Satellite image UK

European Space Agency Message - multiple calls

Space Is Open For Business - with significant funding opportunities for local SMEs

The City Innovation Unit in Belfast City Council has strong ties with the European Space Agency, our dedicated business ambassador for Scotland and Northern Ireland, Pamela Anderson has a clear message for NI SMEs 'Space Is Open for Business'.

Pamela Anderson

The vision of ESA Business Applications is to improve the lives of people on Earth through Space. We make this possible by enabling and supporting businesses in the short-term commercialisation and application of Space data and technology for everyday services.

Our objectives include:

  • Promotion of space applications to a wider range of users, especially those who are not aware of the benefits that space technologies can bring to them
  • Development of new operational services for these users, involving a broader participation by actors on both the demand and supply sides

If you are a business operating in one of these sectors: 

And interested or already working in:

    • Satellite Communications
    • Earth Observation
    • Satellite Navigation
    • Human Spaceflight technologies
    • and others

The ESA challenge programme may be for you.

Challenge calls

As with City Innovation, the ESA Business Applications always start from a set of user needs that relate to a specific problem or opportunity, rather than starting from a particular technological solution.

ESA Business Applications offers funding and support to businesses from any sector who intend to use space (satellite navigation, earth observation, satellite telecommunication, space weather, space technologies) to develop new commercial services.

Applications are open all year: businesses can either apply to a thematic opportunity (see list below) or submit an open application (Call for Proposals).


Kick-start Activities

Big Data in Health Kick-start

Invitation to Tender      Opening date: 02 October 2018      Closing date: 13 November 2018

‘Big Data in Health’ revolves around the idea of developing new modes of healthcare delivery and associated commercial services.

Asia-Pacific Kick-Start

Intended Tender      Opening date: 14 November 2018      Closing date: 14 January 2019

The Asia-Pacific Region is a dynamic region which presents excellent growth opportunities for international cooperation.

Virtual and Augmented Reality Kick-Start

Intended Tender      Opening date: 15 January 2019      Closing date: 25 February 2019

Virtual and Augmented Reality technologies are an emerging market and offer a range of new visualisation capabilities and more intuitive, descriptive interactions compared to traditional screen based applications.


Space and Biotechnology

Invitation to Tender      Opening date: 22 October 2018      Closing date: 21 January 2019

Biotechnology can benefit from using space-based data and other space capabilities. From plant-science to bio-crime, apply here with your commercially viable innovative solutions.

Unmanned Maritime Systems (UMS)

Invitation to Tender      Opening date: 03 September 2018      Closing date: 08 November 2018

We're looking for business cases related to all the ecosystem of unmanned maritime vehicles. Maritime surveillance, demining operations, environmental monitoring, logistic and maintenance.

Direct Negotiation (CALL FOR PROPOSALS)

ESA & 5Groningen Opportunity

Invitation to Tender

Space has an invaluable role to play in the 5G space. ESA and 5Groningen are working together to enable you to be a part of the future in 5G ecosystem.

Feasibility Studies

Direct Negotiation (Call for Proposals)

Feasibility Studies provide the preparatory framework to identify, analyse and define new potentially sustainable applications and services within the ESA Business Applications programme.

Demonstration Projects

Direct Negotiation (Call for Proposals)

The output of Demonstration Projects shall be a pre-operational service responding to well identified user needs and requirements and should show a clear potential to become sustainable at the conclusion of the project with ESA.


'Amazing spaces, Smart places' £120,000 SBRI

Is your organisation interested in working with us to use innovative digital tech to help us to better manage our urban parks and open spaces?

Contracts of up to £20,000 will be awarded for a period of four months to successful applicants.

We are particularly interested in how we can make our open spaces safer for citizens while keeping them accessible and ensuring that we respect the privacy of our users. (Read the challenge brief to find out more.)

The competition is in the form of a Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) and is focused mainly on Belfast (Northern Ireland) but there may also be opportunities to develop proofs of concepts in the Dublin (Rep. of Ireland) as well.

SBRI competitions are open to all organisations within the EU (not just SMEs). Your application should be able to demonstrate tech innovation related to the challenge, and show a potential route to market for your ideas.

  • Competition opened: 18 October 2018 
  • Application deadline: 14 November 2018 (12 noon GMT)
  • All selected projects must be completed by: 31 March 2019

Come talk to us!

We're holding three information sessions for interested organisations. If you can make it, please do come along. (If you can't make it, drop us an email and we can arrange to have a chat instead):

  • 1pm to 2pm (BST) 23 October, Catalyst Inc, Fintech Hub, Donegall Square West, Belfast
  • 1pm to 2pm (GMT) 29 October, Ormeau Baths, 18 Ormeau Avenue, Belfast
  • 1pm to 2pm (GMT) 7 November, Innovation Factory, 385 Springfield Road, Belfast

How do you apply?

