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07 October 2020: ESA BIC Greece - Information webinar

The European Space Agency (ESA), in coordination with the General Secretariat of Telecommunications and Post of the Greek Ministry of Digital Governance, has opened a tender on the implementation and management of an ESA Business Incubation Centre (ESA BIC) in Greece. 

To support interest in this opportunity ESA Space Solutions is organising a virtual Information Day for potential bidders in Greece for the morning of 7th October. Join on Wednesday 7th October 10:30 CEST to hear from an expert panel with representatives of ESA, the General Secretariat of Telecommunications and Post of the Greek Ministry of Digital Governance on ESA’s common approach towards business incubation and the objectives for ESA BIC Greece. The aim of this webinar is to showcase the ESA BIC model and its success across ESA Member States.

The open tender - 'AO10521 - ESA BIC Greece (2021 -2026)' – is due to close on 20 November 2020. It is open for Greek companies to submit proposals for the implementation and management of the ESA BIC in Greece. 

Please see the draft agenda below: 


09.30 - 09.40 


09.40 - 10.10


10.10 – 10.40  


10.40 – 11.00   



To register for this event, please do so below:

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ESA “e-Investor Forum” in partnership with ELITE

The European Space Agency’s Space Solutions programme and ELITE, the business support and capital-raising programme of the London Stock Exchange Group (LSEG), held the 13th ESA Investor Forum on Monday 23rd March. Because of the COVID-19 situation this was the first entirely remote Investor Forum: a commitment to support entrepreneurship and space-related industry even under these exceptional circumstances.

ESA Investor Forum participants

10 companies belonging to ESA’s and ELITE’s portfolio, each looking to raise between €1- €10m, pitched to more than 30 investors: a sign that in this singular moment, good businesses are still able to attract private capital attention. Pitching  companies are active in a variety of industrial sectors, including logistics, NewSpace, analytics, geographical Intelligence, high-tech and communication.

On the occasion of the event, Nick Appleyard, Head of ESA Downstream Business Applications, said: 

“At a time when the whole planet is reflecting on connectivity, resilience and global interdependence, it is space companies that offer us solutions for a safe, responsible and confident world.

At the European Space Agency we are excited by the ambition of these companies, and inspired by their business ideas. With help from our partners at LSEG we are proud to play a part in their future success.”

Craig Twyford, responsible for Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP) Ventures and keynote speaker, highlighted their successful collaboration with ESA Space Solutions:

“Our ambition is for CCEP’s competitive advantage in 10 years time to have come from something we have invested in today. We really value our partnership with ESA as we recognise that we are trying to save a lot of the same problems and events such as the ones introduced to us by these fantastic businesses that have the potential to transform the way we do business.”

Finally, also ELITE heaped praise on the forum:

"We were delighted to support ESA Investor Forum and to hear the ground breaking technologies during the pitches."

About ESA Space Solutions

Since the programme’s inception in 2008, ESA Space Solutions has invested more than €300M in over 1800 business ideas, addressing markets in industries worldwide. Funding typically ranges from 50kEuro to 2MEuro and supports everything from early stage feasibility studies to large-scale demonstration projects.


ELITE offers businesses a full programme to help them grow, including education, business support and direct contact with Europe’s financial and advisory community. In the UK, Imperial College Business School helps to deliver the programme. Management teams are guided on how best to fast-track their development and capital raising processes, how to access the most suitable funding for their needs (whether private equity, venture capital or the bond or equity markets), and are given advice on building their profile and reach.

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OPPORTUNITY 5G for L’ ART (L’ Aquila, Abruzzo Region, Rome, Torino)

With the aim of providing evidence of the advantages deriving from the link of space and 5G technologies, ESA has initiated a dialogue with several user communities and stakeholders, presenting a number of application areas of specific interest to the local user communities and economic/societal context.

This specific Announcement of Opportunity originated from three collaboration agreements between:

the Agency and Roma Capitale 

the Agency and the University of L’Aquila/the Abruzzo Region/the Municipality of L’Aquila 

the Agency and Municipality of Torino 

In agreement with the above stakeholders, ESA has defined relevant use cases that can show-case in an operational context the benefits of using space in conjunction with 5G, at the same time leading to sustainable services to the benefits of the local communities. The initiative aims to stimulate submission of proposals by industry and institutions to study, develop and demonstrate applications based on space and 5G addressing the use cases and /or themes subject of the following thematic calls: 

For more information please join one of our webinars:

 More information follows soon.






Feasibility Studies

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Outline Proposal Template

Word Format Full Proposal: Cover Letter and Full Proposal Template



Demonstration Projects

Word Format

Outline Proposal Template

Word Format Full Proposal: Cover Letter, Full Proposal Template and Milestone Payment Plan calculator



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Hiber – how pie in the sky became reality

Two and a half years ago, the founders of Hiber wondered why only 10 per cent of the globe was covered with gsm and mobile networks, limiting the availability of IoT (Internet of Things). 

