Oberpfaffenhofen opens fourth ESA hotbed for innovative companies
ESA, the German Aerospace Center (DLR), the German federal state of Bavaria and the German bank Kreissparkasse München Starnberg opened the fourth ESA Business Incubation Centre in Oberpfaffenhofen on 3 August. Over the next four years, some 40 company start-ups are expected to be supported there.
The cooperation between ESA and DLR for the transfer of aerospace technology to other sectors got its go-ahead in the presence of ESA Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain, DLR CEO Prof. Dr.-Ing. Johann-Dietrich Wörner and the Bavarian Minister of State for Business, Infrastructure, Transport and Technology Martin Zeil.
The centre will offer young companies and business start-ups an ideal environment for using their aerospace expertise in marketable new products.
Breeding grounds for young firms
There is a problem throughout Europe: when young entrepreneurs and university or technical college graduates want to transform their innovative ideas into reality as rapidly as possible, they often lack the expertise and money to create competitive products and services from their initial draft designs.
In 2003, ESA decided to set up Business Incubation Centres (BICs) as part of its technology transfer programme, with the intention of helping entrepreneurs and young companies to use space technologies and knowhow in innovative new products and services in non-space fields. Successful BICs have already been established in the Netherlands (Noordwijk), Italy (Frascati) and Germany (Darmstadt).
The first three centres were deliberately set up near ESA sites, followed by Oberpfaffenhofen beside a DLR site, ensuring that specialist advice and consultancy is never far away: ESTEC at Noordwijk, ESOC at Darmstadt, ESRIN at Frascati, and two DLR institutes at Oberpfaffenhofen.
Innovative products using space technology
To date, 65 company start-ups have been supported and guided towards business success by the first three BICs. For example, the German–Dutch company iOpener with its product developed at BIC Noordwijk convinced a venture capitalist to provide €4.1 million of risk capital towards future production and marketing. Using ESA satellite navigation technology that enables data to be transmitted from moving objects, the company has succeeded in creating a unique process of linking real-life competitions to the virtual world of computer gaming. One application allows gamers to compete ‘live’ against the drivers in an actual Formula 1 race, all from their home computer.
Another incubation project is etamax’s ‘G-WaLe’ at the BIC Darmstadt. G-WaLe is the first system to use signals from navigation satellites to measure and report in near-real time the prevailing water level of endangered river sections. Potential customers include agencies for high-water protection and management of water resources, and insurance companies.
The fourth BIC at Oberpfaffenhofen will add further impetus to the success of ESA technology transfer and business incubation. The new centre is operated by the Anwendungszentrum GmbH Oberpfaffenhofen (AZO) in the Aerospace Technology Park Oberpfaffenhofen (ASTO).
The ‘Robotics and Mechatronics’ and ‘Communication and Navigation’ DLR institutes nearby will provide company founders at the centre with access to expertise in a broad range of aerospace technologies.
ESA's Technology Transfer Programme Office (TTPO)
The main mission of the TTPO is to facilitate the use of space technology and space systems for non-space applications and to demonstrate the benefit of the European space programme to European citizens. The office is responsible for defining the overall approach and strategy for the transfer of space technologies, including the incubation of start-up companies and their funding. For more information, please contact:
ESA’s Technology Transfer Programme Office
European Space Agency ESA
Keplerlaan 1, 2200 AG, Noordwijk ZH
Tel: +31 (0) 71 565 6208
Email: ttp @ esa.int