30 highly-motivated university students from 13 different ESA Member and Associate States have successfully completed a brand new ESA Academy’s Technology Transfer & Innovation Workshop at ESA Education Training Centre in ESEC-Galaxia, Transinne, Belgium. The students were either 3rd or 4th year Bachelor, Master, or PhD students in engineering and science, and were trained by specialists from ESA’s Technology Transfer & Business Incubation Office and from industry; all experts in the fields of Technology Transfer, innovation and entrepreneurship.
Technologies developed for the space industry need not be constrained solely to use beyond Earth. Likewise, satellite infrastructure can be used in new and innovative ways. Our everyday lives can benefit hugely from space technology used and adapted to improve healthcare, water and waste management, sports, and more. This workshop is focused on technology transfer which is an excellent way of bringing the benefits of ESA’s technological developments to the masses. These facts are well-known to ESA’s Technology Transfer and Business Incubation Office, who teamed up with ESA Education Office to design and run this innovative workshop. Its primary aim: empower students to take the leap required to see how space technology can be modified to fit wider purposes.Technology transfer needs people with creative flair and vision; skills that this workshop develops. There are many opportunities for entrepreneurs wanting the challenge of developing new products!
Students were separated into groups of five, and given a challenge: over the workshop’s duration, from 13 to 16 November 2018, they had to devise a business idea from an ESA patent. Each day they would develop their idea, including a complete business plan around a selected application. This gave students the opportunity to apply their newly-gained knowledge and get some hands-on experience with technology transfer and entrepreneurship.
An Italian student from the Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna explained: “This workshop was a unique opportunity for me to start thinking about the translation of science into new products for space and non-space industry, and add skills for my future career. I think that this multidisciplinary approach is the key to step forward towards the future in science and technological fields. "
With the challenge set, the students then began their first lecture, about intellectual property; the different strategies you can adopt when coming up with an invention; and the structure of a patent. They met an ESA inventor and discovered the ESA patent they would use for the group project. This patented technology related to a light and large deployable structure concept for telecom and Earth Observation applications. Before long, the students were brainstorming ideas!
The second day commenced with learning about Technology Transfer. With the help of several case studies, they were able to understand the challenges and benefits of transferring a technology from one field to another. For the group project session, they selected the best idea from their initial brainstorm, and started to investigate it further, with the aim of developing a business around it.
On day three the students learned about entrepreneurship, start-ups and business incubation. They received tuition from an entrepreneur who created his own start-up and had received help from one of ESA’s Business Incubation Centres (ESA BICs). In the afternoon, the students continued work on their business model.
On the final day, the students completed their business concepts and presented their results to the trainers and the other student groups. It was fascinating to see how each team started with the same technology, yet devised very different applications, ranging from fish farming, to medical surgery, to music festivals! The power and versatility of technology transfer had been aptly proven. The trainers were very satisfied and impressed with the business ideas, and noted the many strong points.
“I imagined I could face this workshop like a ‘white canvas’, ready to learn about a new field while being creative with my background knowledge,” said an Italian student from the TU Delft. “This is exactly how I experienced these four days, with no hesitation to ask questions, very captivated by all the lectures and excited to start every single day. Although it was a very intense workshop, I was always looking forward to what was next in the schedule.”
A Spanish student from the Technical University of Denmark summed his experience best: “we now feel empowered with the right tools and knowledge to create and innovate without fear.”
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