Guide to applying for 'UK National Delegate' support for the ESA ARTES Programme: Call for proposals – OPSAT VOLT and Lunar Communications – GOV.UK

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Published 22 September 2022

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In September 2021, the UK government announced an ambitious National Space Strategy, with Satcom seen as a key area of focus for the UK.
Building on its long heritage, we need to position Satcom to meet the demands of the digital age, delivering connectivity and supporting ‘always on’ services, regardless of location. Modern life is increasingly connected, with advances in autonomous machines and connectivity needed away from traditional population centres.
To achieve this, we are seeking ideas to help drive innovation in satellite communications and seize opportunities in existing and emerging markets.
The UK subscribed £250m to the ARTES (Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems) programme in 2019 to support the UK satellite telecommunications industry. The programme can cover development of components, systems or services, and any aspect of the space, ground or network segments.
This guidance details how to apply for ‘National Delegate’ support for technology developments under the European Space Agency (ESA) ARTES programme. It should be completed in parallel with the guidance contained in the Expression of Interest form.
Note: This Call will be assessed in partnership with ESA and requires submission of both a UK Space Agency cover application and the ESA ARTES Outline Proposal by the closing date.
Please check the ESA eligibility rules before applying. It is important to note that the process for applying for funding support for Business Applications is different. Further information on the Business Application process can be found here:
Applicants must demonstrate national support prior to applying to ESA. This is called ‘National Delegate support’, as the UK delegates its national support to a named member of staff within the UK Space Agency. This guidance is designed to set out the process for applying for National Delegate support within the call for proposals.
OPS-SAT VOLT (Versatile Optical Laboratory for Telecoms) is an exciting opportunity for UK industry and academia to be at the heart of the creation of the next generation of free space optical and quantum technologies.
This new, proposed testbed, a follow-on mission from OPS-SAT launched in 2019, will seek to develop the foundation platform technologies needed to deliver commercial optical payloads. It will take the next generation of optical and quantum payloads out of the laboratory and demonstrate their capability in space.
The UK is supporting the mission to deliver:
New optical and quantum telecommunication payloads and their integration into commercial systems
New small satellite platforms for optical
Development of optical and quantum ground segment
New commercial business models
This funding call is intended to stimulate UK industry to advance UK capability and experience of operating optical and quantum telecommunications payloads in space.
The mission will consider a broad range of hosted optical and quantum payloads, ranging from optical intersatellite links to experimenting with the operational boundary conditions in different environments. The overarching focus in all applications should be on commercial revenue generation. We are especially interested in projects which represent a step change in operational capability and have a clear path to commercialisation.
We welcome the involvement of international partners if consortiums are able to deliver their proposals by the deadline.
Applications will be scored against six criteria; five ‘general criteria set out in section six, and a sixth criterion specific to this funding call.
For this Call, applications will be scored on the quality of each of the individual elements that make up OPSAT VOLT; including the platform, the payload, the ground segment and the commercial business model.
There should be a well-considered approach that identifies the potential, long-lasting benefits. Applications should demonstrate a good understanding of their target market and detail the projected financial return and how it will be achieved.
New lunar missions will rely on ubiquitous satellite connectivity and navigation services. Hundreds of lunar missions over the next ten years will need consistent, reliable, high-quality connectivity. In time, crewed Lunar missions will see future astronauts expect to stay in touch with friends and families as they make the long journeys to new worlds.
This Call invites UK industry to submit proposals for new technologies and services to support this new and emerging market. Within an envelope of £1.5m, proposals are invited to include space, ground and network segments. Within the ground segment we include both terrestrial and lunar elements.
Applications will be scored against six criteria; five ‘general criteria set out in section six, and a sixth criterion specific to this funding call.
For this Call, applications will be scored on the quality of both the ambition of the programme (including either technological or financial), and how likely the activity is to achieve a successful commercial outcome.
There should be a well-considered approach that identifies the potential, long-lasting benefits. Applications should demonstrate a good understanding of their target market and detail the projected financial return and how it will be achieved.
