New R&D Funding for GNSS focuses on applications and market development

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22 November 2010

Opening the event, Heike Wieland, the Acting Director of the GSA, underlined that it was an exciting time for the GNSS sector with the on-going development of the European systems and the latest round of EU funding for research and development.

Representatives from the European institutions, industry and research communities highlighted the wide range of benefits that GNSS will bring for consumers, companies and society at large – new and better services, improvements to business operations and greater efficiency and security for public authorities.


The EU is carrying out a range of activities in addition to FP7 funding to ensure the development of Galileo services as early as possible. Edgar Thielmann, from the European Commission’s DG Enterprise, gave more details of the EU’s GNSS applications action plan announced in June this year.

The Growing Galileo 2010 event ©Neil MacleanThe Growing Galileo 2010 event ©Neil Maclean

The plan emphasises the need for more investment in research and development for applications based on EGNOS and Galileo, he said, with 24 concrete actions to address priority areas in the period up to 2013.

Actions include certification and standardisation, fund raising, regulatory measures and information campaigns, he said.

Improving combined service and synergies between Galileo, GMES, GEOSS and telecommunications programmes are also a priority, he added.


The Open Skies Technologies Fund, which is providing €100 million funding for start up businesses in space-related technologies and satellite applications, is a good example of an initiative trying to achieve these aims.

Bernd Geiger from Triangle Ventures presented the opportunities available under the fund, which they launched with the European Space Agency (ESA) in March this year. “We want to build new businesses with the potential for fast growth,” he said.

However, he reminded delegates that good research or innovative technologies are not enough on their own. “You need to understand market dynamics,” he said. “You need a strong vision of a product that can change the way people work or live.”


Another initiative to create synergies and support ground-breaking research is the European Satellite Navigation Competition. Thorsten Rudolph, Managing Director of the Applications Centre (Anwendungszentrum GmbH) in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany gave an update on the competition, which now makes available over €1 million in cash and prizes annually to the most promising applications.

He said that 2010 had seen a record number of responses, with 357 applications submitted for innovation in the safety of life, mass market and professional sectors.


Xavier Bertinchamps, PRS Technical Officer at the GSA outlined the role of security in the EU’s GNSS programme. The Public Regulated Service (PRS) due to be in service by 2014/15 will be an encrypted signal used by European governmental agencies, including police, emergency services and the military.

He pointed out that PRS was relevant for three of the current calls said that now was the time to develop applications using the service. He pointed to several drivers that meant security applications would be increasingly important in future – the raising of threats; increasing dependency on GNSS; and a continued general trend towards more security.

Relevant collaborative projects included increasing the marketing potential for PRS and research and development focused on technological gaps in PRS Receivers, he added.

Growth potential

“Successful market development will increase the size of the market and increase the EU’s share of it,” said Gian-Gherardo Calini, Head of the Market Development Department at the GSA.

Calini estimated that the GNSS market will grow by around 11 percent per year over the next decade. He said that by 2020, the core GNSS market – products directly related to GNSS such as chipsets, maps, navigation software – would be worth €165 bn, whilst the ‘enabled’ market – for instance mobile phones or other handheld devices ­­– would be around €244 bn.

Road and Location-Based Services (LBS) would be the highest revenue generating sectors, he added, along with aviation and agriculture.

Further development

Fiametta Diani, Market Development Officer at the GSA for high precision and road applications, agreed that there were huge potential markets with estimates that 290 million vehicles will have GNSS capabilities by 2020.

“Now is the time to invest in the services market,” she said. “There are large areas that have not been developed yet,” she added.

These included in logistics areas such as tracking, co-modality, remote vehicle diagnostics and fleet management (telematics) as well as mass market services such as paperless insurance, real time applications such as re-routing and traffic and weather information, she added.

She also outlined the potential for high precision GNSS applications in sectors such as construction, natural resource extraction and mapping applications as well as to extending its use in agriculture, for instance in automatic steering applications or supporting systems for CAP reporting where the integrity of information is crucial.

The FP7 third call in focus

This was the third Growing Galileo event, with this year’s focus on the third call for GNSS research under the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme for research (FP7) announced in July.

Boris Kennes, R&D and Market Monitoring Officer at the GSA, gave more details of priorities. “We’re looking for projects that can accelerate the adoption of GNSS technologies and prepare markets for EGNOS and Galileo.”

The series of calls for proposals make a total of €30.5 million covering eight topics in the area of satellite navigation. A further €6.5 million will be used for several calls for a tender that will be published early 2011.

