) and in-space transportation. This will require, amongst others, new concepts for reducing the production and operation cost such as reusability (including stage recovery and landing) of launcher and vehicle components, and low cost, high thrust and green propulsion, modular avionics, autonomous systems, micro launchers, re-entry vehicles and modern and flexible test and launch facilities. Both will require urgent activities to enable operational capacities by at the latest 2030.

Disruptive technologies, methodologies and concepts should be developed to bring breakthrough innovation to the launcher systems sector as well as to contribute to cost reduction and contribute to the preparation of a competitive European Space Transportation beyond 2030.

Evolution of Space and ground infrastructures for Galileo/EGNOS

For Galileo/EGNOS, the international context, the competitive environment with emerging actors and novel techniques in the value chain, the increasing threats, and the evolution of the technologies, components and systems, including dual-use technology, call for a constant adaptation of the EU space infrastructure to these changing realities.

To meet these challenges, EU needs sustained investments in R&D for innovative mission concepts, technology and systems. These will ensure the continuity of the EGNSS service, minimise the risks for technology inclusion in the infrastructure, thanks to anticipated development and testing including in-orbit, protect better this infrastructure against modern threats (notably cyber, jamming/spoofing, natural hazards), and increase the strategic autonomy in key technologies. Overall, they will maintain the EU´s leadership position in the Global Navigation Satellite Systems.

Evolution of services: Copernicus

Copernicus core services (Climate, Marine environment, Land monitoring, Atmosphere monitoring, Emergency management and Security) must evolve and improve to better respond to new and emerging policy needs, such as anthropogenic CO2, green house gas and pollutant monitoring, climate change mitigation and adaptation, EU arctic policy, coastal area, sustainable development goals, environmental compliance, protection of natural resources, ecosystems and biodiversity, food security, agriculture, fisheries, aquaculture, crisis management, safe transport, sustainable and clean energy, border management, preserving cultural heritage, as well as other new domains that could bring key contributions to the European Green Deal and to other EU priorities.

Similarly, the Galileo service portfolio (High precision positioning, navigation and timing, authentication, search and rescue and Public Regulated Service, PRS) must be adapted to the evolution of the user needs and market trends. This requires new services and capabilities to better serve the downstream application sector, so that EGNSS remains at the fore front of the provision of satellite positioning, navigation and timing (PNT) services and keeps the pace with increasing global competition in the sector (USA, China, 5G, etc.). Europe should extend Galileo services to various societal challenges and offer it as a complementary service to emerging markets like 5G, CCAM and AI.

Development of applications for Galileo, EGNOS and Copernicus

EGNSS and Copernicus capacities are unique and world-class and should be fully utilised for EU citizens, companies and society. Research and innovation should therefore foster the development of EGNSS downstream applications and promote their adoption in the EU and worldwide, in particular in markets with a long lead-time (e.g. maritime, rail, aviation), and in areas where Galileo offers unique differentiators (high accuracy, authentication, Search and Rescue, PRS

Copernicus based applications and services can serve, for example, polar research, monitoring of the environment, maritime and coastal monitoring, natural disasters, civil security, migration and agriculture. They and can bring, with EGNSS, a key contribution to the European Green Deal and to the sustainable management of natural resources. The public sector should be supported as customer of space based technologies via innovation procurement. Synergies between Galileo/EGNOS and Copernicus, as well as synergies with non-space programmes, leveraging the combination of space data with non-space data, will open new avenues for the creation of a wealth of new and innovative applications and services. The use of Copernicus and Galileo/EGNOS for the EOSC and DestinE initiatives should equally be taken into account and promoted.

Innovative space capabilities: SSA, GOVSATCOM, Quantum

Space Situational Awareness (SSA) and GOVSATCOM innovative components will be developed in the EU Space programme fostered by Horizon Europe R&I. Quantum Technologies, as an emerging field with great potential to be applied in the EU Space programme, requires foundational research and validation activities for its space component.

