Category: Innovative Technologies
Research & development in the space sector can often be defined by absolutes. Running a space technology business, however, certainly isn’t. There simply is not one optimal way of being an entrepreneur. The ESA BIC Noordwijk program is the go-to place for niche businesses, that want to benefit from being located a stone’s throw away from ESA ESTEC and also receive extensive business growth support. Together with the European Space Agency (ESA), the Netherlands Space Office (NSO) has committed to continue its investment in the ESA-BIC programme for another six years.
It goes without saying that space is an innovative high-tech field. At the same time, it is the key to myriad solutions for social challenges. A growing number of young creative entrepreneurs and startups succeed at developing promising applications with space technology.
ESA BIC Noordwijk‘s location facilitates rapid and easy access to technical support from the European Space Agency. The partnership between NSO, ESA and SBIC Noordwijk also gives companies access to financial and business growth support.
Extensive support for space technology startups
Among other things, ESA BIC businesses and startups receive a zero-equity investment. Companies can be reimbursed for a sum of up to €50,000 – spent on research & development and patent applications – without having to give away a percentage of their business. Entrepreneurs also receive support in the form of workshops, training programmes and coaches. The new contract formally covers the period from 2020 to 2024. Any businesses that are admitted into the programme as part of the final batch of 2024 will also receive support for the duration of the programme (two years).
A full-range program for accelerated startup growth
The ESA BIC Noordwijk program starts with an Ignition Program. This is a pre-incubation trajectory where entrepreneurs learn to validate their idea, research the space-link and learn financial insights – aimed at a better ESA BIC application.
To discuss your current roadmap, bi-monthly progress meetings are hosted (with the ESA BIC Noordwijk CEO) as well as marketing meetings (the content manager). Every semester, each team within ESA BIC gets assigned a new expert who will give them the advice they need to move forward. All the coaches are experts in niches within the space industry. Or they are experienced entrepreneurs themselves. This brings us to the next pillar of learning in the program: sharing among peers.
Peer sharing has proven the best way of learning at ESA BIC Noordwijk. There is, as mentioned earlier, not one way of doing business. You can however learn from other people’s mistakes or victories. That’s why sharing business experiences is encouraged. This is organised by:
- Entrepreneur’s Coffee meeting
- A monthly meeting (online, before COVID offline) with all the founders and/or team members in the program. This meeting has a solid format per company:
- Talk about the progress you made
- Talk about the hurdles you encountered
- Share what you’ve learned this month
- Ask for help from the community
The last one is the most important: it’s where founders get direct feedback or support from their peers. In the history of the Entrepreneur’s Coffee, there hasn’t been a question unanswered by the rest of the batch of businesses.
The entire SBIC community present on the online environment on Slack. It’s one big central hub – which means everyone in the ESA BIC program can communicate directly with each other, the program organisers, partners and alumni. It’s also the place where everyone shares business & finance opportunities, interesting events & workshops, and jobs and internship opportunities. In general it’s the go-to place where you can just ask away and share/get information.
Community & serendipity
In the program, space is created for several occurrences of serendipity: community events. Before the age of COVID-19 game-nights were hosted, international lunch sharing, monthly network drinks, ping pong tournaments and the legendary Tosti Tuesday. These things seem trivial. But in fact, they are important for creating a community feeling – it strengthens the will to share stories. These events are icebreakers. The best plans are made when a too hot grilled cheese sandwich touches your tongue and advice is best given with a nice cold beer in hand. You never know when you get that spark of creativity – and the ESA BIC community cultivates that. Although it’s tough due to corona, the organisation is trying to deliver this feeling online as well.
Some of the well-known businesses that came out of the ESA BIC Noordwijk programme:
HIBER – a satellite network of smallsats that provides IoT connectivity with global coverage. Last year, the Dutch cabinet selected this company as one of three National Icons. It is one of the few businesses to be developing applications for outer space.
JohanSports – a performance tracker for athletes. It utilises GALILEO, also known as “the European version of GPS.” The system is used by e.g. the Dutch hockey association KNHB and football clubs Feyenoord, ADO Den Haag and Panathinaikos.
Sobolt – gathers, processes and interprets data from earth observation satellites and uses this knowledge to e.g. advise municipal governments on the use of urban green areas.
A selection of the businesses that successfully completed the programme recently:
Meds2Go – a medical device that helps patients keep their medication at the right temperature. It is based on cooling technology that was originally developed for the aerospace sector.
Satsearch – an online platform that facilitates the supply and demand of aerospace components.
Polariks – helps wine farmers optimise their yields with the help of hyperspectral cameras mounted on a robot.