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ESA looks at how to catch a space entrepreneur
by Staff Writers
Paris (ESA) Nov 30, 2016

ESA at Junction hackathon 2016. Image courtesy Junction hackathon 2016

Now is the time to start up. Businesses, providers and enablers are clamouring to get their start-up support messages out there. Entrepreneurship is a healthy and growing force. And, with so much investment in this area, the conditions have never been riper to take your ideas further and into business. Our Nordic neighbours are rapidly becoming the embodiment of start-up spirit, providing not only the opportunities but the incentives as well.

With countless innovative applications using space technology just waiting to happen, at what point do you capture the imagination of an entrepreneur? Luckily, encouraging space-connected entrepreneurship and innovation is exactly what we do.

We recycle space knowhow and facilitate its use in new applications, bringing space back down to Earth. A focus is to develop and support initiatives that make space commercially interesting to explore and accessible to businesses and entrepreneurs.

App challenges, or hackathons, are one such initiative. These events are an excellent way to get to know about space. They also happen to be a perfect place to spark start-up ideas. This year we were at Junction, a two-day, round-the-clock design event for some 1400 hackers, creatives and developers to build an off-the-wall app.

Held in Finland, Junction is Europe's largest hackathon, attracting some of the brightest minds around.

Naturally keen to see what they could do, ESA's Earth Observation Directorate provided an Application Programming Interface (API) based on the Copernicus Earth observation satellite images to test skills. To make it even more interesting, the Finnish Geospatial Research Institute offered APIs based on the global navigation satellite system.

We even offered incubation in our business centres as a prize for entrepreneurs wanting to do more with their space-connected ideas.

Developers flew in from more than 50 countries, and teamed up on the 350 applications developed during the two days and two nights.

For many at Junction it was the first time they'd ever had a chance to 'play' with space data. Participants were eager to learn new skills. More than expected picked up the space challenge and we were rewarded with some innovative applications.

Winners of the two ESA Arctic Special Prizes were Austria's HoloAstic and Spain's HeraSpace.

HoloAstic proposed a combined transport logistics and navigation solution with virtual reality in a platform to raise efficiency, using Earth observation imagery to provide realtime route updates.

HeraSpace proposed an app for optimising ocean fishing standards and best practices. Combining Copernicus satellite data with actual fishing data, fishing routes and selection could eventually be drastically improved.

Particularly interesting were the features aimed at supporting sustainable exploitation of Arctic resources.

When ideas lead to more ideas
On the frontline, of course, entrepreneurs see the opportunities and developing the products. High on our agenda is matching these entrepreneurs and industry with space technologies.

Space is a steady source of business improvement, offering huge potential and proven to optimise your results. We'll provide the infrastructure for you to turn your ideas into a business reality.

With such an up and coming start-up scene in the Nordic countries, it's no surprise that Slush is taking place 30 November - 1 December in Helsinki, Finland. Originally a "student-driven movement founded to change the attitudes toward entrepreneurship", Slush has become an internationally acclaimed event. Some 20 000 are expected to attend this year.

Attracting the likes of Steve Jurvetson (partner at DFJ), Danae Ringelmann (co-founder of Indiegogo) and Niklas Zennstrom (co-founder of Skype and Atomico) as keynote speakers, the very core of Slush is to promote founder and investor meetings and to build a world-wide start-up community.

This philosophy runs exceedingly close to home - but our extra factor, however, is space. From sparking space interest to supporting start-ups, we look at how space can work at every entry level. You can hear this for yourself at Slush as Frank Salzgeber, Head of ESA's Technology Transfer Programme Office, discusses innovation.

Interested? Look for us at the event and let's find out how space can lift your business off the ground - or how a start-up using space technology can be your next big investment ticket.

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