Belgium boosts space-connected start-ups from Redu
A new ESA business incubation centre opened last week in Belgium to welcome entrepreneurs with novel spin-off ideas for the wealth of technologies and systems developed under Europe’s space programmes.
The ESA Business Incubation Centre (BIC) Redu is located at the futuristic Galaxia business park in Transinne (Libin) and linked by optical fibres to ESA’s Redu Centre only 4 km away.
Franco Ongaro, ESA Director of Technical and Quality Management and Head of ESA’s ESTEC research and development centre, shared his perspective at the opening: “Together with our partners, in the ESA business incubation centres we actively support and encourage the spin-off from our space technology research and development activities and from our space systems to terrestrial business solutions.
“In this way, investment in space programmes, beyond the science, telecommunications, meteorology, navigation, and other benefits to Europe’s citizens, also encourage the creation of new enterprises and jobs at local level.
“Small companies, start-ups and entrepreneurs come with their own great ideas. In the centres we then support them with technical advice from ESA and business advice from our partners to get going and create viable new companies in Europe.
“We will also work to find ways to bridge the maturity gap between the creative idea and a successful proposal.”
ESA’s business incubation centres have four calls every year looking for space-connected projects. The calls are open to individual inventors, entrepreneurs and small companies, from any ESA Member States, and the incubation process can take place at any one of the seven European centres.
“Successful projects will be given a place in our incubator and we will support both business and technical aspects,” explained Fabian Collard, CEO IDELUX, the Economic Development Agency developing Galaxia in partnership with the WSL incubator, and running WSLlux, contracted by ESA to run the BIC Redu.
WSLlux specialises in assisting start-up firms to profit from technologies that often result from space research and development projects.
“BIC start-up companies, the incubatees, will also receive a financial contribution for the research and development of their idea as well as securing the intellectual property rights.
“They can receive up to €100 000 once selected and even more at a later stage.”
First ‘incubatee’ already started
ESA BIC Redu’s first entrepreneur has already started his incubation process. Nicolas Hanse’s company ESNAH develops air navigation systems to increase flight safety for pilots of smaller civil airplanes.
“Our application SkyLiberty is running on iPad and Android devices and helps pilots to prepare their flight plans, the route from departure and destination, taking into account all plane parameters, the weather, condition of the airspace and the airports,” he explained.
“It is an aid to air navigation which is innovative, simple, modular, comprehensive and affordable. It has been designed by a pilot for pilots, and as I am a pilot myself, I know well what is needed before taking off.
“SkyLiberty will allow pilots to cut up to 98% off the time preparing their flights using official data and ensure a more reliable and better flight preparation. And it will often also lead to a reduction in the fuel consumption.”
Sited near ESA’s Redu Centre, BIC Redu will support mainly projects that can take advantage of the ground station’s expertise in handling satellite data and controlling satellites and their payloads.
This will typically be an advantage for projects involving telecommunications, satellite navigation, Earth observation and integrated applications for use on the ground, in the air and on the sea.
BIC Redu is also conveniently located near St Hubert Airport, an ideal test platform for any aeronautical applications, such as SkyLiberty.
The optical high-speed fibre link to ESA Redu Centre is a unique tool to help incubatees during their development work if they need to send commands to satellites or to work with fresh satellite data.
Having an idea? Turn it in before February
“If you have a great new idea for the use of space technology or the use of satellite systems, just apply,” says Bruno Naulais, European Space Incubators Network Manager.
“The next deadline for taking in entrepreneurs and small companies at our centres is 11 February.
“We take in typically for each centre two to five new incubatees, four times a year. They gain from our knowhow and technical expertise which are added to their business idea, and over the two years at one of our centres they are being shaped into becoming fully operating companies, with all the support needed.”
Now operating in the Netherlands, Germany, UK, Italy and Belgium, ESA BICs help to create viable businesses and new jobs every year by supporting 60 companies throughout Europe. So far, more than 180 start-ups have been supported.
ESA Technology Transfer Programme Office (TTPO)
The main mission of ESA's Technology Transfer Programme is to facilitate the use of space technology and systems for non-space applications, and thereby also further demonstrating the benefit of the European space programmes to the citizens.
TTPO is responsible for defining the overall approach and strategy for the transfer of space technologies and systems, including the incubation of start-up companies at ESA’s seven Business Incubation Centres in the Netherlands, Italy, Germany, the UK and Belgium.
TTPO has initiated as a limited partner the Open Sky Technology Fund, a €100 million venture fund that invests in start-ups using space technology.
For more information on TTPO, please contact:
ESA Technology Transfer Programme Office
European Space Agency
2200 AG, Noordwijk
Tel: +31 71 565 6208