Marcell Tessenyi (Blue Skies Space Ltd) and Jeronimo Bernard-Salas (ACRI-ST) discuss the mutual benefits for industry and academia in developing collaborations.
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Increasing interactions between the planetary science community and industry, in particular small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), can lead to numerous opportunities and synergistic relationships.
The expertise of planetary scientists in a broad array of disciplines, from atmospheric research to machine learning, can help industry to explore new product applications and markets, whilst industry’s focus on maximising commercial value from projects can support academics in accelerating and extending the impact of their work.
Space-related innovations can have global significance, and SMEs can be an important link in channelling these innovations to the economy of participating countries and into everyday life. Industry-academic collaborations can open new doors for funding, broadening eligibility for grants and participation in programmes, as well as co-funding of staff and PhDs. These partnerships can also facilitate pathways for academics that wish to transition to industry careers and provide opportunities for graduates and doctoral candidates to be involved in applied space research and innovation activities with an industry perspective.
The success of the Horizon 2020 EXPLORE project is one recent example of what is possible when industry, with its product-orientated vision, combines with academics’ expertise in innovative, complex processes. EXPLORE has received 2 million Euros of funding from the European Commission to develop scientific data applications using state-of-the-art Artificial Intelligence (AI) and visual analytics to enhance science return and discovery from planetary and space science data. Technical developments from the project will be adopted into the commercial partner’s product line and will potentially provide additional products and services for the industry.
The EXPLORE consortium has largely come about through collaborations developed in the Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure (RI) programme, which has demonstrated how fostering industry and academic interactions is central to the work of Europlanet in supporting the community. To facilitate the formation of more such partnerships, a company database that includes up-to-date technical domains and contact details for private sector organisations with an interest in planetary research is being developed by the Europlanet industry team and validated through the Europlanet Society’s network of Regional Hubs.
Networking events and workshops organised in collaboration with the Regional Hubs, the annual Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC), and the Europlanet policy team, all provide opportunities to bring together academics, industry and policymakers, and for the planetary community to get involved. These activities put emphasis on the involvement of under-represented countries, linking them to leading European technological partners and, overall, widening participation in European planetary research and innovation.