Connected Rural Communities

  • ActivityKick-start Activity
  • Opening date 19-03-2020
  • Closing date 04-12-2020


This is a multiple Kick-Start call organized in the following sub-thematic calls:

Life of Communities: Education & Health

Opening date: 19 March 2020
Closing date: 4 May 2020

Business Opportunities: Mobility & Tourism

Opening date: 4 May 2020
Closing date: 14 August 2020

Safety & Security

Opening date: 14 August 2020
Closing date: 09 October 2020

Management of Resources: Utilities & Natural Resources

Opening date: 09 October 2020
Closing date: 04 December 2020


Rural communities refer to areas in a country which are less densely populated, outside the cities and towns, as well as to remote rural areas which are often farm lands, woodland forests, plains, deserts, and prairies with few buildings and habitants living far apart from each another. 

Although there are commonalities among rural areas, they also differ greatly from each other and face different issues. The dominant economic activity in the rural areas is farming since these areas are located in the countryside. Farming also happens in the rural-urban fringe in developed countries, but farmers in those areas are more under pressure to sell their land for development. In fact, the urban fringe is often associated with the building of motorways, big shopping centres, hypermarkets and industrial plants. Moreover, rural areas may change over time. These changes are caused by several factors, as tourism income, farming profitability, as land use, pollution, population change and migration, leisure time, etc.

Rural communities present several challenges in different sectors such as tourism, mobility, education, farming, energy, security and healthcare.  The issues faced by residents of rural communities are very different than those in urban areas due to a lack of access to main infrastructure. These many challenges of rural communities receive more attention in both regional and national strategies to support their development.

Limited connectivity is the one characteristic that all rural areas share in common. Therefore, governments and network operators are increasingly focusing on the improvement of broadband availability. Ensuring access to high-speed broadband services in rural areas remains one of their main challenges. Many different projects are under development in the European countries making use of innovative technologies and deploying new business and investment models. Space assets can offer added value to these internet technologies and increase their capabilities in a number of ways.


• Life of Communities: Education & Health. Education and health are important factors in the development of rural communities. Educating communities means not only developing schools, educating children and adults, but also it includes vocational training and support to young entrepreneurs. By doing so, rural communities will move to a healthier and more sustainable future. Education is vital for the rural development since it provides the opportunity to build capacity and knowledge in the rural population, helping them to make informed decisions and to innovate their businesses. In addition, it is one possible strategy for keeping the young generation in the rural areas. Health services relevant for the rural communities include solutions for remote diagnosis centres, information exchange and digitalisation, training of new personnel, logistics of health-related services (e.g.: laboratories analysis, distribution of medical goods), etc. Remote diagnostics can be also very relevant for the rural communities since it enables the patient to receive healthcare and advice independent of their current location. 

• Business Opportunities: Mobility & Tourism. Lack of transportation and mobility in rural areas is a significant limiting factor for the economic development of the region, including preventing exploitation of local assets for the development of the touristic sector. Transport plays a key role in responding to the problem of rural social exclusion, and in keeping these people engaged in mainstream society. On the other side, the growing development of rural urban fringe areas, as cities are growing and people moving there from rural areas, is leading to an intensification of the need for new mobility infrastructure and services. Tourism is an effective catalyst of rural socio-economic development. It is a mean to boost the economy of rural communities also in developed countries, a source of economic development, employment opportunities and income for the rural communities, in addition to offer several opportunities for the tourists to take active participation in the rural life. Tourism is strictly connected also with the transport infrastructure. Moreover, it offers many advantages to rural communities with respect to setting up new industries (e.g., manufacturing) since it is not necessarily dependent on investment from outside the community. Tourism also provides a boost to travel-oriented businesses which are not directly related to tourism, such as service stations and grocery stores. 

 Safety & Security. Safety and security of the rural communities refers to issues that affect the individual, property and food protection and security. In particular in the developing countries, there are frequent acts of violence against the rural communities and a high level of theft, in particular of stock. Farmers, farm workers and residents within rural communities are considered soft targets by criminals. This is due to the remoteness of farms, high market value of properties, large distances between farms and villages and the inaccessibility to the police. Rural police stations are often isolated and responsible to control vast areas. The extent and high levels of poverty and unemployment within rural communities creates a particular challenge to the police. Communities are less willing to cooperate with the police. Inadequate response to the needs of rural communities and resource constraints hamper the rendering of effective policing in many rural areas. 

