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    ESA Business Incubation Centres



    The network of the ESA Business Incubation Centres (BICs) is the largest network of space incubators in Europe. The two main objective of ESA BICs are to:

    • Support entrepreneurs with a space-based business idea
    • Creating and growing clusters of space related start-ups across Europe.

    All ESA BICs are managed by local incubators with experience of supporting start-ups. They have good connections withlocal industry, universities, research organisations, as well as relevant government agencies and investor communities.  All the ESA BICs across Europe, with presence at more than 80 locations, are the place of choice for all space related innovation and business activities. They are well embedded in the local communities and can provide the support needed to start-ups to mature their technologies and business ideas until the company can operate on its own. They can also provide connections to business partners and investors locally, nationally and across borders.

    More than 1,200 start-ups have been incubated in ESA BICs and close to 250 are selected yearly. 


    ESA BICs can support entrepreneurs with a space related business idea, for example:

    • Applications using space-based systems (such as satellite navigation, earth observation, or satellite communication)
    • Use space technologies in a non-space domain
    • Innovative products and services for the space sector. 

    The package of services offered to incubatees include: 

    • Up to two years of business incubation at an ESA BIC 
    • Technical support from leading experts in the region and from ESA 
    • Business coaching 
    • Legal and IPR advice 
    • Access to business partners and networks 
    • Workshops and trainings 
    • Fundraising guidance and opportunities 
    • 50kEUR funding for product and IP development (to be 60 kEUR in the future) 

    Also the local economy can greatly benefit from ESA BICs. A large majority of the start-ups accepted to the incubation programme still operate and generate revenue. Many of them have received significant investments and some grown considerably also after incubation. On a national scale, the ESA BICs play a role in realising national innovation and space strategies. They help accelerate the uptake of space based services in all various domains and also support the growth of the “New Space” community. 


    Under the ScaleUp programme an evolution of the ESA BICs take place. In the first place, ESA intends to take a more central role when it comes to offer technical support to start-ups. Currently a pilot is running to investigate the support need. After this, start-ups should be able to count on ESA’s expertise to develop their products and services, on top of the support that they already can get from local ESA BIC partners. 

    Another improvement for the start-ups is the increase in incentive funding offered under the incubation contract. In countries where the option exist, it will also be possible for start-ups to receive funding for further acceleration and growth after incubation. 





    The mission of the Φ-labNET, a network of Φ-labs, is to accelerate the future of space by introducing business innovation at fast pace, thus strengthening Europe’s world-leading commercial competitiveness. Its main objective is to deliver innovation ready for commercialisation with the potential ability to disrupt and transform markets.  

    As the ESA BICs are the natural go-to place to space startups, a Φ-lab could function as a natural go-to place for economic operators involved in space innovations, from ideation to market entry. The approach will be to innovate and apply an “under-one-roof” approach teaming up with academia, research centres, national space centres, industry as well as intermediary entities such as ESA BICs, Technology Brokers, Accelerators, and private investors, including Venture Capital organisations. 

    Φ-labs may be located in a national centre of excellence (already established or to be established) or in an existing ESA footprint (e.g. ESA BICs, ESA accredited laboratories, etc) or in any other location deemed suitable for the activities. Φ-labs will focus their applied research in any pre-defined areas that can be space-wide or specialised/monothematic in scope, benefitting from ESA expertise, other Φ-labs and the local innovation ecosystem. 

    ESA, in coordination with the National Delegations of the ESA Member States, is currently in the process of identifying potential suitable candidates where new local Φ-labs could be established.  

    Business Networking

    The mission of Φ-labNET is to make the connections that will accelerate the future of space through transformative innovation — and boost Europe’s commercial competitiveness.

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