Sustainable Synergies: Interconnected Systems for Positive Impact

  • Opportunity Intended Tender
  • Activity Feasibility Study
  • Opening date 2023-03-15
  • Closing date 2023-05-15
  • Webinar 22 February 2023 - 10:00 GMT Register

BACKGROUND

The scientific method involves applying rigorous testing of hypotheses and the analyses of data to refine experimental findings. The experimenter will change just one factor, known as the “independent variable”, which requires isolating the system under study to measure and analyse the specific behaviours we are interested in. We grow to understand that frictionless movements do not exist in real life and that most objects suffer energy losses in the form of heat that the experimenter would prefer to avoid as they are more difficult to measure. Those side effects are called interferences, external consequences, or externalities. They are often considered as a hurdle to the good functioning of the system or eco-system under study. They can even become a life-threatening phenomenon, as for example carbon dioxide (CO2) emission is an externality of fuel-based energy production. But these externalities can also be put to positive use, and this is what this Feasibility Study aims to address.

The Internet, climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic have highlighted that now more than ever we live in an interconnected world. This has always been the case as we can witness that all ecosystems are interconnected, living organisms and geological events influence and interact with each other. In the recent past we can see innovations that implement synergies between systems. Examples include parking lots and solar panels. Solar panels produce electricity and have as externality to produce shade below them. Car owners in sunny areas want to protect their vehicles from insulation damages, and therefore the integration of both generates a positive impact. There are numerous other examples that are in development: aquaculture feed re-use, subway heat re-use, collocated wind/fish farms, biological insecticides, etc.

Space assets have a great role to play in the management of these interconnected systems. Satellite-based Internet of Things (IoT) is key to monitor the complex evolutions of these systems such as the water content in a remote integrated fish farm. Precise positioning can be a requirement to locate mobile IoT sensors. Satellite Earth Observation (SatEO) can provide unique information about the macro-behaviour of the systems, such as energy dissipation, geographical growth, or movement.

FUNDING OPPORTUNITY

This call for Feasibility Studies aims to promote the operational and commercial roll-out of services addressing interconnected systems for positive impact where at least two systems considered “isolated”, including eco-systems, are operated in a synergistic manner so that externalities are re-used or recycled and with the use of at least one space assets. The intended contractors are businesses operating in one of the field (e.g. solar panel installers, for the example above) or system integrators. The selected studies will conduct a thorough analysis of the concept they present, the actors involved and main components of the systems and will determine the technical feasibility and viability of a commercial service that will manage the resulting synergistic service.

The intended studies will identify the externalities at play for the application they have identified. Such externalities under consideration are the consequences of businesses/production activities. Often, they will be classified as environmental and societal externalities because they reach beyond the borders of the company and affect their surrounding environment. In the past these externalities were just neglected and excluded from financial accounting. Recently some types of these externalities are accounted for and play an economic role such the carbon footprint in Europe and other regions or the B Corp certification for virtuous business practices. 

The type of innovations intended for this call can be difficult to identify as they intend to connect and synergise systems and environment that are usually considered as disjointed. New engineering frameworks can help to better conduct these innovation activities. In particular, the adoption of open innovation and it aims to break the original fences surrounding private research and development activities is encouraged. Open innovation is an approach that encourages firms operating in certain sectors (e.g. parking construction) to embrace new technologies/partnerships (e.g. solar panels/energy companies) so that it can develop and operate synergistic services as proposed in this tender. Another promising practice is called holistic innovation. It aims to consider multiple aspects of a problem and converge, step-by-step, towards a balanced solution rather than building a unique and narrow solution for specific needs. 

Finally, it is important to highlight the proximity of the proposed interconnected systems for positive impact activities with circular economy. Traditionally, ‘reductionism’ has been the dominant scientific mode; to understand things by analysing individual parts in isolation. One of reductionism’s most misleading legacies is the notion of the world as a machine, and our current linear economy reflects this; resources go in and waste comes out, a conveyor belt process in which the primary goal is to increase efficiency and drive economic growth. This vision of the world is divorced from any connection to the broader natural and social systems that maintain it. An alternative view considers the world holistically. Circular economy is an industrial system that is restorative or regenerative by intention and design, with a focus on the Rs principle of reusing, recycling, reducing, rethinking, repairing, refurbishing, and recovering of materials, energy, and waste. Interconnected systems are a fundamental part of the ‘circular economy’, as they emphasise on these ‘Rs’. 

TOPICS OF RELEVANCE

Because of the broad reach and openness of the proposed concept this open call for studies is eligible to any industrial sector and domain. As mentioned above, considered are eligible services addressing interconnected systems generating a positive impact either for the environment and/or a positive impact for the actors of the target value chain. The service shall interconnect at least two systems considered “isolated”, including eco-systems, operated in a synergistic manner so that externalities are re-used or recycled and with the use of at least one space asset. Based on this eligibility criteria, it appears that many solutions could belong to one of the following three categories:

