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Bridging between Earth and space: technology breakthroughs for scientific progress

TECHBREAK is a new foresight initiative led by the European Science Foundation to identify the technology areas that could benefit the space sector. It goes beyond space-related technologies to bring in expertise from sectors where technology is evolving faster, ranging from photonics and nanotechnology to energy, nuclear propulsion and robotics.

Innovative technologies open up new fields of research and give scientists new tools. Yet currently space organisations may not be aware of developments in terrestrial sectors, who in turn may not know the space sector's needs. TECHBREAK brings together space and non-space communities to collaborate more closely, to ensure the technology is there to underpin future scientific breakthroughs.

Dr. Alberto Tobias from the European Space Agency (ESA) commented: "Space shares the technology and industrial base with other sectors and open innovation is the rule. In some domains technology advances faster in terrestrial sectors and if space enters the game, it can become a lead user. Bringing the two domains together offers many benefits: better products and lower costs for space; and an increased innovation for terrestrial industries, driven by space research."

TECHBREAK answers a request from the ESA, which Europe looks to for innovation in space. Over the last few decades, space research has tended to be cautious about using not yet fully proven technology. Feasibility and level of maturity are key criteria for selection of ESA missions which sometimes leads science teams to rely on gradual technological innovation in their mission proposals. In a rapidly developing field, ESA can be faced with dealing with obsolete technology, sacrificing competitiveness and leadership.

TECHBREAK combines a forward view of space sciences with the forward view of technology coming from non-space areas. It will be using a classification of non-space disciplines under the broad headings of 'Key Enabling Technologies' which were identified in 2009 by the European Commission as being likely to be the driving forces behind future European developments.

During the launching conference, participants will present the different problems, their work, goals and limitations, and brainstorm and answer related targeted discussions. Participants to the conference will then attempt to match key enabling technologies from both space and non-space and identify gaps and to define if necessary the contents of further specialised workshops in support of this activity.

C. Kembery | EurekAlert!
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