Launch of new ESA Business Incubation Centre in the Netherlands
ESA’s new Business Incubation Centre was formally launched yesterday in Noordwijk, the Netherlands. Over the next four years, 40 innovative companies will be helped to bring space technology down to Earth.
The construction of a new building was also announced, to host the Business Incubation Centre (BIC) by summer 2011 in the Space Business Park next to ESA’s ESTEC space research and technology centre. Until then, the new companies will be located in ESTEC.
More than 250 representatives from the space business attended the inauguration at the Space Expo. The official launch button was pressed by Maria van der Hoeven, Dutch Minister of Economic Affairs, Jean-Jacques Dordain, ESA Director General, Ger Nieuwpoort, Director of the Netherlands Space Office (NSO), and André Kuipers, ESA’s Dutch astronaut.
The usefulness of space
“Why do we need an ESA BIC? Because we believe in it,” said minister Van der Hoeven.
“This will be a breeding ground for new ideas. The place where research, dreams and discovery meet. A place where talented young people can translate their passion for space into practical applications.
“The usefulness of space is gigantic. We can apply information coming from space to the areas of agriculture, environment, traffic, navigation, security. In short: there is something in it for everyone.”
According to ESA Director General Dordain, the BIC delivers “serious business”, if you give it enough time. “You cannot force innovation, but you can optimise conditions for it to flourish. This is what we do when we make expertise available, connect people and share the risks with other partners”.
In addition to ESA through its Technology Transfer Programme, NSO and the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs, the Province of South Holland, the city of Noordwijk and private local partners such as BViT and Rabobank Bollenstreek are also involved in the BIC.
Niels Eldering of ESA’s TTP explained: “ESA and NSO wish to contribute to society through the Business Incubation Centre in Noordwijk. We do this together with entrepreneurs who make clever use of space technology and the expertise and facilities that are already here at ESTEC. By involving our local partners, start-ups have direct access to business support.”
Any company that wants to be part of the new BIC can apply. Their ideas are reviewed by experts from ESA and NSO. Subsidies of up to €50 000 are available.
NSO Director Ger Nieuwpoort said: “During the first 50 years, space was mainly about building the infrastructure. This was done by governments, not by business.
“Nowadays we wish to emphasise the use of this infrastructure, in particular for applications that can benefit society. This is where entrepreneurs play a key role.”
The new BIC is building on the success of the ESA incubator that has been active at ESTEC since 2004. Nine companies that owe their success to this business incubation centre presented their products during the launch. Their products includereal-time racing against professional drivers in a computer game, an avalanche alert system for skiers and an automated system for monitoring dikes.
European Satellite Navigation Competition 2010
The South Holland part of the European Satellite Navigation Competition 2010 was also launched at the event. This competition is for start-up companies that develop applications involving navigation satellites such as Europe’s Galileo.
Niels Eldering commented: “Of course there will be a winner celebrated by the competition, but really, every participant in the competition is a candidate for the BIC. This competition is a great way to get in touch with each other.”