Technology Programmes

Technology is developed in ESA under several corporate and domain specific programmes and initiatives done in partnership with industry, academia and research centres

These programmes address different stages of development/maturity, measured by Technology Readiness Level (TRL) scale and each aims at increasing the TRL. These technology activities cover most branches of the ESA Technology Tree, the 10 Competence Domains and the 8 Application Domains. For higher TRL projects ESA usually works besides industry, while for lower ones, ESA works in partnership with academia and research centres.

Edmund Williams

Head of Technology Coordination & Planning Office

Eike Kircher

Deputy Head of Technology Programmes Office
€1.1B€overall European space technology R&D budget in 2022
€651M€ESA’S Space Technology R&D Budget in 2022

EUROPEAN SPACE AGENCY is divided into multiple directorates. The TEC directorate directly manages the following technology programmes and initiatives, which collectively address the goals of the ESA Technology Strategy:




Discovery, Preparation, Technology Development Element (TDE)

ESA’s sustained success is underpinned by the Agency’s ‘Basic Activities’, which complement the mandatory element of the ESA budget, together with the Science Programme. They are mandatory because they are essential to ESA’s achievements. Essentially, Basic Activities are part of ESA’s ‘membership fee’, and include (amongst other activities) early-stage innovation and technology development through Discovery & Preparation and Technology Development Element (TDE).


With the Discovery element, ESA is exploring and investing in an open innovation approach into early-stage concepts and early technology projects together with universities and research centres, industry and specifically SMEs.


The Preparation element prepares and enables future mission and programmes through pre-phase A and phase-A studies and dedicated system analyses of payload or underpinning processes to establish robust trade-offs for mission designs.

Technology Development Element (TDE)

Technology Development Element (TDE) is the only ESA technology element covering all application domains and supporting all of ESA’s fields of activity across the entire spectrum of technical disciplines, providing the technological nucleus for most future developments.

General Support Technology Programme (GSTP)

The GSTP anticipates new needs and emerging applications to ensure that the right technologies are available at the right maturity at the right time.

Cross-Cutting Initiatives (CCI)

The CCI include areas of interest which are a focus for TEC, in line with the priority technology themes. Encompassed by each of the programmes, they are chosen through an analysis of user needs and they are a direct result of the ESA Technology Strategy.

Technology R&D across ESA programmes

Once planned and channeled through the Agency-wide Process for Technology R&D Management, technology R&D activities are funded under dedicated ESA technology R&D programmes (such as DPTD, GSTP, and CTP) or other ESA programmes that allocate part of their budget to technology R&D (see figure). The dedicated programme formulation, the funding and the interface with the respective Programme Board remain within each Directorate.

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Eike Kircher

Deputy Head of Technology Programmes Office