ESOC helps shape the image of the Frankfurt/Rhein-Main region and its host German State, Hessen – and especially of its home city, Darmstadt, which proudly advertises itself as the ‘City of Science’. As the ‘gateway to space’, ESOC serves as a key international advertising factor; the Centre provides an enormous economic impact on the ground as well.
“The very tight integration into the region means we provide strong traction for industry,” says Alexander Cwielong, Comptroller at ESOC. Around 600 contracted engineers, scientists and other specialists are employed on site, in addition to a similar number being employed by firms in ESOC’s periphery in and around Darmstadt.
Motor of economic growth
The benefits are mutual. The surrounding Darmstadt region has specialised in information technology like few others; this includes the Technical University (TU) Darmstadt, Darmstadt’s University of Applied Sciences, the various Fraunhofer institutes as well as the many small and large, highly innovative, international companies that have located to the region specifically as suppliers for ESOC.
These include Italy’s Telespazio, Denmark’s Terma, Britain’s SERCO and Scisys and Spain’s GMV, which was originally an offshoot from the Department of Flight Dynamics at the University of Madrid.
Cwielong reckons that the ESA location in Darmstadt is a motor of economic growth and technological development. “A total of some 1,700 international jobs have been created through ESOC in the region,” Cwielong has calculated.
These include positions created at Eumetsat, the European meteorological satellite organisation, which was spun off from ESA in the mid-1980s.
Incubating business innovation
Since 2007, the Centre for Satellite Navigation in Hesse (cesah) has operated a centre for start-up businesses on behalf of ESA just a few steps from ESOC.
It lends financial support and ESA know-how to around 80 start-ups; these firms are using satellite data to develop applications beyond aerospace, from innovative software solutions and demanding logistical tasks to intelligent waste disposal systems, agricultural projects or services for consumers in daily life. These young entrepreneurs have created another 400 new and attractive jobs.
A number of the start-up businesses have been established by graduates from the Technical University of Darmstadt and the University of Applied Sciences, and both universities are cesah stakeholders.
In fact, ESOC’s collaboration with the two local universities is even more diverse. “We want to tap into the potential of the students,” says Rolf Densing, Head of ESOC, and to this end an agreement on a part-time professorship for ESA staff at the TU has been in place since 2015. A new Space Lab has been created as a place for innovative projects and for doctoral and masters theses.
“We hope this will yield innovations and good aeronautical engineers,” says Densing.
Injecting economic value
Accenture Consulting has put ESOC’s economic value for the Rhine-Main region at around EUR 120 million annually, mainly because of regional procurement in the high-tech sector, but also because of the purchasing power of ESA employees and the intense travel activities resulting from international inclusion.
“Around 60 cents of every euro in the ESOC budget eventually stays in the region,” says Alexander Cwielong.
And even if some 60 per cent of ESA employees hail from France, Italy, Spain or Britain, “Whoever comes to Darmstadt, usually stays. Very few leave again,” according to analysis by ESOC’s economic experts.
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