ESA has put in place a dedicated infrastructure to support companies which intend to make use of the microgravity facilities as a tool for research, in order to assist them in the development and performance of their experiments in an environment that may be unfamiliar to them.
The Open Call for Commercial Proposals
The main route to access industrial utilisation of the International Space Station is through the ‘Open Call for Commercial Proposals’, a permanent and non-prescriptive call for business ideas. Since it is an Open Call (i.e. without time limit), potential customers can present their own business ideas related to the ISS to ESA at any time. The Open Call is always accessible on the ESA website at: www.esa.int/issbusiness
The Commercial Agents Network
ESA has set up a network of Commercial Agents in both the areas of life science and physical science, which is spread across Europe. The role of the Commercial Agent is to act as the interface between the potential client, ESA and other space companies who can help in the development of their particular project from an initial idea through to its actual implementation and exploitation of any Intellectual Property Right that may result. The Commercial Agent is an expert in its own field and is knowledgeable about the requirements necessary to fly experiments whether it be using drop towers or actually flying to the ISS.
The Co-operation Agreement
In order to provide payload development support and related services to industrial users ESA has set up an agreement with a number of companies who are themselves experts in the actual development of hardware that is specifically relevant to the space environment both in terms of the stringent requirements and the processes that are involved in flying an experiment. Other parties to the Agreement provide non-technical services in the areas of insurance and legal which could include the exploitation of Intellectual Property Rights in relation to the project.
A complete list of all the partners to the agreement can be found here: Co-operation Agreement Industrial Partners