Space Industry Day in Brno
We have already informed you about the establishment of the Brno Space Cluster and the membership of our university in this group of companies and organizations dealing with space research, the use of satellite data and space technologies. Although our university has been a member of the Brno Space Cluster only since August 2021, we strive to be involved in the activities of not only this union, but also other projects with various entities.
A very interesting and inspiring event was hosted by Brno on November 11, 2021 at the Passage Hotel. It was an event organized by several organizations led by Czechinvest, the Ministry of Transport of the Czech Republic, JIC and other partners as part of the larger nationwide Czech Space Week event. This specific event focused on cooperation in the preparation and implementation of space projects in Central Europe, ie in cooperation with the Visegrad Four countries. In addition to a truly inspiring plenary session, the Central Europe Space Industry Day & Brokerage event included information workshops, lectures and very important meetings of individual companies, organizations and alliances with their current or future partners in bilateral meetings. For the invited participants, this event continued in the evening at the Brno Observatory and Planetarium.
On behalf of Mendel University in Brno, Libor Lenža, Head of the Space Agri Technologies laboratory, who is also responsible for representing our university within the Brno Space Cluster, took part in the event. We asked about his observations.
What countries were represented at this event and how many participants gathered at this time?
Representatives from more than twenty countries met here. Of course, the Czech Republic had the largest representation, then logically Hungary, Slovakia and Poland. It was possible to meet representatives not only from most European countries, but also from Israel, for example. In total, more than 350 participants gathered for the event. From our point of view, it is great that our students also took part in this event.
Key institutions such as the Ministry of Transport, Czechinvest, the Association of Aerospace Manufacturers, ESA BIC, etc. were very well represented here. I consider this as a good sign that our state is serious about supporting the space industry.
Our university is mainly focused on agriculture and forestry. So how were we perceived by the other participants in this event?
This year we participated in the event for the first time and presented ourselves there at the Brno Space Cluster stand. Of course, the main goal of our participation was bilateral and multilateral face-to-face meetings, consultations and discussions. These were often organizations and individuals with whom we had cooperated in previous years, for example in the framework of stratospheric experiment projects. What made me very happy is the gradual but clearly visible change in the perception of our university in this area. One of my colleagues, with whom I had the opportunity to talk and discuss, said „Well – we will come up with constructions, software, detectors, systems – but it will be up to you not to starve and enjoy our stay in space at least a little bit.” I think this shows very nicely the shift in the perception of our activities in this area.
What specifically did or can this event bring to our university?
As I have already mentioned, this was our first participation, without a separate stand and presentation, but even so, a number of meetings were very inspiring with a perspective for the future. To be specific, we talked about the possibility of building a joint study area within universities in Brno with a focus on “space”, where not only technical fields, IT fields, fields of natural sciences, but also fields and areas that can be studied at our university, eg food technology, biochemistry, microalgae research, etc. At the moment it is very early to assess the specific benefits, we can talk about it in a few months, but there is a mutual interest in cooperation, preparation of space research projects, microalgae research in space conditions etc. We also talked about the preparation of a feasibility study for the SLAVIA mission, in which our university also participates marginally.
And what about new space research projects in Central European countries?
The countries of Central Europe have a slightly special position and this depends on their overall position within the main leader of the space industry in Europe – ESA (European Space Agency). Most companies in the space industry in these countries have focused mainly on being able to successfully integrate into supply chains within Europe and somewhat forget about working together. I anticipate and hope that this will change and that these states will start cooperating more together. The meeting discussed a possible joint mission that should focus on researching the Moon, especially the areas of depressions and cavities on the Moon’s surface that may serve as the first “dwellings” for the human colonists of our nearest space neighbor.
How do you perceive the perspective of our Department and the entire university in this ever-growing sector?
Very positive and I think we have great potential, but we are really at the beginning. On the other hand, it is crucial that we are – so to speak – already succeeding in working more and better with companies and other institutions operating in the space industry and research. It’s not all at once, but we’re on the right track. Another key element is that our university can offer a number of areas and topics that will apply to the space industry in the broadest sense. From data, their processing and interpretation from remote sensing of the Earth, soil quality monitoring, vegetation cover, forest health, etc., through research into the behavior of the series in the space environment (ie increased radiation, nutritional problems, etc.) and the possibilities of their use as based on the diet of astronauts on long-term missions, to the field of food processing and technology, how and what to store, how to preserve, how to make it edible food again… and I’m far from over.
And what about students and the space industry in a broader context? Is there any interest in this issue?
Yes, from what I perceive and watch around me. I think that many students are interested in more fields and are looking for an intersection between what they enjoy, what they are interested in, and what is applicable in the future labor market and in the economy in general. I believe that by studying fields connected to the area of ”space”, they can find and further develop their intersection between many fields. That is why an initiative is emerging within Brno and its university environment, which should prepare and open study programs in this area in the near future. We are trying to coordinate these activities within the Brno Space Cluster and BUT is the furthest at the moment. However, we want to go further and prepare and open fields related to space sciences and technologies at other universities, including our Mendel University in Brno. If we think about it briefly, we will find a number of useful links between the space industry, satellite construction and operation, sales of information or better services from remote sensing, their use in agronomy, forestry, landscaping, ecology, urban planning, as well such as the field of microalgae, algae or cyanobacteria research in conjunction with the search for an optimal and cost-effective source of nutrition for future astronauts or space base residents. But there is much, much more…
In the future, we would like to offer students a quality background and also an innovative study program connected to the space industry, which will include links with practice and involvement in specific projects, development and innovation.