Across the world, the COVID-19 crisis has caused enormous challenges to economies, societies and organisations. The European Space Agency has launched several actions in response to the pandemic addressing urgent issues. As cities and countries locked down, space assets made changes and impacts immediately visible, but help also to focus on medium- and long-term strategic recovery goals.
Immediate healthcare and containment support
Relying on its experience in crises management, ESA together with partners made the use of the B-LiFE, a mobile laboratory that has been already deployed during the Ebola outbreak, possible. The Biological Light Fieldable Laboratory for Emergencies is deployed in a matter of days to the most remote locations and can relay information to reference laboratories around Europe thanks to an end-to-end, satellite-enabled connectivity solution. ESA enabled the manufacturing of medical equipment such as visors and intubation shields and supported the manufacturer of TEMPUS Pro, a portable device for monitoring vital signs providing communications for medics.
Together with the Romanian InSpace Engineering S.R.L. the CovTrack App was developed and made available to authorities and companies as an open source app. Relying on Bluetooth which can determine if another device is closer than 2m or closer than 5m and an online database with confirmed COVID-19 patients, it can inform if its users had been close to a confirmed case and if he/she should take precautionary measures and inform the authorities.
ESA exchanged data with the European Commission, DG SANTE, to further support epidemiological surveillance and responses by complementing existing infrastructure with a network of satellite terminals in areas with poor connections.
Impact on the European space ecosystem and downstream sectors
Next to hands on emergency actions, the ESA and European Commission created the Rapid Action coronavirus Earth observation dashboard, demonstrating the societal, economic and environmental changes that are taking place during the pandemic: from water and air quality measurements to the tracking of economic indicators like agriculture harvesting, volume of oil stock-piled or car park occupancy around commercial centres or industrial area.
In order to better understand the impact of the new normal on the society, businesses, and public organisations beyond data, the ESA Director General and the Downstream Gateway had launched a series of webinars named “Smart Space in the post COVID-19 Era”. Leveraging on collective intelligence and experience, ESA, private and public sector experts as well as concerned citizens discussed key impacts, identified potential future scenarios and built together the Earth of tomorrow with space.
|Climate care: remote life better life?||Environmental pollution, especially nitrogen dioxide, levels have fallen significantly since governments across Europe implemented stay-at-home policies. ESA invited key experts from Friday for Future and the Imperial College London as well as independent experts.
|Health care||ESA discussed with the World Economic Forum, the Concordia research base in Antartica, the Università Cattolica di Roma and Médecins Sans Frontières the challenges of the health system and the role of space-enabled telemedicine and remote patients monitoring.|
|Post Millennials education and social life||ESA united a school pupil, school teacher, and the International Space University to discuss how national education systems have responded to online schooling, access to communications tools for students and how space can help support education systems.|
|Working efficiently, working remotely||ESA reflected with the BI Norwegian Business School, Ferrari, the “Sapienza” University of Rome, and the Minister of Technological Innovation and Digitalisation of Italy on new working approaches, work-life balance and how space can support smart working solutions.|
|COVID-19: Reinvent your business model||ESA and experts from big businesses, start-up companies, academia and entrepreneurship discussed how we can use space to improve life on Earth and how to build tomorrow’s world (Air France KLM, HEC, Liquifer, and Executive of Founders Future).|
The discussed and analysed sectors dealt as inputs for a prospecting macro-economic analysis on the post COVID-19 era which was carried out in cooperation with HEC Paris. Using scenario planning and uniting space and non-space experts helped defining roadmaps for relevant downstream sectors and related services and applications in the mid- and long-term.
With the purpose of defining strategic roadmaps for the space and non-space community, ESA is preparing two additional studies.
The first report measures the resilience of the European space ecosystem and the impact of the COVID19 over 2020 and 2021 to identify relevant industrial policy measures and to strengthen them. The objective is to quantify and qualify the impact of the COVID crisis on the European space industry at macro level (incl. institutional and commercial activities) and identify the industry’s main weaknesses. Public measures to support the industry through the crisis (short-term and medium-term / national, EU and beyond) will be compiled, analysed and assessed to identify measures that can strengthen the European space industry.
The second report is a multi-disciplinary prospective analysis on the potential impact of the COVID crisis on the general European ecosystem focusing on new geopolitical balances, societal trends and needs, economic schemes as well as financial challenges. The project is lead by the Downstream Gateway in cooperation with the Conservatoire National d’Arts et Metiers (CNAM, Paris). The objective is to better identify potential future scenarios by setting up a think-tank with experts in multiple fields (economy, finance, geopolitics, sociology, psychology, science, medicine, space, among others).
Targeted industry support and economic recovery
ESA also launched initiatives directly supporting companies who could work on innovative solutions tackling the health crisis. Several calls are still open for applications under opportunities.
Measures to ensure business continuity in the European Space industry and in the implementation of ESA Programmes had been taken during the COVID-19 crisis. In order to limit as much as feasible repercussions on the industry, all phases of procurement had been adapted (tendering process, the time-to-contract, the time-to-payment, and the contract execution). Two landing platforms to support access to finance for startups, SMEs and midcaps, in cooperation with the EIB and the EU had been set up after surveying the needs of the European Space industry.
For the first time, ESA has organised the Global Space Economic Workshop (GSEW) online to provide a platform to discuss European industrial projects and the timely response of space-enabled services in times of COVID-19. The recordings can be watched here:
|Opportunities for industry||Opportunities coming from ESA’s Telecommunication and Integrated Applications directorate that seek to enhance industrial projects in the field of healthcare, education and logistic.|
|The value of Earth Observation data during and after the crisis||Highlighting the value of Earth observation data during and after the crisis.|
|Financial tools to overcome the economic crisis||ESA discussed with important European financial bodies how they can work together to help European industry.|
|Solutions proposed by Space||ESA presented a number of innovative projects within industry followed by an inspirational contribution from ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti.|