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Meet Niels Eldering, ESA, ESA BICs and, the gateway to commercialize space technology 

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The European Space Agency (ESA) was established in 1975 to push the frontiers of science and technology and promote economic growth in Europe. Its mission is to shape the development of European space capability and ensure that investment in space benefits citizens of Europe and the world.

Among its activities are the ESA BIC – the European Space Agency’s Business Innovation Centres – a network of business incubators supporting entrepreneurs who want to commercialise space technology or data derived from satellite systems. It currently counts 25 members – some of which are certified EU|BICs and members of its community – active in over 75 locations in Europe, fostering a start-up and alumni portfolio of some 1250 companies. 

“ESA BICs support entrepreneurs from A to Z and focus specifically on startups that build their business around space technology and big data, both as a form of spin-off from the space sector and new space companies. But that alone would be insufficient. Making Europe the most competitive region in the world of space economy requires collaboration on all fronts” tells Niels Eldering, Head of the ESA BIC Network and ESA’s Φ-lab Network. We caught up with Niels in Brussels at the 2022 EBN Congress, where he was a speaker in the session Based on science, built for market, creating impact out of research. Niels has been dedicated to fostering and promoting business incubation of space technology in Europe for the last 20 years.  

We need EU|BICs, accelerators, science and business parks, capital, financial institutions and our highly skilled entrepreneurial workforce! A network such as the EU|BIC community is essential, as it is comprised of quality certified incubators -some of which are also ESA BICs – but also science parks, universities, and accelerators. At the end of the day, what we are doing is embedding our space entrepreneurs into the superstructure of modern society and our economy. To do so, we involve knowledge-intensive service suppliers as a strong component to solidify Europe’s position amongst a strong international customer base.

It is in this spirit that ESA developed the Commercialisation Gateway “YOUR gateway to the new space economy“. 

The Commercialisation Gateway creates a space for links between new businesses and ESA. By interacting and listening to the needs of the industry, the Commercialisation Gateway provides visibility on space-related market trends and developments, innovative projects, programme activities, technical developments as well as networking and funding opportunities. The ESA Commercialisation Gateway is open to requests and collaborations from interested parties including industry, academia or public organisations to jointly expand or develop new commercial space activities.

Europe was already ahead of the world concerning entrepreneurial driven downstream applications and using satellite-derived data as part of big-data businesses. And of course, it has a largely well-established space industry with companies such as Airbus, Ariadne Group, Thales Alesia etc. The US certainly has an edge on entrepreneurial activities in the new Space businesses, but Europe is quickly emerging with its new space entrepreneurs. The ESA commercialisation Gateway is to be the gateway to entrepreneurial and high-tech talents, investment capital and a fast-track lane to innovation.

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