ESA was among the first space agencies to react in tackling the impact of Covid-19 on the European space industry through a wide range of procurement measures and by fostering the use of space solutions. Industry activity levels have recovered post lock-down; however, the socio-economic challenges of the crisis are far from over: ESA will be a key actor in the future resilience of the space sector. Heads of ESA Procurement, Industrial Policy and Finance are to give an outline of the reflection on ESA’s role in response and resilience, at the ISD2020.
ESA’s COVID-19 Plan was published as early as 23 March. Special procurement measures sought to support the entire industrial chain during the crisis by executing on-going contracts and new procurements in a timely manner, as well as providing more advance and partial payments. The plan introduced the following measures, across all procurement phases for ESA Mandatory and Optional Programmes: full digitalisation of the tendering process; shortening time-to-contract, shortening time-to-payment; a relaxation of tender submission deadlines if requested by bidders, partial and larger advance payments across the value chains, against evidence of technical progress without the need for a Contract Change Notice (CCN). SMEs in particular could request up to 50% advance payment on the remaining contract value, via a CCN.
Other measures taken by ESA are intended to foster the use of space to help contain and mitigate the impact of the Covid crisis. For instance, ESA Business Applications has issued funding calls for demonstration projects involving innovative uses of space in the fields of healthcare and education in particular, as well as in vertical sectors such as transport, energy, tourism and agriculture. In doing so, ESA Business Applications has partnered with the users and/or facilitators of such solutions, such as the Italian Minister for Technological Innovation and Digitalisation and the National Health Service of the UK, which specified requirements for such space-enabled solutions.
Furthermore, the Earth Observation Directorate and the European Commission have worked closely together to create the ‘Rapid Action Coronavirus Earth observation’ dashboard – also known as RACE. The platform uses Earth observation satellite data from Copernicus to measure the impact of the coronavirus lockdown and monitor post-lockdown recovery.
In an unprecedented collaboration, ESA, NASA and JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) have created a new tool that combines a wealth of data from Earth-observing satellites to monitor the worldwide impacts of COVID-19. This new online platform is now available to the public in the form of the EO Dashboard.
How to preserve our industry and its expertise in light of what is expected to be a major economic downturn? How to not just survive, but turn challenges into opportunities to stay ahead of global competition in space? What more should be done, and who should do it? Such questions and more will be reflected upon throughout the Industry Space Days 2020. To follow these discussions, and submit your questions in advance, stay tuned for updates on the ISD website.