The award ceremony of Telespazio Technology Contest - #T-TeC 2022, the Open Innovation initiative promoted by Leonardo and Telespazio, was held on January 24th, 2023 in Brussels in the frame of the 15th European Space Conference. The contest was open to students and researchers from universities and departments around the world with the goal of promoting space technology innovation among the younger generation, enhancing their ideas and insights, and imagining, together, the technologies that will shape the future.
The awards were presented by Leonardo's Coordinator of Space Activities and CEO of Telespazio, Luigi Pasquali, Leonardo's Chief Technology and Innovation Officer, Franco Ongaro, Telespazio's Head of Innovation and Technology Governance, Marco Brancati, and the Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti. The ceremony was attended by Josef Aschbacher, Director General of the European Space Agency (ESA), and Giorgio Saccoccia, President of the Italian Space Agency (ASI).
Now in its fourth year, the Telespazio Technology Contest – which in 2022 saw the participation of 20 projects from 21 universities in 12 countries – has turned into a start-up incubator. In addition to a cash prize of €10,000, the overall winner - a team from Delft University of Technology (Netherlands) and Observatoire de Paris (France), which presented the "SAFE – System to Avoid Fatal Events" project - will access an acceleration pathway to develop the winning project through Leonardo's Business Innovation Factory (BIF).
The I3P awards
The second prize of the contest, worth €6,000, was awarded to a team from Imperial College (UK), Max Planck Institute (Germany), ETH Zurich (Switzerland), Stanford University (USA) and University of Oxford (UK). The project's name is SPAICE and it aims to support In-Orbit Servicing by means of a solution based on photorealism enhancement techniques, i.e. on improving the realism of the synthetic (computer-generated) images of spatial equipment. Through the use of artificial intelligence, SPAICE provides accurate images necessary for in-orbit operations aimed at approaching and docking a moving object, such as when refuelling or repairing a satellite.
The project will now access a pre-incubation path in I3P, the Innovative Companies Incubator of Politecnico di Torino: after this course, the team may aspire to a place in the ESA incubation program at the Business Incubator Centre of Turin (ESA BIC Turin).
Moreover, a group from Politecnico di Torino, which composes the ORiS project team currently pre-incubated in I3P, received a prize introduced this year as a novelty, namely the Test-it Award.
In the opinion of the jury, the "Constellation architecture in lunar orbit for energy wireless transmission on the Moon" project from the ORiS team is ready for a “proof of concept” financed by Leonardo with the technical collaboration of Telespazio. This will provide the young entrepreneurial team with the tools and resources to move from the idea to experimenting and verifying the design in a laboratory.
The role of Open Innovation
This initiative is one of the activities promoted by Leonardo for Open Innovation: a sharing of innovation that has taken on a key role in promoting new ideas and opportunities, with a long-term vision set out in the Be Tomorrow – Leonardo 2030 strategic plan.
“The latest Telespazio Technology Contest constitutes both a confirmation and a change of pace in the history of this contest," commented Luigi Pasquali, Leonardo's Coordinator of Space Activities and CEO of Telespazio. "For the first time, we have decided to promote an outright pre-incubation and acceleration pathway that will help the most deserving projects to become real, tangible solutions, capable of contributing to the growth of the Space Economy. Today, we intend to reward innovative ideas from students and researchers involving frontier technologies, while increasingly respecting the concept of sustainability also in the space sector.”
“Research and innovation are at the heart of our activities. In this regard, strengthening a shared innovation model is essential if we are to find solutions that can enhance our product and service offering," said Franco Ongaro, Leonardo's Chief Technology and Innovation Officer. "Initiatives such as #T-TeC help establish a direct channel with talented young people, start-ups and universities. We wish to strengthen our open innovation system which, for Leonardo, currently consists in collaborations with more than 90 universities and research centres worldwide. We can count around 400 ongoing research projects, more than 90 PhDs funded in 2022, and over 100 researchers working at the Leonardo Labs, the company’s research laboratories dedicated to frontier technologies.”