European entrepreneurs using space technology and systems now
have a better chance of starting up in business thanks to the
European Space Incubators Network (ESINET), launched this
summer by the European Space Agency (ESA) and the European
Commission (EC).

It is Europe’s first network of space business incubation
centres at present includes 20 incubators in 12 European
countries. With 33,000 employees and an annual turnover of
Euro 5.5 billion, the space sector generates many technologies
and systems, which can be used by entrepreneurs to develop new
products and new value-added services for use in the non-space

“This is good news for small businesses in the space industry.
European SMEs are uniquely positioned to turn innovative
research ideas into successful commercial products,” said
EU Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin at the launch of
ESINET in July. “Networking initiatives such as ESINET are
part of our effort to build a critical mass of scientific
and technological excellence at EU level, in order to create
a true European research area.”

Through networking small European companies are transferring
new space technologies to other industry sectors. Start-up
and spin-off companies are often created as a result of
international cooperation.

“ESA has already been fostering many new start-up companies
active in space and space related fields, such as technology
transfer, telecommunication and Earth observation satellite
data exploitation,” says Bruno Naulais, European Space
Incubators Network Manager at ESA. “Our Technology Transfer
Programme alone has, over the past four years, been the
source of more 25 new small companies in Europe.”

“With the introduction of ESINET, which includes the
European Space Incubator (ESI) located near ESTEC, we
want to be an active catalyst in the creation of new and
innovative businesses using space technology and/or space
systems in non-space sectors, and to accelerate this
creation process.”

What is an incubator?

Business incubators are committed to nurturing entrepreneurs,
start-ups and small companies at an early stage in their
ventures. They offer access to finance, office space and
logistics, hands-on advice and management assistance, help
with recruitment and marketing, and offer support for legal
aspects and services, etc.

“It is a tough challenge to get from a good idea to having
a company running successfully,” continues Bruno Naulais.
“Thanks to the support of ESINET, start-ups should
significantly increase their survival rate.”

ESA is supporting ESINET, a European network, rather than a
few national incubators, since such a network falls nicely
into the frame of the ESA-EC common strategy for space.
Furthermore, a recent EU benchmark study showed that the
rate of success of stand-alone incubators is lower and is,
therefore, less attractive to entrepreneurs.

European Space Incubators Network (ESINET)

ESINET includes 20 incubators in Belgium, Bulgaria, Finland,
France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden,
the UK and the Ukraine. Florence Ghiron is Managing Director
of the Belgium incubator Wallonia Space Logistics, which,
together with ESI, T4Tech and EBN, is one of the four
founder organisations of ESINET. At the launch in Brussels
she emphasised that individual incubators will gain from
joining such a network: “what we expect is an international
springboard. We hope to speed up the access of start-ups
[companies] to international environments.”

The objectives of ESINET are to:

  • promote the creation of new enterprises
  • facilitate technology transfer between space and non-space sectors
  • help start-up enterprises gain access to finance, advise them on IPR (intellectual property rights), networking, marketing and legal matters, and provide consulting services
  • establish strategic transnational partnership and networks
  • build gateways for international markets
  • form a critical mass in order to obtain visibility for large capital risk actors and European institutions

ESINET will provide a real platform for the transfer of
know-how and technology between the different members.
Start-up and spin-off companies being nursed under the member
incubators will benefit from the international potential of
the network. The combination of expertise and products will
open up new potential business areas and speed-up the process.

“One of the criteria for success will be the proportion of
companies belonging to ESINET incubators which receive EU
funding through the forthcoming 6th Framework programme
(FP6),” said Pierre Brisson, head of ESA Technology Transfer
Programme. Within the EU FP6 Research Framework Programme,
the European Commission will allocate Euro 1,075 billion to
space. FP6 also foresees stronger support for smaller-scale
ventures in the space sector, by enhancing the role of SMEs
in developing space applications and products.

For more information about ESINET, please contact:

Bruno Naulais
European Space Incubators Network Manager
Technology Transfer and Promotion Office
European Space Agency – ESTEC
Keplerlaan 1, PO Box 299, 2200 AG Noordwijk, NL
Tel: +31 71 565 4711
Fax: +31 71 565 3854

Related links

* ESA’s Technology Transfer Programme
* Wallonia Space Logistics (WSL)
* Business & Innovation Centres Network (EBN)


[Image 1:]
The European Space Incubator Network (ESINET) provides a
platform for the transfer of know-how and technologies. The
aim is to create links between national and regional space
incubators across the European Union, and to accelerate
the process of launching start-up enterprises transferring
space technologies to other industry sectors. Credits: ESA

[Image 2:]
Pictured here is the strikingly modern building that houses
Wallonia Space Logistics (WSL), located in the Sart-Tilman
Science Park in Belgium. Offering entrepreneurs a
stimulating and convivial work environment, WSL is an
incubator that supports high-tech entrepreneurs in creating
their companies and getting them off the ground in their
first year. Nine start-up companies have been launched so
far and approximately a dozen new projects are in advanced

WSL, together with ESA’s European Space Incubator (ESI),
T4Tech, and European Business & Innovation Centres Network
(EBN), is one of the four founding members of European
Space Incubator Network (ESINET). Credits: Wallonia Space
Logistics (WSL)

[Image 3:]
ESTEC in Noordwijk, The Netherlands, is the temporary home
of European Space Incubator (ESI) that helps entrepreneurs
turn their ideas into viable businesses using space
technology and systems. Operational services include
office space, access to venture capital and management
support. Credits: ESA-A. Van Der Geest