EU-wide offices boost space research
Different EU nations boast quite varied yet often complementary capabilities in space research, which could be reinforced by strengthening collaboration. Outstanding projects are constantly emerging from EU-led project consortia on every subject, thanks to a solid infrastructure of National Contact Points (NCPs) strategically located in EU nations and beyond. Dedicated NCPs for space research have also been established to foster large, ambitious multi-partner projects under the EU's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7). In a bid to strengthen European space research initiatives, the EU-funded project 'Coordination of space NCPs as a means to optimise services' (Cosmos) upgraded the contact points of 32 countries. The project conducted joint training sessions and oversaw the exchange of experiences among NCPs, in addition to setting up an FP7 space website and helpdesk in order to assist interested parties. This lay the groundwork to organise calls for EU project proposals, a feat accomplished through several information days that enlightened researchers and companies on how to apply for EU funding. These info days were held in a different EU country every time, such as the Czech Republic, Latvia, Poland and the United Kingdom. The vision of joint EU space projects was also bolstered by SpaceEU, an event in Belgium which promoted partnerships and matchmaking among stakeholders, attracting 450 participants from 38 countries. In line with the true definition of Cosmos, which means 'orderly arrangement' in Greek, the project successfully organised space research through the network of space NCPs across the EU. The network also extends to EU Associated Countries and specific international partner countries, opening the door to highly sophisticated space research consortia and projects. Through continued exchange of ideas and best practices, as well as through intensive training, partnership facilitation, organisation of events and dissemination of information, Cosmos achieved its objectives. As a result of these developments, established EU space players such as France can network with smaller, newer EU nations that may have specific or unique technologies and capabilities to share. Thanks to this new, dynamic network of space NCPs, European-led research on the cosmos is destined to go far.