CEMS students 2016

Smart space products on Earth

31/08/2016 9107 views 5 likes
ESA / Applications / Telecommunications & Integrated Applications / Technology Transfer

Let business students work on space inventions for a week and get great proposals on how to spin new products off to create new businesses.

Organised by Rotterdam School of Management Erasmus University (RSM) and ESA, the 61 students from RSM and 17 partner universities took part last week in this year’s CEMS seminar.

“The business students are challenged to foster new companies based on reusing space technologies in terrestrial applications,” said Niels Eldering from ESA’s Technology Transfer Programme Office. 

“Half of them were challenged to develop a business plan using an ESA patent as the baseline for a new company while the other half worked as consultants for five start-ups in one of our ESA Business Incubation Centres.”

Entrepreneurial challenge: turning technology into business

Students discussing the challenges
Students discussing the challenges

Working in teams, the students had to come up with new ideas on how an ESA patent for an advanced fluid filter could be used to create new businesses.

ESA engineer Matthew Smith presented the 3D-printed device that ESA has developed and patented for filtering propellant flowing into rocket engines on satellites and launchers.

The students had 80 hours to build their proposals, supported by engineers from the Technical University of Delft, business coaches, investors and legal advisers.

“The nice thing about the seminar is that the students are in the drivers’ seat,” explained Bas Jan Veldhoen, entrepreneur and RSM guest lecturer.

“They have the rollercoaster experience of any start-up, giving them insights into what it takes to be an entrepreneur.”

“In just one week we got seven great ideas with business plans on how one of our space patents could provide innovative solutions to cases here on Earth,” said Niels Eldering.


The winning team proposed cleaning water in farming, which often has problems with clogged water filtration systems and the resulting high maintenance cost.

With 3D printing, it is easy to tailor the filter to the specific challenges, even retrofitting it into existing systems.

The market for such filters is large – there are 23 590 livestock farms in the Netherlands alone.

Another team proposed adapting the filter to prevent blood clots travelling after operations.

 “I have learned that every task, no matter how impossible it may appear at first, is doable if you have got a great team behind you,” said Katharina Badenhausen, a German student from the University of Sydney now at RSM for the CEMS.

Belgian student Cyril Prioux agreed, “The seminar at ESA was a one-of-a-kind experience. I have never had the chance to learn so much in such a short time.”

New venture creation: consulting the directors of a start-up company

ESA BIC Noordwijk
ESA BIC Noordwijk

The students worked with five start-ups at the business incubator in Noordwijk, close to ESA’s large technical centre: Vivian Raven, Knowbles, AVY, Dutch Terahertz and Solartechno Europe.

Paired with the companies, the students received assignments on specific cases linked to the company, like marketing strategies, development and financing and distribution.

For Vivian Raven the students had to develop a market entry strategy for the company’s forest maps. They are based on satellite data and show different vegetation characteristics, indicating for example risk zones for bark beetle attacks, an insect outbreak that can destroy entire forests within weeks. 

Vivian Raven’s Wendy Mensink said, “CEMS is an inspiration for both the entrepreneurs and the students. The high-quality work that the students deliver brings new opportunities and insights that are beneficial for every company.”

Solartechno Europe, which designs large photovoltaic systems, were very satisfied with the students' work. Marco Ghirardello said, “The students provided in just four days a fresh, independent and different point of view for the marketing and sales of our new product.

“Some new good ideas came out and will be included in our marketing plan.”


The winning team developed a new business to consumer strategy for Knowbles, a company that is developing an adaptive language online learning tool. Content is generated automatically and tailored to the learner’s interest, thereby maximising the motivation and adjusted to the reader’s ability.

“A great and worthwhile experience resulting in several valuable strategy insights,” confirmed Jozef Misik from Knowble.

CEMS student Niklas Reimann from Germany said, “Big experience @ ESA BIC Noordwijk. ESA BIC Noordwijk turned a challenging assignment into a very enjoyable week.”

Fellow student Annika Schneider added, “ESA BIC Noordwijk is the perfect opportunity to gain hands-on experience in an inspiring environment.”

Twelfth seminar

Business cases over the years
Business cases over the years

More than 700 students have participated in the week-long seminar over the past 12 years. It is a mandatory element at RSM of the international CEMS Master in International Management degree, a highly ranked international MSc curriculum offered by 28 world-class academic business schools in collaboration with 70 corporate business partners and non-profit organisations.

“The joint seminars prove to be a great valorisation tool for technology transfer, especially as the students are encouraged to approach real customers” emphasised Niels Eldering.

RSM’s Academic Director for CEMS René Olie added, “The one-week seminar gives the students an opportunity to be confronted with real business cases. They are challenged to apply what they have studied to come up with durable business cases.

“Working with ESA the students get the opportunity to be entrepreneurs for a week with real-life leading-edge technologies.”

Call for Intellectual Properties from European space industry

Half of the patents used in the CEMS seminars during the past 12 years have come from industry who were interested in identifying new application areas for their patents.

Please contact ESA's Technology Transfer Programme Officeif you would like CEMS students to add value to your Intellectual Properties next year.

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