Launch of New Space Network is Good News for Small Businesses

July 18, 2002

Brussels, 17 July 2002

The launch of Europe's first network of space incubators (ESINET) today was welcomed by the European Commission. The ESINET initiative was outlined in the EU-ESA (European Space Agency) agreement and results from a pilot project funded by the Commission within its 4 th Research Framework Programme (1994-1998).

Within the EU 6 th Research Framework Programme, the Commission will allocate €1,075 billion to aerospace research and policy, and to encourage similar initiatives. Representatives of incubators from Belgium, Bulgaria, Finland, France, Germany, Holland, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, UK and Ukraine participated in the Commission-sponsored launch event in Brussels.

With 33,000 employees and an annual turnover of €5.5 billion, the space sector represents a huge opportunity for SMEs, the key drivers of the innovative European space effort. Participants looked at how technology and expertise can best be transferred from the space sector to other sectors, thus fostering the creation of new and profitable SMEs in Europe, and contributing to European competitiveness on the world stage.

EU Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin said: "This is good news for small businesses in the space industry. European SMEs are uniquely well positioned to turn innovative research ideas into successful commercial products. They are also a source of new discoveries and applications, which have an impact on our everyday lives, such as transport, telecommunications and health. 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 (ERA). Smaller companies have a key role to play in this industry."

The European Space Incubator Network (ESINET) will provide a concrete platform for the transfer of know-how and technologies. The aim of ESINET is to create links between national and regional space incubators across EU Member states, as well as in the candidate countries. As a business catalyst, ESINET itself will also accelerate the creation of new businesses. It will provide start-ups with a comprehensive and integrated range of support tools, including seed capital for a fixed-term period, office facilities, consulting services and management advice.

Space is a strategic priority for the 6 th EU Research Framework Programme (FP6). With an overall budget of € 17.5 billion, FP6 is the Union's main instrument for research funding at EU level. It contributes to ERA, a true internal market for science and knowledge. The European Satellite Navigation System (Galileo) and Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) satellite initiative are the two pillars of this new approach. However, 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.

The space industry represents a valuable test-bed for European SMEs. Through networks of small companies and sub-contractors, new space technologies are transferred to other industries, and start-up and spin-off companies are frequently created as a result of cross-fertilisation. Nevertheless, in comparison with other industries, the number of truly innovative SMEs remains small and the transfer of technology relatively low. Space-related research and technological development is comparatively expensive, and SMEs experience difficulties in accessing appropriate funding schemes. ESINET aims to help businesses overcome these problems.

For further information on EU space policy please visit:

http://europa.eu.int/comm/space/index_en.html

For more information on the European Commission's and ESA's activities related to space, please consult COM (2001) 718 final, Towards a European Space Policy:

http://www.iglortd.org/members/ swisscore/Policy%20docs/ space_communication_en.pdf

DN: IP/02/1082 Date: 17/07/2002

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