  • Sector hybridisation: hybridisation relates to inter-connection with another sector (with respect to the original sector). This depicts the case where a technological solution already exists for a specific application, and it is then evolved to serve another sector/other community. An example is the excess generation of heat by subways (e.g. users, machines) that can be collected to heat homes in the surroundings. In this example the transport sector has hybridised the housing sector. 
  • Circularity of resources: as every industrial process generates primary products and secondary products, what is outputted in excess is considered waste. For example, the petrol refinery process generates oil and gas as primary products. Plastics and fertilisers were produced later during the 20th century as secondary products through an innovation process that is like what is suggested in this call. Still today a significant part of the refinery process generates CO2 and chemical liquids than are either dumped or stored. An innovation in this category would aim to collect and transform this waste into positive outputs even within the same sector
  • Collocated facilities: this category of interconnected solutions recognises that the space occupied by technological solutions, buildings or factories can be shared to not only occupy less space but also to reduce maintenance cost and offer synergetic advantages. Some examples are solar parking lots and offshore mussel wind farms. Beyond being collocated and benefiting of the underlying infrastructure the sub-systems can also interact positively with each other (e.g. the solar panels cast shade for the cars below).

These use cases are just examples.

ABOUT THE OPPORTUNITY

Feasibility Studies will be supported under this Call. They should start in 2023 and run for one year.

The target users and stakeholders for this tender are not limited to any category or sector as explained above. Two partners of the ESA Business Applications and Space Solutions (BASS) programme have expressed interest in the proposed concept and are supporting this call. These are ICT-AGRI-FOOD, the largest Agriculture and Food IT innovation network in Europe, including researchers in academia, the private and public sector; and ENEL - a major European power company championing innovation, sustainability, and renewable energies. 

VALUE OF SPACE 

The innovation in the field of synergetic applications will benefit greatly from the combined use of satellite communication and positioning, as well as earth observation imagery. 

Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) are essential in the development of interconnected solutions to track the position of vehicles, vessels, or any moving element of the solution. GNSS is also necessary to locate the position of sensors that measure physical parameters within or in the proximity of such facilities. 

Satellite Telecommunications (SatCom) allow to digitally connect remote premises that conduct collocated activities, such an offshore mussel wind farm to conduct all necessary activities related to maintenance, reporting, alerting and market forecast. Satellite IoT is also key to monitor and report on the physical parameters measured in hybrid vicinities especially during the installation and trial phases. 

Satellite Earth Observation (EO) allows the holistic monitoring of sites where such solutions will be deployed and ensure that the externalities (especially environmental) are absent or reduced according to the term of the solution deployed (e.g. reduced CO2 emission as CO2 is reused or reduced heat emission as heat is recycled). The capabilities of EO satellites are unique to detect and measure these externalities and to ensure that the solution proposed does have a positive impact.

WHAT WE LOOK FOR

We look for teams that have identified an attractive market opportunity with real potential to engage customers. Motivation, business experience and domain expertise are all important features. We want to hear about your ideas that involve utilisation of either space technology or space data.

Feasibility Studies explore the business opportunity and the technical viability of new applications and services that exploit one or more space assets (e.g. SatCom, SatNav, EO and spaceflight technology). Feasibility Studies should explore the technical and economic viability of the service but have the objective of eventual development, demonstration and commercialisation of the service investigated thereafter (if proven viable). 

WHAT WE OFFER

We offer funding and support to companies, both for business case assessment and for the development of new, space-based services. Our offer includes:

  • Technical & commercial guidance
  • Access to our network and partners, including ICT-AGRI-FOOD and ENEL
  • Use of the ESA brand for your service
  • Zero-equity funding

ESA will typically bear up to 50% of the eligible total study costs, but this funding level can be increased up to 80% for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, or research institutions. The precise funding amount should be discussed with your relevant National Delegate

For this Call, the total cost of each study is expected to be roughly 200 kEUR, which will cover the development of a proof of concept, optional testing of the solution, establishing impact indicators, and developing a technical roadmap. 

ESA TENDER INFORMATION

Responding to an open competitive Invitation to Tender (ITT) requires the submission of a proposal. The proposal will be evaluated according to ESA regulations and procedures.

The consequential evaluation of proposals results in a recommendation for a winning bid. In the case that several proposals of good quality targeting different and/or complementary aspects are submitted, the Agency reserves the right to place parallel contracts for each of the open competitive ITTs in coordination with the relevant national delegations.

For the fully detailed Proposal Guide on competitive ITTs click: Open Competition.

HOW TO APPLY

  1. Register by completing the online questionnaire on esa-star registration (this provides for the minimum ‘light registration’)
  2. Visit esa-star publications and search for this opportunity to download the official tender documentation. Official documents will include proposal templates, a draft contract, and additional information about this opportunity.
  3. Use the official documents to prepare your proposal.
  4. Write your proposal and obtain a Letter of Support from your National Delegation, if needed (see Authorisation of Funding section below). Submit your proposal via esa-star tendering by the deadline. 

AUTHORISATION OF FUNDING

Teams from companies or organisations registered in the following Member States are eligible to apply for this opportunity. To date, Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovania, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom​​​ have subscribed to ESA Business Applications and Space Solutions (BASS). ​

Applicants must inform the National Delegation of the country they are residing in to obtain a letter of authorisation allowing the funding of the proposed activity. Contact details of each national delegate can be found here

Activities arising from this Feasibility Study ITT will be co-funded at 80% by the European Space Agency for a maximum of €200K provided by ESA.