ESA/EC to 'boost' space-related entrepreneurs

September 16, 2002

Paris, 13 Sep 2002

European entrepreneurs using space technology and systems now have a better chance of starting up in business thanks to the European Space Incubators Network (ESINET), launched this summer by the European Space Agency (ESA) and the European Commission (EC).

It is Europe's first network of space business incubation centres at at present includes 20 incubators in 12 European countries. With 33,000 employees and an annual turnover of €5.5 billion, the space sector generates many technologies and systems, which can be used by entrepreneurs to develop new products and new value-added services for use in the non-space sectors.

"This is good news for small businesses in the space industry. European SMEs are uniquely positioned to turn innovative research ideas into successful commercial products," said EU Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin at the launch of ESINET in July. "Networking initiatives such as ESINET are part of our effort to build a critical mass of scientific and technological excellence at EU level, in order to create a true European research area."

Through networking small European companies are transferring new space technologies to other industry sectors. Start-up and spin-off companies are often created as a result of international cooperation.

"ESA has already been fostering many new start-up companies active in space and space related fields, such as technology transfer, telecommunication and Earth observation satellite data exploitation," says Bruno Naulais, European Space Incubators Network Manager at ESA. "Our Technology Transfer Programme alone has, over the past four years, been the source of more 25 new small companies in Europe."

"With the introduction of ESINET, which includes the European Space Incubator (ESI) located near ESTEC, we want to be an active catalyst in the creation of new and innovative businesses using space technology and/or space systems in non-space sectors, and to accelerate this creation process."

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What is an incubator?

Business incubators are committed to nurturing entrepreneurs, start-ups and small companies at an early stage in their ventures. They offer access to finance, office space and logistics, hands-on advice and management assistance, help with recruitment and marketing, and offer support for legal aspects and services, etc.

"It is a tough challenge to get from a good idea to having a company running successfully," continues Bruno Naulais. "Thanks to the support of ESINET, start-ups should significantly increase their survival rate."

ESA is supporting ESINET, a European network, rather than a few national incubators, since such a network falls nicely into the frame of the ESA-EC common strategy for space. Furthermore, a recent EU benchmark study showed that the rate of success of stand-alone incubators is lower and is, therefore, less attractive to entrepreneurs.

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European Space Incubators Network (ESINET)

ESINET includes 20 incubators in Belgium, Bulgaria, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, the UK and the Ukraine. Florence Ghiron is Managing Director of the Belgium incubator Wallonia Space Logistics, which, together with ESI, T4Tech and EBN, is one of the four founder organisations of ESINET. At the launch in Brussels she emphasised that individual incubators will gain from joining such a network: "what we expect is an international springboard. We hope to speed up the access of start-ups [companies] to international environments."

    The objectives of ESINET are to:
  • promote the creation of new enterprises
  • facilitate technology transfer between space and non-space sectors
  • help start-up enterprises gain access to finance, advise them on IPR (intellectual property rights), networking, marketing and legal matters, and provide consulting services
  • establish strategic transnational partnership and networks
  • build gateways for international markets
  • form a critical mass in order to obtain visibility for large capital risk actors and European institutions
ESINET will provide a real platform for the transfer of know-how and technology between the different members. Start-up and spin-off companies being nursed under the member incubators will benefit from the international potential of the network. The combination of expertise and products will open up new potential business areas and speed-up the process.

"One of the criteria for success will be the proportion of companies belonging to ESINET incubators which receive EU funding through the forthcoming 6th Framework programme (FP6)," said Pierre Brisson, head of ESA Technology Transfer Programme. Within the EU FP6 Research Framework Programme, the European Commission will allocate €1,075 billion to space. FP6 also foresees stronger support for smaller-scale ventures in the space sector, by enhancing the role of SMEs in developing space applications and products.

For more information about ESINET, please contact:

Bruno Naulais
European Space Incubators Network Manager
Technology Transfer and Promotion Office
European Space Agency - ESTEC
Keplerlaan 1, PO Box 299, 2200 AG Noordwijk, NL
Tel: +31 71 565 4711
Fax: +31 71 565 3854

European Space Agency ml

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