ESA

Discovery

The Discovery element is at the beginning of ESA’s innovation pipeline: We use it to peer, together with Academia and industry, beyond the immediate planning horizon.

ESA explores promising new ideas and concepts through its Discovery activities.

Through these activities we encourage risk taking and invest in potentially game-changing technologies and disruptive innovation. We also conceive the first coherent baselines and options for future space missions.

Being part of ESA’s Basic Activities, Discovery’s fully open and competitive approach allows ESA to identify, explore and mature the best ideas, benefitting from the open innovation approach.

The Discovery element funds research, studies and early technology development activities in all areas of space technology and research.

It is driven by novelty, focused on potentially game-changing technologies and disruptive innovation, and organised through ESA’s Open Space Innovation Platform (OSIP). OSIP was initially introduced for t he Discovery element to provide the lowest possible entrance barrier for new ideas to enter ESA’s innovation pipeline.

Discovery activities specifically target companies and academia which are not yet involved in space activities, and are particularly suitable for innovative SMEs.

For enquiries, please refer to the assigned contacts:

Leopold Summerer

Advanced Concepts

Discovery types of activities

THREE TYPES OF ACTIVITIES ARE IMPLEMENTED WITHIN THE DISCOVERY ELEMENT OF ESA’s BASIC ACTIVITIES

1

Co-funded research

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ESA co-funds research activities which last between six months and three years, with budgets of typically 20–90 k€. Co-funded research activities include the co-funding of PhDs and postdocs, as experience has shown that very innovative ideas are often generated by universities. These activities address fundamental scientific questions related to all types of space activities.

2

Studies

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Studies explore the general feasibility of, interest in, and options for entirely new space systems with budgets typically between 20 and 100 k€. These can serve also as a precursor to technology development activities.

3

Early Technology Projects

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The emphasis is on novel, potentially game-changing low Technology Readiness Level activities for space applications. These activities typically involve developing an early proof of concept with hardware up to prototype level with potential customer interests. Early technology development activities have budgets between 50 and 175 k€.


Latest funding opportunities

Date openClose dateBudgetFieldTitle
04.04.202331.12.2025KEURODiscoverySTANDARD CALL FOR PROPOSAL FOR CO-SPONSORED RESEARCH ACTIVITIES
Latest closed studies
09.02.2024

Development of metal selective laser melting (3D printing) technology for microgravity environment with colloid-like feedstock

09.02.2024

Towards high-performance space-grade frequency-combs

09.02.2024

Enabling Harbor to Harbor Autonomous Shipping in Sea Ice Conditions

09.02.2024

Underwater VR for astronaut training

FOUNDING YOUR IDEAS CALLS
11.03.2024
7 ideas

Avionics and GNC for Future Space Transportation (FIRST!)

Contribute to the future of Space Transportation with disruptive innovations

28.03.2024
3 ideas

Join the Measurement Definition Team (MDT) for a Mars orbital imaging system

Join the Measurement Definition Team (MDT) for a Mars orbital imaging system

28.03.2024
1 ideas

Join the Instrument Definition Team (IDT) for an Exploration Science payload on a Mars Infrastructure Mission

Join the Instrument Definition Team (IDT) for an Exploration Science payload on a Mars Infrastructure Mission

Open Space Innovation Platform

To open the innovation pipeline to new actors and enlarge the space sector to fully benefit from opportunities of new space environment, in 2019 ESA created a platform to fund new ideas: OSIP. 

THE NEBULA 

LIBRARY

ESA's new knowledge bank for Research and Technology studies - the NEBULA library provides access to results of Discovery, Preparation and Technology Development activities. It serves as a technical repository and open library.