space debris

EU announces space traffic management and quantum encryption projects

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The European Commission has announced a set of new flagship projects as part of its 'Action Plan on Synergies' between the civil, defence and space industries, which aims to reinforce the competitiveness of EU industry at the intersection of these areas.

According to a statement from the Commission, the plan is the first to use EU funding to reinforce European innovation in technologies at the interface between these areas, such as cloud, processors, quantum and artificial intelligence. The plan aims to “further enhance European’s technological edge and support its industrial base”.

The flagship projects are heavily focused on areas of defence which have the potential to become “game changers”: drone technologies, secure space communication, and space traffic management. These aim to reduce dependency; foster standardisation and interoperability across the bloc; stimulate cross-border cooperation; create new value chains, and answer the EU’s societal and strategic needs.

The communications project aims to provide resilient and high-speed connectivity for everyone in Europe based on quantum encryption, while the traffic management project is required for avoiding collisions that may result from the proliferation of satellites and space debris in orbit, while also ensuring autonomous EU access to space.

Other actions include creating a framework for enhancing cooperation between these areas; identifying critical technologies and developing technology roadmaps for these technologies, and supporting start-ups and SMEs by facilitating access to new opportunities through an “innovation incubator” network.

While the plan is focused at the EU level, the commission said that it may also trigger innovation at the national level due to co-funding by members states of EU projects and may be supported by partnerships with EU allies.

“We have a strong potential for synergies between innovation in space, defence, and civil research and innovation. We need this for a number of critical technologies,” said Margrethe Vestager, digital age commissioner.

“This action plan is a systematic and methodological approach to synergies in critical technologies across the three worlds. The idea is for innovations to systematically reach multiple uses by design and to allow tapping into the huge innovation potential of researchers and start-ups.”

Internal market commissioner Thierry Breton added: “Ensuring strong synergies between defence, space and civil technologies will generate disruptive innovations and allow Europe to remain a global standard setter. It will also reduce our dependencies in critical technologies and boost the industrial leadership we need to recover from the [Covid-19] crisis.”

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