Space Situational Awareness (SSA) will provide services to European users including spacecraft owners/operators and governmental entities that will reinforce the protection and resilience of European space and ground infrastructures against various hazards and risks (mainly collisions in/from space, Near Earth Objects or space weather events). New challenges are posed by the ever-increasing orbital population of smaller satellites and space debris and the associated increased risk of orbital collisions, fragmentations and re-entries. R&I activities shall address these challenges by developing novel architectures and technical solutions for ground/space sensors, data processing, networking and operation centres (including critical technological elements for the realisation of crucial future space weather applications and services) to ensure safety and sustainability of space operations in Europe as well as by improving current EUSST services and implementing new ones (space debris mitigation and remediation services; space weather services).

The GOVSATCOM initiative aims to provide reliable, secured and cost-effective satellite communications services to EU and Member State authorities with an infrastructure supporting secure critical missions and the ability to exchange sensitive information in a environment of worldwide hybrid threats (including the Arctic). Research and innovation activities will foster the development of European satcom security related technologies and increase European independence from foreign critical technologies and exploiting synergies with Copernicus and Galileo and with defence /security assets.

Space will pave the way for quantum technologies in EU space infrastructure and for space-based services (e.g. quantum inter-satellite communication, next generation atomic clocks or quantum sensors). It is of the highest strategic importance for the EU and its industry to be competitive and to become a global leader in this area. It will provide enhanced services to EU citizens and allow overcoming limitations and challenges of the current generation of quantum technologies. Therefore, R&I shall foster the development and use of EU sourced space qualified quantum components, including mission design, integration and in-orbit demonstration and validating. The availability of adequate ground segment infrastructure for testing and validating the quantum space mission needs to be ensured too. Synergies with GOVSATCOM will be thought.

Space entrepreneurship ecosystems (incl. New Space and start-ups) and skills

Business development, acceleration and upscaling of start-ups will be fostered across all space areas under the CASSINI Space Entrepreneurship Initiative.

CASSINI will provide support to business and innovation-friendly ecosystems, including the strengthening business skills in the space market segments and digital services based on space data. The objective is to make start-ups and scale-ups investment-ready and able to secure venture capital funding. Synergies with the InvestEU programme and the Space programme will be established.

Targeted and strategic actions supporting the EU space sector

Development of associated technologies and actions of key importance to the sections described above will be pursued. These actions will at the same time contribute to foster the competitiveness of the EU space sector, to reinforce our capacity to use and access space and to perform R&I for the Space Programme.

These targeted and strategic actions will include the development of critical technologies for EU non-dependence, the establishment of regular and cost-effective flight opportunities for In-Orbit Demonstration/In-Orbit Validation (IOD/IOV), space science activities, as well as outreach, education and international cooperation activities.

Limiting participation in certain actions to Member States (and certain candidate associated countries to Horizon Europe)

The Space research part of the Horizon Europe Programme is by default open to the world, promoting international cooperation to drive scientific excellence.

However, an important aspect of the Space Programme consists in ensuring security and strengthening strategic autonomy across key technologies and value chains, taking advantage of the possibilities that space offers for the security of the Union and its Member States. This objective requires special rules in specific cases to set the requisite eligibility and participation conditions to ensure the protection of the integrity, security and resilience of the Union and its Member States. Hence, on an exceptional basis and duly justified, the work programme may foresee a limited participation to entities from selected countries. Such exceptional circumstances would relate to prevalent considerations to safeguard the Union’s strategic assets, interests, autonomy or security. Possibilities for such limitations are framed by Article 22(5)and by Annex IV(11a) of the Horizon Europe Regulation. Out of 45 actions, 30 remain fully open while 15 are proposed for limited participation

For six space actions, the restrictions to only Member States are justified under Annex IV of the Horizon Europe Regulation which foresees that, where appropriate the eligibility criteria of the Space Programme Regulation shall apply for the Horizon Europe space research topics and actions. In the current work programme this includes SST and GOVSATCOM which relate to sensitive Union space infrastructure.

Nine space actions are open to Member States, Norway and Iceland, under Protocol 31 of the EEA Agreement. Opening to other associated countries is to be assessed and confirmed in a future amendment to the work programme. These nine actions include Copernicus Security R&D and actions involving technologies critical to strategic autonomy/dual-use.