• Management of Resources: Utilities & Natural Resources. Rural areas face particular challenges when it comes to the management of resources, including utilities as energy and water use and natural resources such as land and forestry. Energy covers a number of different forms, for example, direct light, heating, cooling, which are needed for a huge number of different tasks (e.g. refrigeration and communications) and a wide variety of end-users, as domestic, businesses, basic social services, transportation etc. All this can be covered under the name of utilities including for example water treatment, electric power and telecommunication services. In the rural areas, utilities are challenged with higher costs and often find it harder to implement new clean technologies to modernize their infrastructure because of the great distances between customers and an irregular patchwork of reliable resources. Another aspect of the management of resources concerns the “land resources utilization”, which is an integral part of any rural development programme. It does not consider agricultural uses only but also encompasses natural areas, sustainable management of forests, watercourses and other natural resources. Farming is the predominant form of agriculture in the rural communities for both developing and developed countries. It is a means of organizing agricultural, forestry, fisheries, pastoral and aquaculture production which is managed and operated usually by a family and predominantly reliant on family labour. 


New technologies like augmented reality, big data analytics and image-recognition algorithms in combination with input data collection from satellites and integration of space technologies, offers a wide range of opportunities for new services.


Satellite Earth Observation (EO) imagery could be used to provide maps showing the remote locations and to evaluate the conditions on the ground. In addition, EO data could be used to recreate the remote environment, provide meteorological information, and provide key data for monitoring and forecasting air pollution and CO2 emissions, to support the land use analysis and planning of infrastructures and management of forestall/agricultural areas and provide data on socio-economic and infrastructure (e.g.: presence of roads, number and types of buildings, types of activities , etc.) to provide insights on rural areas development.


Satellite communications offer a unique alternative to the transmission of data through the terrestrial internet with the coordinating centre to and from remote locations where there is no terrestrial network or to cope with a large demand for bandwidth, e.g. for live streaming of images. Used as a primary communication means or as back-up to terrestrial networks, Satcom can therefore enhance communication network robustness and communication resilience. In particular, due to the remoteness of the location, satcom is sometimes the only communication option to support the setting-up and management of touristic activities.


Satellite Navigation is instrumental in order to track and trace users and geo-locate different objects. Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) are the main source of geo- referenced locations data and for any crowd sourcing applications to locate people and devices.


5G networks including terrestrial and satellite components will have a key role for delivering the high amount of data required with low latency, eventually also in real time (support to operations).


Kick-start Activities elaborate the business opportunity and the technical viability of new applications and services that exploit one or more space assets (e.g. Satellite Communications, Satellite Navigation, Earth Observation, Human Space Flight Technology). This call for Kick-start Activities is dedicated to the theme "Connected Rural Communities", which means that the call is open to companies that intend to develop space-enabled internet applications and services.   


1. Register by completing the online questionnaire on ESA-STAR Registration (this provides for the minimum ‘light registration’)

2. Download the official tender documentation (Invitation to Tender) and create a ‘Bidder Restricted Area’ via EMITS from the 19th March 2020.

3. Write your proposal and obtain a Letter of Support from your National Delegation, if needed (see Authorisation of Funding section below).

4. Submit your proposal for Education & Health via ESA-STAR Tendering by 5 June 2020 13:00hr CEST.


ESA Space Solutions can provide funding  to perform Kick-start activities to any company (economic operator) residing in the following Member States: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain and Sweden.

Currently, Luxembourg, Norway and Germany have pre-approved funding for this Kick-start activity. Applications from any other Member State will require a letter of approval from their National Delegation. Contact details of each national delegate can be found here.

Kick-Start Activities are funded at: 

  • 80% by the European Space Agency for a maximum of €64K per contract for SMEs* 
  • 75% by the European Space Agency for a maximum of €60K per contract for non-SMEs

*SMEs, or “Small and Medium enterprises”, are defined here: EU recommendation 2003/361.


  • 30/09/2020, 11:00 CEST - Connected Rural Communities Part 4: Utilities & Natural Resources