You need to register with the Northern Ireland Government E-Tendering system where you will find the application form and full background details.  We strongly recommend that you register even if you are still only considering whether to apply because if we make any changes to the competition, we can let you know right away. E-Sourcing Northern Ireland

For your convenience, you can also download copies of the competition documents from the links below. But please bear in mind, the latest, most up-to-date, official copies of all documents are on the E-Sourcing site. Really, do yourself a favour and register - it will only take five minutes!

If you have any questions email us:

Belfast City Council and the Department of Justice have been granted £100,000 for this competition. Belfast City Council is adding a further £10,000 while Dublin City Council is potentially contributing £10,000 bringing the total funding pot to £120,000.

Staged payments will be made on satisfactory completion of each element of the work.

Rise Sculpture at broadway roundabout in Belfast, a huge white sphere within a sphere

£11.5 Million full fibre investment

Belfast is to receive £11.5 million from the government’s Local Full Fibre Network (LFFN) challenge fund to boost the city's digital connectivity.

The funding will allow us to install an extensive fibre network connecting 100 council buildings, and areas of the city set to benefit from local regeneration.

With the need for faster connectivity expected to dramatically increase over the coming years, the LFFN programme aims to leverage local and commercial investment in full fibre.

We do this by funding projects that stimulate the market by making the deployment of gigabit-capable full fibre infrastructure more commercially viable.

The successful projects could include:

  • Using hospitals, health centres and GP surgeries as ‘anchor tenants’ providing a full-fibre hub which surrounding homes and businesses can then also be connected to.
  • Upgrading schools, libraries and emergency response buildings to gigabit-capable full fibre connections.
  • Strategic re-purposing of existing infrastructure, allowing full fibre to be rolled out at a fraction of what it would otherwise cost.
  • Creating “fibre spines” along major transport routes and public building networks. These extend a supplier’s fibre footprint, making full fibre connections more available to surrounding homes and businesses.

The LFFN programme is part of the Government’s £31 billion National Productivity Investment Fund aimed at improving productivity, this is key to raising living standards.

A main focus of the government’s Industrial Strategy is ensuring the right connectivity is in place for the for the UK’s digital economy to thrive, and the LFFN programme forms a vital part of this work.

£145,000 Internet of Things funding

We have been funded to deploy a free-to-use LORAWAN network across the region. The Things Connected NI network will provide the basic infrastructure for local businesses to experiment, design and test new Internet of Things (IoT) devices and services. (Closed 28 July 2018)

We are working with Ulster University’s NIBEC and the Digital Catapult to establish the Things Connected programme across Northern Ireland. Along with other Northern Ireland local councils, we have  created £145,000 of competition funds to encourage local businesses to find innovative ways to use the network to address a range of challenges across the region such as urban living, transport, smart buildings, manufacturing, digital media, tourism, agriculture and healthcare.

We launched the competition in Belfast City Hall on 9 May 2018.

Along with access to the network, Ulster University, Belfast City Council and others will also be offering companies practical support in terms of technology design, IoT cloud analytics and business development.

The IoT sector has massive growth potential over the next decade, and we want to encourage our businesses to find out how they can best exploit this technology for competitive advantage. This technology has the power to not only catapult local technology companies but also transform how traditional businesses operate.

To get started, please join the Things Connected network here  (It's free to join and will help you understand more about the potential of this technology.)

Daytime harbour and docklands Belfast

€230,000 SBIR challenge: Last mile urban freight

€230,000 challenge for companies interested in working with us and other partners to find new ways to enhance the efficiency of commercial goods deliveries in both urban centres.

Phase one of this competition is now closed.

This Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) challenge is supported by funding from Enterprise Ireland and will run in two phases.

1.    Phase One (Summer 2018) will provide funding of up to 12,500 for four or five companies to develop initial proofs of concepts that seek to understand the impact of goods deliveries on both cities and explore ideas for new ways of working.

2.    Phase Two (Autumn 2018 to Spring 2019) will provide further funding between 50,000 and 100,000 for one to two companies to take a number successful ideas forward to a proto-typing stage.

The changing nature of urban economies, supply chain management, and the impact of online retail has had an impact on the type and volume of goods deliveries in city centres. This in turn has had an impact on the wider urban environment in terms of air quality, traffic management and infrastructure.

Both cities wish to explore what is still a poorly understood area and wish to engage with companies with innovative proposals. We are also working the NI Department for Infrastructure, UPS, local retailers, the NI Freight Transport Association and others.

Full details of the challenge can be found at

We are eager for Belfast companies to enter this competition and are working with Invest NI to offer you support.