As agreements with candidate Associated Countries are not yet in force, the eligibility to participate in such actions is limited for the moment to legal entities established in the EU, Norway and Iceland. However, in view of ensuring maximum excellence of R&I for the EU and to maintain EU’s spirit of global openness, before opening these actions for applications, the eligibility to participate in these 12 actions will be extended to include legal entities established in (candidate) Associated Countries which provide assurances concerning the protection of EU’s strategic assets, interests, autonomy or security. On the basis of the outcome of the discussions in the relevant configurations of the Horizon Europe Programme Committee, the Commission will reflect the changes in the work programme in full consistency with the decision establishing the Horizon Europe specific programme, especially through comitology procedures as foreseen in articles 13 and 14(4) of it.

Link Link to Programme
Thematic Focus Clustering, Development Cooperation, Economic Cooperation, Digitisation, ICT, Telecommunication, Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, Research & Innovation, Technology Transfer & Exchange, Green Technologies & Green Deal, Capacity Building, Cooperation Networks, Institutional Cooperation, Climate, Climate Change, Environment & Biodiversity, Circular Economy, Sustainability, Natural Resources, Disaster Prevention, Resiliance, Risk Management
EU Macro-Regions
Adriatic and Ionian Region, Alpine Region, Baltic Sea Region, Danube Region
Funding area EU Member States
Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs)
Origin of Applicant EU Member States
Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs)
Project Partner Yes
Project Partner Details

Unless otherwise provided for in the specific call conditions , legal entities forming a consortium are eligible to participate in actions provided that the consortium includes:

  • at least one independent legal entity established in a Member State;and
  • at least two other independent legal entities, each established in different Member States or Associated Countries.

The JRC, international European research organisations and legal entities created under EU law are deemed to be established in a Member State other than those in which the other legal entities participating in the action are established. Applications for ‘Training and mobility’actions and for ‘Programme co-fund’ actions may be submitted by one or more legal entities, provided that one of those legal entities is established in a Member State or an Associated Country. Applications for ‘Coordination and support’ actions may be submitted by one or more legal entities, which may be established in a Member State, Associated Country or, in exceptional cases and if provided for in the specific call conditions, in another third country. Applications for ‘Pre-commercial procurement’ actions and ‘Public procurement of innovative solutions’ actions must include as beneficiaries a ‘buyers’ group’. This group must consist of a minimum of two independent legal entities that are public procurers, each established in a different Member State or Associated Country and with at least one of them established in a Member State.

Eligible applicants Education and Training Centres, Federal State / Region / City / Municipality / Local Authority, Research Institution, Lobby Group / Professional Association / Trade Union, Small and Medium Sized Enterprises, SMEs (between 10 and 249 employees), International Organization, Microenterprises (fewer than 10 employees), NGO / NPO, Public Services, Other, National Government, Start Up Company, University, Enterprise (more than 250 employees or not defined), Association
Applicant details

eligible non-EU countries:

  • countries associated to Horizon Europe
At the date of the publication of the work programme, there are no countries associated to Horizon Europe. Considering the Union’s interest to retain, in principle, relations with the countries associated to Horizon 2020, most third countries associated to Horizon 2020 are expected to be associated to Horizon Europe with an intention to secure uninterrupted continuity between Horizon 2020 and Horizon Europe. In addition, other third countries can also become associated to Horizon Europe during the programme. For the purposes of the eligibility conditions, applicants established in Horizon 2020 Associated Countries or in other third countries negotiating association to Horizon Europe will be treated as entities established in an Associated Country, if the Horizon Europe association agreement with the third country concerned applies at the time of signature of the grant agreement.

  • low-and middle-income countries

Legal entities which are established in countries not listed above will be eligible for funding if provided for in the specific call conditions, or if their participation is considered essential for implementing the action by the granting authority.

Specific cases:

  • Affiliated entities - Affiliated entities are eligible for funding if they are established in one of the countries listed above.
  • EU bodies - Legal entities created under EU law may also be eligible to receive funding, unless their basic act states otherwise.
  • International organisations - International European research organisations are eligible to receive funding. Unless their participation is considered essential for implementing the action by the granting authority, other international organisations are not eligible to receive funding. International organisations with headquarters in a Member State or Associated Country are eligible to receive funding for ‘Training and mobility’actions and when provided for in the specific call conditions.
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