Luxembourg just entered a strategic partnership with the European Space Agency (ESA) to create a “European Space Resources Innovation Centre”, called ESRIC in abbreviated form. Unique of its kind, ESRIC aims to become an internationally recognised centre of expertise for scientific, technical, business and economic aspects related to the use of space resources for human and robotic exploration, as well as for a future in-space economy.
Based in Luxembourg, ESRIC will partner with public and private international players in this field to create a hub of excellence for space resources in Europe. The creation of ESRIC was part of the Luxembourg government initiative SpaceResources.lu launched in 2016 to establish an ecosystem favorable to the development of activities related to the exploration and use of space resources.
ESRIC’s activities will focus on space resources research and development, drawing together excellence from public research and its facilities, with private sector initiative and efficiency. The centre will also contribute to economic growth by supporting commercial initiatives and start-ups, offering a business incubation component and enabling technology transfer between space and non-space industries.
On 18 November 2020, an implementation agreement concerning cooperation activities at ESRIC was signed between the Ministry of the Economy, as the supervisory body of the Luxembourg Space Agency (LSA), the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST), a leading mission-driven research and technology organisation, and ESA. The Centre is embedded in Luxembourg’s space ecosystem, which is promoted and supported by LSA. ESRIC is operated and hosted by LIST. Among others, ESA will provide equipment, implement research activities at ESRIC and give technical and business support to the business incubator.
When signing the agreement, the Luxembourg Minister of Economy Franz Fayot said: “ESRIC is the first research, business and innovation centre wholly focused on the utilisation of resources which you can find in space. Mission-driven research and applications, best-in-class talent and state-of-the-art facilities unique in Europe are the keys to success. We cannot do this alone. Therefore, we work closely with leading players in the space industry.”
Jan Wörner, the ESA Director General, stated: “"I warmly welcome the strategic partnership between ESA and Luxembourg in establishing ESRIC, a one-of-a-kind centre dedicated to research and innovation in the field of space resources. I have been closely following the Luxembourg initiative on space resources since its very inception and I am very happy to see ESA Member States driving new endeavours and a concrete outcome. This what makes Europe stronger and more competitive and I would like to thank all those who made this strategic partnership possible.”
Present at the signing ceremony, the Minister of Higher Education and Research Claude Meisch, supervising the public research centre LIST said: “The strong commitment of LIST to ESRIC is concretized with the investment of around 3 million euros in the next five years allowing ESRIC to become, within LIST the internationally recognised centre of expertise for scientific, technical, business and economic aspects related to the use of space resources for human and robotic exploration.”
Thomas Kallstenius, CEO of LIST commented: “LIST’s mission consists of pushing the frontiers in research for high-impact innovation. ESRIC entirely fits into this, and we are delighted to welcome this new team as a new department within LIST. We have already conducted several high-level research projects in the space sector, and we have identified many potential synergies between ESRIC and our other research departments. For us, the dual use of technologies -in space and on earth- will be of great interest in the coming years.”