For proposals to develop applications, which account for up to 50% of the total funding, there are four key topic areas:

  1. Professional applications, including using PRS;
  2. Safety Of Life applications (SoL) for all transport modes;
  3. Scientific applications and innovative applications in new domains; and
  4. Innovative applications/ SMEs for mass market and in niche sectors [including PRS applications], to be mainly provided by SMEs.

The emphasis is on mature and commercially-viable research, said Kennes, with potential for immediate impact. “We give lots of flexibility for industry to come up with ideas.

Helping SMEs

Kennes outlined the novel elements in the latest call, particularly measures to make it easier for SMEs to take part. A budget of €10 million has been dedicated to using Galileo and EGNOS services for mass market and niche sectors, which is targeted at SMEs and research institutions. However, Kennes emphasised that SMEs were encouraged to take part in other topics as well.

The new two-stage evaluation process should make it easier for SMEs to participate, said Kennes. At the first stage, which ends on 5 October, coordinators are only asked to submit a brief “concept proposal” of less than 10 pages. Successful consortia will then be invited to participate in the second stage and to complete a full proposal by 13 January 2011.

“It should lower the barrier of entry to make it easier for smaller companies to submit a proposal,” he said. “If you are invited to the second stage you know that you have a good chance of success.”

Another aspect that should help smaller organisations is that financial aspects of the programme had been optimised to ensure funding granted faster than previously, Kennes said. “The aim is to get the funding to recipients within four months after the final proposal.”

The funding levels in this call for collaborative projects are slightly lower than in the previous two calls (e.g., for RTD: 60% instead of 75% for SMEs and research institutions and 40% instead of 50% for non SMEs). This reduction will enable more projects to be funded with the limited budget available, said Kennes, as well as emphasising the need for genuine commercial potential.

The third call also puts an emphasis on “supporting a community of developers” said Kennes, “Together with the Commission we’re developing open source tools that will help to make synergies” These tools include the EGNOS toolkit, virtual library and a series of market reports, as well as a new service to advise small companies which will be launched next year.

“Now we also want to shift the focus to applications using Galileo, “continued Kennes. “It is worth thinking about how you can incorporate Galileo capabilities into projects.” He said Galileo simulators are already available for testing, along with the GIOVE satellites already in orbit, the launch of he 4 IOV satellites is expected to start next year.

Safety of life

With the SoL signal to become operational by the end of the year, it is time to start making additional applications to utilise its capabilities in transport, particularly for sectors such as aviation, said Carmen Aguilera, Market Development Project Officer at the GSA, “EGNOS can save large amounts of money by replacing fixed infrastructure and making operations more efficient,” she said.

Demonstration projects have shown that EGNOS provides the same performance as the standard Instrument Landing System (ILS) required at commercial airports, but at a fraction of the costs, she said. The annual savings for the industry are nearly €2.4 bn, she estimated.

She said that the extra integrity of the SoL signal also offered much potential for applications in other transport sectors including in areas such as inland waterways navigation; tracking of dangerous good; freight management; train management and advanced driving assistance systems (ADAS).

Receiver technologies

Meanwhile, Ignacio Fernandez from the European Commission’s DG Enterprise highlighted the Commission's strategy in the development of GNSS receivers. Fernandez said that GNSS receivers are a key part of the navigation chain, as they are the link between satellite signals and PNT services.

The Commission is launching several initiatives to stimulate the development of specific technologies to support the introduction of Galileo and EGNOS services. In addition the Commission aims to further enhance GNSS receiver knowledge within the EU and increase EU competitiveness in worldwide markets, he added.

Supporting activities

Jean Yves Roger from the European Commission, DG Enterprise highlighted the continued importance of collaboration with 3rd countries. He explained the Commission's international strategy on GNSS and specific activities to implement this strategy.

Reinhard Blasi, Market Development Officer at the GSA, explained the initiatives to support education, research and innovation in GNSS that are an integral part of this call. He also emphasised that it is Europe's intention to set up user forums in order to give the market opportunities to steer the GNSS programs in a more structured way.

In the same session, Werner Enderle presented various initiatives by the European Commission to study the future of the Galileo system.

Project ideas

The conference gave researchers and businesses the opportunity to network and find partners to collaborate. The event ended with a long series of presentations of project ideas by potential coordinators. The ideas ranged from parking management systems to navigation systems for small aircraft or outdoor sports enthusiasts. More receiver-oriented ideas included smart MEMS antennas and indoor solutions.

With a wealth of new ideas such as these and a full capacity audience, the event closed on an optimistic note. Exciting times indeed for the GNSS sector.

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Updated: Sep 01, 2014