ESA’s Technology Transfer and Patent Office
It takes inventiveness to design for space. The new technologies, systems and know-how making ESA missions possible often hold much wider potential in the terrestrial sphere. It is the task of ESA’s Technology Transfer and Patent Officeto explore this potential by identifying and developing novel business opportunities for providers of space technologies and systems. This office forges links between the space sector and the rest of industry to find new homes for ESA’s trail-blazing innovations, inspiring novel business opportunities, products and services. This process increases the returns on public investment that initially gave rise to these technologies, enhances products and processes across a wide variety of fields and hones Europe’s competitiveness.
The TTPO provides economic potential and motivation for both space technology providers and industry across sectors in need for solutions throughout the technology transfer process. The result is a win-win for all sides. ESA Member States see their research and development investments pay off in unexpected ways; the space and non-space sectors minimise any duplication of research while space engineers gain cross-disciplinary opportunities to collaborate with other organisations.
It all starts with technical solutions born in/for space. The TTPO begins by identifying space technologies that might be possible for transfer, arising from R&D contracts or ESA’s inventions. They also make contact with space companies interested in commercialising their capabilities beyond the space field. The innovation specialists network, ESA Technology Brokers located in various Members States, identifies industry challenges. These innovation professionals bridge the gap between the space and non-space industries. They not only support the set-up of new projects but ensure that those projects develop into successful business cases, by providing hands-on guidance and coaching to industry.
The next step is to progressively de-risk these technologies for participating companies through the performance of feasibility studies, proof of concepts and operational demonstrations, giving them the confidence to move forward with transfers. The ESA Spark Funding is designed to accelerate the product or service development process of a company, whilst also refining the commercial roadmap. Projects must fall into one of two categories: “Spin-out”, an innovation for non-space industry through the integration of an industrial space solution or an ESA Patent, or “Spin-in”, an innovation for the space industry using a technology originally developed for another industry or application.
Beyond this, the TTPO also provides technical support for the companies as the transfer process continues, by facilitating regular contact with the inventors and the rest of ESA’s technical specialists. In addition, they provide access to the ESA owned patents, as part of the innovation made at the heart of ESA, not only by offering an attractive licensing policy, but also by providing finance to further develop the protected inventions in order to bring to the market an identified commercial opportunity.