The Calls for Proposals are open from 22 September 2022 until 4 November 2022. Proposals will only be considered if they are submitted within this period.
Funding Call opens: 22 September 2022.
Deadline for submission of Expressions of Interest: 21 October 2022 at 12 noon GMT.
Deadline for submission of Proposals: 4 November 2022 at 12 noon GMT.
Notification of UK outcomes: January 2023.
Further competition dates will be published on Once a competition is opened, the latest guidance on how to apply, the assessment criteria and eligibility will be available online.
These Calls are being run in coordination with ESA, who will support the review of applications. To enable a timely route to contract, we are asking applicants to submit an Expression of Interest in the first instance and, if successful at that stage, both a UK Space Agency ‘Cover Application Form’ and the ESA Outline Proposal to the UK Space Agency by the competition deadline. Outline Proposals will be passed to ESA who will start assessing proposals using their assessment framework in parallel to UK Space Agency assessment.
This new approach will enable successful applicants to progress their applications at pace. If your proposal is not ready or not mature enough for this timeframe, or you wish to apply for funding to progress activities outside of the themes of the Calls published here, please consider waiting for the next General Call, which is due to be released later in 2022.
There are three steps to applying for National Delegate support:
To apply for National Delegate support, you must submit an Expression of Interest to Please note that the EOI form can be downloaded from the ARTES home page.
This can be submitted at any time up to 12 noon (GMT) on 31 October 2022. However, in order to ensure you have time to submit a proposal, we advise completing the EOI well in advance of the competition deadline. EOIs are considered on a rolling basis, and we aim to respond to all completed submissions within 10 working days.
You may then be invited to submit a completed application by the competition closing date. If you are not successful, you may receive feedback on the reasons why.
You may submit as many EOIs as you want, in response to both feedback and changes to your plans. However, please be mindful of the time it takes the team to review these. Submissions deemed vexatious will not be considered.
Note: You must submit an Expression of Interest before 31 October 2022. If you do not, your proposal will not be considered.
If your EOI is approved, you will be invited to apply for National Delegate support. To do this you must submit a completed ‘Cover Application Form’ and ESA Outline Proposal by the published closing date and time to Forms not sent to this address will not be considered.
We will send you links to the relevant UK Space Agency documents you need to complete. You will also need to submit an ESA Outline Proposal. Further details on forms and how to apply to ESA can be found here.
Applications can be submitted at any time while the competition is live. You will receive an acknowledgement of receipt.
The UK Space Agency will review your application in partnership with ESA. If your application meets the criteria, it will be considered by a panel of experts within the UK Space Agency.
You will be notified of the outcome of your application by email by January 2023. We reserve the right to extend this date or to consider any application under a different programme line if there more suitable funding opportunities are available.
If your ‘Cover Application Form’ and Outline Proposal are approved by the UK Space Agency you will receive provisional National Delegate support.
Once you have received this approval, your proposal can be progressed with ESA. You will be invited to submit a Full Proposal, which requires an ‘Authorisation of Funding’ letter from the UK National Delegate in the UK Space Agency. You will be given details on how to request this if you are successful at Step 2.
Please note: If you do not provide the required information by the date agreed, you may not receive your letter in time.
Once we have provided an ‘Authorisation of Funding’ letter approving your proposal, our support is confirmed. You can then submit your Full Proposal to ESA, who will begin their formal consideration.
We expect you to stay in touch throughout the life of the programme, from contracting to completion. We expect to publicise most funding awards in coordination with winning companies and to be kept informed of any changes or developments for the duration of the project. This ensures we can support you if any adjustments are needed.
We understand that sometimes you may need to change aspects of a project. Where you have existing activities, we encourage you to work with ESA to ensure you have the relevant support to be able to adapt to succeed. Subject to this, we will consider funding minor changes to projects on a rolling basis. However, if you are applying to change or adapt the scope of an existing programme, including adding additional activities, you may need to apply for further funding during an Open Call.
