The European Space Agency is aiming to foster commercially driven research in space in order to lead new products and services onto the market. This will require a fertilisation between space and non-space sectors. For this, ESA is organising on 4 June 2018, at the ERASMUS Innovation Centre  (ESTEC, the Netherlands), the Innovation Exchange – Commercialise Space Research.

This one-day event will bring together scientific, industrial and technological representatives from space and non-space market sectors, e. g. materials, life sciences, pharmaceuticals, human physiology, biology, etc. At this event, the Agency will announce a Call for Ideas on “Commercially-Driven Research in Space”.

Registration: Online Registration Form


Research implies creativity – the will to find new ways to improve our world. Research conducted in space – such as on-board the International Space Station – has unique selling points. The space environment can provide properties of micro-gravity, exposure to extreme environmental conditions, vacuum, radiation, and for human research subjects: isolation and confinement.

These many features allow us to gain knowledge that would not be possible if limited to the Earth. Examples are three-dimensional aggregation of cells into tissue-like architectures, faster cellular growth and increased virulence for biological dynamics. Microgravity induces many changes in human physiological functions, such as alterations in body fluids and the circadian rhythm, muscle-skeletal and immune system adaptations, neurocognitive alterations. These microgravity-driven effects allow the study of phenomena, mechanisms and processes that cannot be observed on Earth, hidden by the gravity vector factor. In addition, thanks to the absence of sedimentation and convection phenomena, it is possible to better study and understand:

  • Micro- and macroscopic properties, e.g. charging of particles, external forces (e.g. ion drag), fundamental interactions, agglomeration, particle growth, hydrodynamics (e.g. viscosity), thermodynamics, non-equilibrium aspects of complex plasmas;

  • Generic properties of classical many-body systems: dynamic processes can be investigated on the level of single particles, which is not possible in most systems in 1g. Typical examples are crystallisation and melting, photons in plasma crystals, dust waves, Mach cones, nozzles, turbulence, and Nano-fluidics.

The lack of sedimentation and convection phenomena in microgravity implies also a lack of solute build-up, defect-free, homogeneous, controlled, higher resolution and symmetric growth of materials, avoidance of nucleation or single nucleation, perfect spherical shape, container-less processing and free suspension, etc. The absence of drainage and convection in microgravity and the isotropy of the space environment affect systems and processes including surface wetting and interfacial tension, multiphase flow and heat transfer, multiphase system dynamics, solidification, fire and combustion.

The exploitation of these aspects are hugely supportive in performing new research activities in space and contextually deliver to market new valuable products and services.


The call is being organised jointly under ESA’s Business Applications and European Exploration Envelope Programme (E3P). The challenge is to collect promising ideas. The selected projects would be taken forward through three existing mechanisms, as shown in the Figure below:





  • Assessment of the business plan and market potential, via a Business Applications Feasibility Study;
  • Implementation of the research and development project via the E3P Programme
  • Pre-commercial demonstration of derived products / services via a Business Applications Demonstration Project.
  • The submitted idea will provide the option to trigger proposals applicable for the full or a partial implementation cycle. Ideas proposals would be selected on their potential to successfully pass the final phase.


The submissions will be reviewed by ESA to identify the most promising candidates. ESA may enter into direct negotiation with the successful candidates. Proposing consortia may consider the use of ESA-owned ISS utilisation facilities or those operated by ESA commercial partners.

The main programme points for this single-day event are:

  • Announcement of the call for ideas and explanation of the process, by ESA experts;

  • Evidence of research in space with a substantial market value, delivered by the joint voice of the scientific and industrial community;

  • Opportunities for space and non-space entities to team up, from science, industry and enterprise, in order to partner for this call, and

  • Brainstorming slots to stimulate ideas for the call.


14 May 2018
Last updated at 17 May 2018 - 16:02