ESA’s latest Business Incubation Centre has opened in Portugal, ready to help entrepreneurs and start-up companies take space technology and services into non-space areas such as health, transport and energy.
Over the coming five years, the centre will help 30 Portuguese start-up companies to get their businesses going, creating at least 120 local high-tech jobs.
The companies will receive €1.5 million as seed incentive and be able to tap into an additional €7 million.
The new incubator is managed by the University of Coimbra’s Instituto Pedro Nunes, or IPN, in collaboration with Science and Technology Park at University of Porto and DNA Cascais, a non-profit organisation that fosters entrepreneurship in Cascais and the greater Lisbon region.
With 18 years’ experience in business incubation, the institute has supported more than 200 technology and innovation projects.
At the inauguration on 5 November during the fifth Portuguese Space Forum, the management agreements were signed by Franco Ongaro, ESA Director of Technical and Quality Management, and Prof. Teresa Mendes, IPN President of the Board of Directors.
Carlos Cerqueira, IPN’s Head of Innovation, noted that the new centre “has unique characteristics since it promotes the creation of start-ups based on state-of-the-art technologies tested in space applications, providing these new companies with the potential to create ‘disruptive’ innovations tailored for the global markets.”
The event was also attended by Portugal’s Minister of Economy, António Pires de Lima, Minister of Education and Science, Nuno Crato, Rector of the University of Coimbra, João Gabriel, and Vice President of Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (the national funding agency for science, technology and innovation), Pedro Carneiro.
Prof. Mendes added that the incubator helps “to accomplish IPN’s mission to support the technology transfer process and to stimulate the creation of new economic activity and skilled jobs in Portugal.”
Portuguese industry steps up in space
The Forum also saw a contract signed with Portugual’s Tekeve for the intersatellite communications link on ESA’s Proba-3 formation-flying mission.
The two satellites will accurately hold position at a distance of 150 m or more.
This contract highlights a key technology contributionby Portuguese companies in a very advanced mission.
What ESA incubators offer
Entrepreneurs and start-up companies can apply to enter the new incubator. Accepted projects will benefit from €50 000 as seed incentive to prototype development and acquire or manage intellectual property rights.
ESA provides technical support in applying the space technologies and intellectual properties to the products.
Local partners include the University of Coimbra, Comissão de Coordenação e Desenvolvimento da Região Centro (CCDR-C), Portugal Ventures, FNABA, DNA Cascais, the University of Porto and several polytechnic institutes.
Three centres will be located in Coimbra at IPN, in Porto at the Science and Technology Park of University of Porto, and in Cascais near to Lisbon at DNA Cascais.
ESA’s incubation initiative has to date resulted in more than 250 new start-ups, creating an estimated 1000 new jobs in Europe.
This is the 10th ESA incubator – others are operating in the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Belgium, the UK, France and Spain.
The common approach is that ESA with national and regional governments and local partners combine to promote the transfer of space-developed technologies, expertise and services to commercial non-space applications.
ESA, Portugal and space technology transfer
ESA BIC Portugal is the result of the dustry and academia have demonstrated through 14 projects the spin-off potential of space technologies and competencies through the opening of new business opportunities in non-space sectors such as automotive, logistics, medical, oil & gas, renewable energy and environmental.
In addition to running the new incubator, IPN is also the national broker of ESA Technology Transfer Programme’s broker network and responsible for the Portuguese Ambassador Platform in ESA Integrated and Telecommunications-related Applications’ ambassador network.