The table below splits out when a new funding request is required:
If you have any questions about the status of an existing project, please contact the team at
Please check the ESA guidance on eligibility criteria under the ARTES Programme. In addition to this, the UK Space Agency will apply the following eligibility criteria:
ARTES is a telecommunications programme. Although this may include projects that support other activities, they should be in the context of telecommunications. Activities that are primarily for another purpose, such as Earth Observation or climate monitoring, will not be supported.
You can find details of other funding programmes for space on the UK Space Agency website.
To be considered for UK National Delegate support, organisations must be UK-based and, for commercial companies, must have a UK registration at Companies House. If you are considering moving to the UK, or you do not have a UK registration, you can seek further guidance from the team at You may partner with non-UK companies, but these must be funded by other ESA Delegates or be self-funded.
Products and services from non-UK suppliers that are considered essential to deliver successful projects may be included in proposals. However, all proposals must demonstrate their value to the UK and non-UK spend requests are unlikely to score highly against other, UK-based activities. Any non-UK spend requests should be clearly stated in your initial application. Late requests will not be considered if they have not been declared and approved at the applications stage.
ESA eligibility on match funding states companies can apply for up to 80% funding for programmes, whereas in the UK two funding limits are available depending on the size of the company applying:
For all large or non-SME companies, including companies who are wholly owned by large companies or groups of companies, or for SMEs undertaking very high-value programmes – up to 50%.
For all other SME companies and activities – we may consider up to 75%.
However, all matched funding decisions remain at the discretion of the UK Space Agency and rates will be applied to individual organisations relative to their individual projects.
Research and technology organisations should follow the ESA criteria on funding.
Regulation, licensing and spectrum use and filing
The UK Space Agency will not fund licensing or regulatory compliance activities, either in the UK or overseas.
We expect to see a viable approach to spectrum use in projects and we will not fund activities that are not supported by current UK Government policy. Where activities involve the novel use of spectrum, we will expect to see evidence of engagement with relevant regulators which demonstrates programmes are viable and are not dependent on a single high-risk or novel use of spectrum.
UK will only support reasonable travel and subsistence costs. No claims for alcohol or entertainment will be accepted.
All projected expenditure must be recorded in the relevant ESA proposal. The UK Space Agency reserves the right not to support projects where costs appear excessive, and any challenges may delay your application to ESA.
If you are in any doubt about what is reasonable you should contact the team.
In addition to delivering against the themed criteria of the Call, all proposals will be considered under five general assessment criteria. Successful bids must demonstrate a successful balance across these criteria, but we reserve the right to consider proposals which are more weighted towards some than others.
All proposals are considered in competition with other proposals received. We reserve the right to fund up to the funding level sought, or less, where we consider the need for the sum requested has not been sufficiently demonstrated.
The general criteria are:
Approach and methodology – there should be a well-considered approach to the project, with clear goals.
Financial return – there should be a strongly demonstrated financial return to the UK space sector, including both to the lead applicant and their partners and supply chains.
Innovation – we will consider whether the goal of the programme is challenging enough to warrant support, as well as whether it is a suitable innovation target. Importantly, innovation can be in product or service development, including design, manufacture or demonstration.
Supply chain – we will consider whether the benefits of the proposal are suitably distributed within a sustainable UK supply chain. We will look to see how the supply chain is incorporated into the project, to ensure maximum benefits. As such, consortium bids will score highly.
Wider benefits – Environmental, Social or Economic – we will consider the wider direct or indirect benefits from the programme, which can be supplemented with case studies or other formats.
If you are unhappy with either the outcome of your application or how the process was managed, or for any other reason, you can make a complaint by contacting the team at Please set out the nature of your complaint in detail. The team will try to resolve a complaint in the first instance but, if resolution is not possible, we will refer it to the UK Space Agency central complaints process, where it will be independently assessed.
If you would like any further information, or have any questions or feedback about this guidance, or would like to join our mailing list to receive updates about future funding opportunities, please contact the team:
Don’t include personal or financial information like your National Insurance number or credit card details.
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