WASHINGTON — Hungary, the most recent addition to the 22-nation European Space Agency, has joined the agency’s technology transfer program in a move aimed at increasing the country’s involvement with ESA and stemming brain drain to other parts of the world.
ESA said Jan. 13 that Hungary is now the 16th country to join the agency’s Technology Transfer Program, which explores ways to spin off space technology for terrestrial applications.
Hungary signed an agreement to become a member of ESA in February 2015, and officially joined the agency that November. In December 2016, Hungary contributed 20.6 million euros ($22 million) at a meeting of ESA’s ministerial council in Lucerne, Switzerland. That accounts for 0.2 percent of the 10.3 billion euros ($11 billion) raised for European space programs for the next few years at the meeting, according to a report from the German Aerospace Center DLR.
Along with the modest financial contribution, the technology transfer program appears to be one of Hungary’s first steps toward greater involvement with ESA as an official member. ESA said the program will begin with a three-year cooperative effort aimed at giving Hungarian startups a boost in applying space technology to other fields.
Hungary’s Ministry of National Development praised the decision to join ESA in 2015, saying that full membership would let Hungarian businesses and academic centers join larger projects and, in addition to increasing employment, “helps to convince highly-skilled teams of professionals to stay in Hungary.”
“Our top priority duties are to secure the prosperity of our country and increase the efficiency of industrial production, with [the] space industry an important tool to help reach these goals,” Dr. Károly Balázs Solymár, deputy state secretary of infocommunications at Hungary’s Ministry of National Development, said in a Jan. 13 statement. “A new opportunity is now open for Hungarian companies to make their top technology developments serve these objectives, both inside and outside the country.”
Through a cooperation agreement with ESA — a structure preceding full membership that Hungary had in place since 1991 — the country did participate with the intergovernmental agency on various programs. Hungary’s Ministry of National Development tallied 125 ESA contracts during the country’s past 12 years as a cooperative member state.
The Hungarian Space Board, an office within the Ministry of National Development, will act as the broker for the Technology Transfer Program. The Hungarian Academy of Sciences’ Wigner Research Centre for Physics in Budapest will function as the national technology transfer point.