Dozens of people who have set up start-up companies and fledgling businesses are pitching their ideas to investors today, as part of an ESA Investor Forum held in Berlin.

The forum is part of ESA’s efforts to encourage private investment in space – bringing Europe closer to the levels seen in the US – and to promote innovation by fast-moving private companies.

Many of the entrepreneurs have nurtured their businesses in ESA’s various business incubation centres in Austria, Germany and Poland. Others have received business advice and financial support from ESA.

Sandra Jörg is the founder of BLACKPIN, which develops space-enabled technologies for vulnerable people living in their own homes and elderly people in care homes. Her company has developed devices that enables patients who are in danger of becoming housebound to leave their homes to go to the supermarket or for a walk in the woods, knowing that a family member or a neighbour would be alerted if they fell.

She said: “It’s really great to have support from ESA because ESA knows about technology and networking. There is no other network like ESA’s to connect with people. I am looking forward to making more connections with co-investors who are interested in space. A lot of investors look to co-invest – we are nearly there.”

Leon Haupt is one of the founders of phelas, a company that is developing a scalable, cheap and sustainable system to store renewable energy, so that it can be used when the sun is not shining and the wind is not blowing. The shipping-container-sized units could be placed in remote areas that are not connected to the power and communications grids and contain a high-performance insulator first developed for use in space.

He said: “Our ambition is to enable 100% renewable energy. ESA helped us to convince business angels to invest and we now have almost €1 million in private funding and €400,000 in public grants. We are in a position to sustain ourselves while we work on a proof of concept, which is mission critical to taking the next step in which we develop and build a commercial pilot system.”

Sebastian Klaus is the founder of start-up company Klaus Space Transportation, which is developing technologies to recover and reuse rockets using lightweight and environmentally friendly inflatable atmospheric decelerators. It is also developing technologies to return any type of cargo from space.

He said: “We are based in the ESA Business Incubation Centre Hessen and Baden-Württemberg. ESA has given us business and technical support and access to the network which has enabled us to conduct a drop test of the prototype inflatable atmospheric decelerator using technical support from Airbus. We are now looking to close our seed funding round and meet key investors, network and get to know them.”

Josef Aschbacher, Director General of ESA, is due to give a keynote address to the forum. He said: “The investor forum is one of the key platforms delivering on ESA’s market ambitions, enabling new space companies to fuel their growth through private finance, leading beyond the early technological risks supported by ESA and its member states.

“The space industry is going through a paradigm shift. To strengthen its leadership and autonomy in this fast-moving sector, Europe needs to flex its industrial muscles to provide strong support to new space players, so they can fast-track the conversion of their innovative ideas into successful businesses – and contribute to building Europe’s competitive edge at the global level.”

Elodie Viau, Director of Telecommunications and Integrated Applications, said: “My directorate has been at the forefront of commercial space for many years and has pioneered interactions with private capital. We have developed one of the world’s largest business incubation networks, with over 60 hubs and thousands of start-ups created across Europe.

“ESA acts as a dynamic acceleration agent, a matchmaker between public interests and private investments. We liaise public objectives for our economy and society with private investors for their sharp view of business models and their viability. We build bridges, we instil momentum, we collaborate with entrepreneurs and companies that will shape the future of European new space. Today is the best moment to invest in space connectivity.”