Science and Technology Facilities Council
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ESA Business Incubation Centre at Harwell Strikes Ten and Makes History

The European Space Agency’s Business Incubation Centre Harwell (ESA BIC Harwell) has hit its target of signing up ten tenants within a year of launch.  With the announcement of three new tenants, the ESA BIC, which is managed by STFC, is now home to ten hi-tech, pioneering start- up companies, each of which will translate cutting edge space technologies into viable and profitable businesses in non-space industries.

Bennamann Ltd is using space technology developed by STFC to create a safe storage system for methane.  This will make it easier to store methane generated by the anaerobic digestion of grass cuttings during summer months to provide heating and electricity for agriculture and homes during the winter.

E-canal Ltd is developing a smart phone app for boat users on the UK’s inland waterways. The app uses ESA satnav technology to provide real time information on the location of nearby places of interest, amenities, queues at locks and hazards such as sunken boats.

Travel AI Ltd is also using ESA satnav technology to develop a system that automatically collects data about people’s travel habits from their smart phones, which it then aggregates for use by operators and planners of transport networks.

During their periods of tenancy, which can last up to 24 months, each company will benefit from an extensive package of services and support provided by ESA BIC Harwell, including a £41,500 product development grant, office space, free access to ESA and UK Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) expertise, and support for developing business plans and financial management skills.

Managed by STFC Innovations Limited, STFC’s commercialisation company, the ESA BIC Harwell is one of six ESA business incubation centres across Europe providing open high-tech innovation environments where technologies and applications, developed through space research, can be translated by innovative start-ups into viable businesses for a wider non-space market.

Paul Vernon, STFC’s Head of New Business Opportunities at STFC, said: “The ESA BIC Harwell is a major initiative by STFC and ESA that aims to bring technical and business support together to the benefit of dynamic start-up companies with a real drive to innovate. A track record of real achievement is already being delivered, underlining the significant advantages of this approach, not just in business incubation but also effective brokerage between space technology and market needs.” 

Bruno Naulais, European Space Incubators Network Manager at ESA said:”It is great news that ESA BIC Harwell is already reaching its targets.  The space sector can generate huge social and economic benefits and business incubation is already proving to be an effective tool for enabling technology transfer as well as enhancing the essential know-how and competitiveness of small innovative companies.”

Applications to the ESA BIC Harwell can be made at any time and the next selection campaign closing date is 14 May 2012.  Further information and how to apply can be found at the ESA BIC (link opens in a new window) website.

Further Information

Images of the campus at Harwell Oxford are available upon request.


Wendy Ellison
Press Officer
Tel: 01925 603 232

Notes to editors

ESA’s Business Incubation Centres

In 2003, ESA decided to set up business incubation centres as part of its Technology Transfer Programme, with the intention of helping entrepreneurs and young companies to use space technologies and knowhow to develop new products and services in non-space fields.

Six BICs have already been established in the Netherlands, Italy, Germany, the UK and Belgium. Being near major space sites ensures that specialist advice is never far away: in the Netherlands ESTEC, in Italy ESRIN, in Germany ESOC and DLR institutes, in the UK the Harwell Oxford Science Park, and in Belgium the ESA Redu ground station.

A seventh BIC is in planning for the Belgian Flanders region.

ESA’s Technology Transfer Programme Office (TTPO)

The main mission of the ESA Technology Transfer Programme is to facilitate the use of space technology and systems for non-space applications to take advantage of Europe’s investments in space research and developments to strengthen the competitiveness of European industry, and at the same time demonstrating the benefit of the European space programmes to Europe’s citizens.

ESA TTPO is responsible for defining the overall approach and strategy for the transfer of space technologies and systems, including the incubation of start-up companies at ESA business incubation centres and related funding.

The office has transferred over 260 technologies since the programme start and is supporting directly and indirectly around 100 new start-ups a year. TTPO has also initiated as a limited partner the Open Sky Technology Fund, a €100 million venture fund which invests in start-ups using space technology.

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