Space-connected start-ups take off from Geel and Mol in Belgium
Belgium continues its strong support for the use of space: after inaugurating its first ESA Business Incubation Centre in Redu on 11 December, the country opened a second just three days later in Flanders, with two site offices.
Entrepreneurs will be supported here to turn ideas into viable companies.
Opened jointly by ESA, the Belgian Science Policy Office (BELSPO) and the Flemish Government, the ESA Business Incubation Centre (BIC) Flanders is managed by Innotek, the knowledge centre for innovation and technology in the Province of Antwerp.
The centre was launched by Belgium’s Minister-President of Flanders Kris Peeters and Franco Ongaro, ESA Director of Technical and Quality Management and Head of ESA’s ESTEC research and development centre, on 14 December.
“Flemish companies and research institutes have achieved impressive technological and commercial success in the space industry,” noted Minister-President Peeters.
“We can now travel further along this road. The support for the BIC is welcome assistance for our excellent technology and enterprises to achieve further success.”
BIC Flanders is located at Innotek’s two technology houses, one in Geel and the other in Mol, providing offices and laboratory space for entrepreneurs. They can then focus on their core business, while Innotek takes care of the rest.
Innotek has teamed up with the renowned Flemish research institutions VITO, SCK•CEN and IMEC to act as technical partners. Their scientific and technical expertise will complement ESA’s knowledge, and together this will help the start-ups’ technical development in electronics, nano technology, telecommunications, navigation systems, nuclear science, bio-engineering, radiology, life science and Earth observation.
“Working with our local partners at each ESA business incubation centre, we support spin-off from our space programmes to terrestrial applications and systems,” said Franco Ongaro.
“In the centres, the start-ups propose new ideas for how technologies from space can be transferred to provide intelligent solution in other sectors.
“We will work with them to find ways to bridge the maturity gap between a creative idea and a successful solution, to get going and create viable new companies in Europe.
“In this way, investment in space programmes, beyond the science, telecommunications, meteorology, navigation and other benefits to Europe’s citizens, also encourages the creation of new enterprises and jobs at local level.”
Other keynote speakers included Frank De Winne, ESA Astronaut and Head of the European Astronaut Centre, and Jacques Nijskens, Head of the BELSPO Space Department.
The arrival of the ESA BIC in Belgium’s Flanders region was announced in October 2011, during a meeting between Kris Peeters and Jean-Jacques Dordain, ESA Director General. On 1 June 2012, ESA and BELSPO officially gave the green light for its installation in Flanders.
“The presence of the ESA business incubation centre in Flanders is an important additional incentive for our Flemish companies and research institutes to continue to commit to space technology,” said Wim Dams from Innotek.
“The centre encourages entrepreneurs to use space technology to develop commercial applications, ultimately creating new businesses and high-grade jobs in our Flemish region.
“From now on, Innotek is part of the selected circle of ESA business incubation centres to help bridge the technology gap and to aid in the transition from an innovative idea of how to spin-off space technologies and services to actual product realisation, leading to the creation of new European companies.”
Over the coming four years, BIC Flanders will help to set up 10 new commercial enterprises that will use innovative technology and knowhow originating from ESA space programmes and the partner’s research institutions to create novel solutions for non-space applications.
“With this new BIC Flanders and the BIC Redu, Belgium further benefits from its important role in Europe’s space activities,” noted Bruno Naulais, European Space Incubators Network Manager.
“At the ESA ministerial conference in November, Belgium indeed confirmed its strong commitment and even increased its contribution, ranking nowadays number five in the ESA budget contributors.
“I am very pleased that BIC Flanders is managed by the experienced and dynamic Innotek company. Being a European Business Innovation Centre Network member it will provide a first class support to the centre’s incubatees.”
BIC Flanders is the latest to join the business incubation initiative under ESA’s Technology Transfer Programme Office, now with centres in Germany, Netherlands, UK, Belgium and Italy, in which business are created that owe their competitive advantage to the use of space solutions.
In the next few years, the plan is to strengthen ESA’s business incubation initiative as one of the many ways of space to contribute to economic growth and job creation.
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