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Three Slovenian experts seconded to the European Space Agency

  • Ministry of Economic Development and Technology

Based on the Association Agreement between Slovenia and the European Space Agency (ESA), which enables employment of Slovenian citizens in the ESA, three Slovenian experts will be seconded to the ESA centre in Noordwijk in the Netherlands for up to one year.

A satellite in space. | Author ESA

The selected experts come from the companies Cosylab and Balmar and the Jožef Stefan Institute – Planica Nordic Centre, and were chosen through the ESA selection procedure that was completed in December 2019. The experts will be seconded to the European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESA ESTEC), where they will work in the fields of general support technology programmes (GSTP), human-robot interaction research (HRH), software systems and functional verification, materials, processes and human research.

 "I believe that the secondment of Slovenian experts to the ESA will have a positive impact on the country’s reputation, and is an excellent opportunity to exchange and upgrade knowledge, and establish new business connections," highlighted Minister Zdravko Počivalšek and added: "I am certain that it will also contribute to further enhancement of the space sector in Slovenia. The Ministry’s objective is to increase the role of the Slovenian business sector within the ESA and the global space sector, whereby strengthening international cooperation is of key importance."

Slovenia constantly upgrades cooperation with the ESA

 In compliance with its competences and potentials of the business sector and development and research institutions, Slovenia is constantly upgrading its cooperation with the ESA. Since the ESA Council meeting at ministerial level, which took place in November 2019, Slovenia has been participating in two new programmes. In addition to the existing cooperation in the general support technology programme (GSTP), the Earth observation programme (EO), and the PRODEX scientific programme, Slovenia also participates in the Future EO programme, and the European Exploration Envelope Programme (E3P). Based on the latter, companies and institutions involved in breakthrough technologies, where Slovenia is at the very top of the development, can now cooperate with the ESA, including companies that do not usually deal with space, but develop innovative technologies and products such as propulsion systems, sensors, electronics, 3D printing, robotics etc. The procedures to conclude an upgraded association agreement with the ESA and draft the Act on Supervision of Space Activities are currently underway.

The selected experts present an exceptional opportunity for long-term cooperation with the ESA

The Cosylab company decided to second an expert to the ESA because they are aware of the substantial contribution that such secondments have for long-term business cooperation with the ESA. Nejc Smrkolj Koželj will receive new knowledge at the ESA ESTEC and enhance cooperation between the company and the ESA. He will continue his work on an extremely promising project, which the company has been developing for the ESA since 2018.

Balmar d.o.o. from Celje decided to second Dr Simon Malej. He will commence his work on 1 March at the Materials and Processes Section (TEC-MSP), which is under the auspices of the Mechanical Engineering Department. During his secondment, he will continue his research that is currently being implemented through the Institute of Metals and Technology (IMT) in Ljubljana.

In March, the Jožef Stefan Institute will post a member of the Department of Automation, Biocybernetics and Robotics, Dr Adam C. McDonnell, Slovenian of Irish descent, to a one-year secondment, where he will participate in the ESA programme for human-robot interaction research. In addition to activities for installing a centrifuge to conduct research in space physiology and medicine in the Planica lab of the Jožef Stefan Institute, Dr McDonnell will help coordinate research at the Concordia research station in Antarctica. His work will contribute greatly to the development and international recognition of the Planica lab of the Jožef Stefan Institute. The Planica lab will thus become one of the three centres in Europe for space physiology and medicine.