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Incubating European Industry

The start-up company Active Space Technologies under incubation at ESI is combining a number of space technologies to create a new generation of garments for use in extreme environmental conditions. The project merges advanced technologies from spacesuits, solar cells, batteries, thermal controls, and heating and cooling units to create new garments with built-in autonomous thermal control powered by solar energy. Credits: ESA.
The Netherlands (ESA) Apr 04, 2005
Entrepeneurs with innovative ideas of how to use space technology and systems in non-space sectors can be helped by ESA's European Space Incubator.

Started in 2003, it has already helped to create 25 new start-up companies.

ESA's Technology Transfer Programme (TTP) developed the European Space Incubator (ESI) to make access to finance, business services and office space easier for European entrepreneurs.

It supports selected start-up companies by providing operational services and know-how in a state-of-the-art space environment. ESI is located on the site of ESTEC, the Agency's research and test centre in the Netherlands.

"ESI helps to accelerate business start-ups and acts as a catalyst in creating companies that use space technology and systems in non-space fields," says Pierre Brisson, Head of ESA's Technology Transfer and Promotion Office.

"Over the years, Europe, including ESA and its 16 Member States, together with Canada which is a Cooperating State, has invested more than €150 000 million in space technology research and development.

"This is an enormous resource of innovative technology with a huge potential for use in non-space sectors to improve daily life, increase European industrial production and global competitiveness, and generate new companies and jobs."

Supporting entrepreneurs

There has been an amazing interest in ESI from inventors and around five new proposals are received every month. Each is assessed by an evaluation board consisting of ESI management, ESTEC experts and financial specialists.

The most promising proposals are sent to the ESI selection committee, which meets every three months. So far, of the 35 projects presented to the selection committee, 25 have been chosen, 15 of which are now in the 'incubation phase'. The next 10 should begin in the next few months.

"We can already see the benefits of being located at ESTEC," says Bruno Naulais, ESI Manager.

"The entrepreneurs have easy access to ESA's specialists for advice on how to make the best use of space technology, and to improve and finalise their ideas. It is essential to resolve any problems as early as possible in the process so as to turn ideas into actual viable businesses.

"Now, after two years of operation we can really see how efficient our system works and how well the 15 projects progress. I am convinced we will meet the goal for ESI to start 65 new companies by the end of 2006."

Joining ESI

ESI is now inviting more entrepreneurs to forward proposals for innovative use of space technology.

To be considered, business proposals must exploit space technologies or systems, and target non-space sectors.

In addition they should be in one of the following categories:

  • space technology transfer to launch new and innovative products for non-space markets, e.g. biotechnology, automotive, textile, health, environment sectors
  • new services making use of space systems’ functionality and information for areas such as Earth observation, navigation, localisation, telecommunications
  • generic systems for better use of space systems on Earth, e.g. very small aperture terminals, remote terminal units, fixed and hand-held systems.

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