The Open University (OU) is leading the Europlanet 2020 Research Infrastructure (RI) - a ground-breaking €9.9 million pan-European project to help space science institutions across the continent share their facilities and expertise.
Europlanet 2020 RI will support 34 institutions in 19 countries across Europe over a period of four years. The project aims to tackle key scientific and technological challenges in modern space science by providing scientists with open access to state-of-the-art research data, models and facilities across the European Research Area. Nigel Mason, Professor of Physics at The Open University and the project’s coordinator, said, “We are delighted to announce the launch of this new Research Infrastructure. Since the project began in 2005, Europlanet has played an immensely effective role in bringing together the European planetary science community.”
A particular focus of the project will be to foster a closer relationship between industry and academia. Professor Mason added, “In this latest project, we have an ambitious programme of research, access and networking activities. In particular, our focus will be on fostering a closer integration between industry and academia in planetary science, and supporting institutions and partners from countries in early stages of developing planetary research programmes.”
In addition to being the overall lead for the project, the OU has received a grant of €1.2million enabling it to offer its unique facilities to foster joint projects between academics and industry during the life of the project. It will also host workshops to educate industry about what is possible with space technology.
Facilities such as the OU’s NanoSims lab, which enabled the OU to measure space dust (the first time this equipment had been used in this way) to learn more about the origins of the solar systems – will be made available to researchers across Europe via the project. Nigel Mason added: “As a leading research facility for space science in Europe, the facilities and expertise at the OU will play a key role in this project. We hope that not only will this project enable others to access the wealth of research resources across Europe, leading to revolutionary research, but that its outreach activities will also help to inspire the next generation of planetary scientists.”
Europlanet 2020 RI will run for four years (until August 2019) and is funded by the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 programme.