New investment fund backs space technologies finding uses on Earth

Director Courtois signs agreement for new venture capital fund
5 March 2010

For years, ESA has been bringing space technologies down to Earth through its Technology Transfer Programme and Business Incubation initiatives. Now, the Agency will strengthen these initiatives by supporting new businesses using space innovations through a dedicated venture capital fund.

The Open Sky Technologies Fund (OSTF) is an early-stage venture capital fund aimed at nurturing the most promising business opportunities arising from space technologies and satellite applications for terrestrial industries. The OSTF will be managed by Triangle Venture Capital Group on ESA’s behalf.

Michel Courtois, ESA Director of Technical and Quality Management, formally signed an agreement with Bernd Geiger, Managing General Partner and founder of Triangle, at ESA Headquarters on 4 March. Details of the new fund were also presented at the Galileo Applications Days event in Brussels.

The fund has attained an initial 'first closing' value of €15 million, with the target of raising up to €100 million by June 2011. It will source investment opportunities across all 18 ESA Member States identified through ESA’s Technology Transfer Programme Office (TTPO) and its partners.

“The OSTF is ESA’s first step into the venture capital world but represents a logical next step from our existing technology transfer activities,” said Director Courtois. “The TTPO has built up an extensive technology transfer network in cooperation with the European Space Incubation Network ESINET that is part of the European Business Incubator Network (EBN). ESA has set up a quartet of ESA Business Incubation Centres which have helped to create more than 70 companies so far.

iOpener brings real racing cars into games consoles
Satellite navigation brings real world car racing into game consoles

“But for these incubated companies to continue to grow they need access to investment capital. With the OSTF, ESA is supporting young and entrepreneurial companies which are putting innovative ideas from space technology, services and applications to terrestrial uses. This will help to increase the benefits coming back from space to European citizens.”

This first European venture capital fund dedicated to the space community will be run for ESA by Triangle, a recognised player in Europe’s venture capital community. Triangle has been working exclusively with spin-offs from universities and research centres for the past 13 years.

Triangle has become a leading early-stage technology investor, with four funds managed to date. The company has a long-standing affinity with the sector and related expertise, including investor status in a prominent ESA spin-off company iOpener Media, which uses satnav-derived location-based service technology to facilitate realtime integration of real-world objects such as Formula 1 racing cars into virtual gaming environments. iOpener is part of the ESTEC Business Incubation Centre (BIC) in Noordwijk, the Netherlands.

About ESA’s Technology Transfer Programme Office

Established in 1990, ESA’s TTPO has transferred more than 200 space technologies to non-space sectors, bringing tangible benefits to European citizens and strengthening Europe’s industrial competitiveness.

The TTPO maintains a pan-European technology transfer network in collaboration with the European Space Incubation Network to match up promising technologies with potential applications. It has also set up four ESA BICs in Noordwijk in the Netherlands; Darmstadt and Oberpfaffenhofen in Germany and Rome in Italy.

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