So the Dutch Government-backed start-up got in touch with the European Space Agency and set about changing this. The resulting collaboration saw the development of Hiber’s own constellation/satellite network, and the creation of two nano satellites (10cm cubes) or ‘Cubesats’ for delivering global connectivity – known as ‘Hiberband’. (The company is called ‘Hiber’ because these terminals hibernate most of the time, turning on only when a Hiber satellite passes overhead to relay positioning and status updates.) 

HiberOne and HiberTwo were launched at the end of 2018 – and Hiber announced this week that the satellites are now commercially operational – bringing IoT connectivity to the vast majority of the world currently lacking a network. 

First to offer global IoT connectivity as commercial service 

Traditional satellites that provide wider coverage are expensive and power-hungry, which has meant many IoT applications and services have not been economically viable (e.g. monitoring soil moisture to improve production efficiency and crop quality in third world countries). 

Hiber’s service uses a process that is significantly cheaper than existing global solutions, making it a truly global IoT network. As many potential IoT projects fail due to lack of connectivity,  Hiber estimates there is a potential €7 bn opportunity for growth.

“It is beyond exciting to be the first company bringing full IoT-connectivity to the globe — as well as being the first ever commercial Dutch Satellite operator,” said Laurens Groenendijk, Co-Founder of Hiber. “The commercial applications for Hiberband in the IoT-industry are limitless. We look forward to powering diverse projects, from tracking cattle to tackling climate change and more effectively growing crops.”

Frank Zeppenfeldt, from ESA’s telecommunications Future Projects Division, says: “Hiber is now a company with 35 people. This activity demonstrates the importance of a lightweight mechanism to attract newcomers and explore and support their proposed initiatives. Without this, the above would never have happened. Hiber has received the title of ‘Commercial Startup Launch of 2018’  from Amazon Web Services, but more importantly, has attracted a good amount of private capital.”

Coen Janssen, Co-founder/Director of Business Analytics, Hiber says: “The Hiber team has made a mark in history by getting this new technology developed, tested in space and up and running within 2.5 years of conception of the company, with people that have flocked to us from pretty much all over the world; 35 individuals with 20 different nationalities.” 

He continues: “As a team we are also part of something bigger and without the support of ESA we would never even have embarked on this journey. We are well on our way to set the global standard for Low Power Global IoT connectivity and are on to something truly disruptive for many industries and people all over the planet. We started working on a pie in the sky idea and now it is becoming a reality!”

Among Hiber’s pilot customers is Clean2Antarctica, a team of environmental campaigners using a solar powered car made from waste plastic to cross the Antarctic.

Other customers include a Dutch company which will be bringing climate stations to schools in rural communities in Peru, Tanzania and Sri Lanka to educate tomorrow’s smart farmers and Blik Sensing, which helps manage water resources by providing insight into global groundwater levels.


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Bridging the gap - how Space is improving bridge safety

High winds, extreme tides, temperature changes, unusual traffic loading and ageing materials can put bridges under enormous pressure, occasionally to the point where they become dangerous. 

At 2.5km, the Forth Road Bridge in Scotland is one of the longest bridges in Europe: GeoSHM (GNSS and Earth Observation for Structural Health Monitoring) is being used to monitor its movement.

Last year’s bridge collapse in Genoa, which killed 43 people, is a tragic example.  ESA is now supporting a unique and innovative service initiated by a team from the University of Nottingham, to monitor the health status of bridges.

The University’s Geospatial Institute and its industrial partners such as UbiPOS UK Ltd., have developed a ‘world-first’ integrated sensor called GeoSHM-Lite for monitoring the structural ‘deformation’ of long-span bridges. GeoSHM  is the result of research led by Dr Xiaolin Meng, which originated from his PhD work at the University 20 years ago.

The GeoSHM system combines GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite Systems) for on-site monitoring with Earth Observation technologies for inspecting land movements, to offer an integrated solution for bridge maintenance.

Dr Meng’s team developed a prototype with ESA, which was installed on the Forth Road Bridge in Scotland in 2014. A major strategic link between the north and south of Scotland, the bridge’s maintenance is essential to transport in the region. When in 2015 a truss end link fractured on one of the north-east tower girders, the entire bridge was closed. However, critical observations from GeoSHM complemented other data to provide sufficient confidence to re-open the bridge.

“Experts at the Nottingham Geospatial Institute worked with Amey to assess the behaviour of the bridge under load tests and high wind loading by attaching remote GPS sensors to the bridge. In association with other health monitoring sensors, we were able to monitor the bridge’s condition and safety behaviour in real time.  Data from structural health monitoring supports asset management by providing smart solutions which help decision making, reduce closures, cost and public inconvenience,” said Mr Bill Valentine, Technical Director at Forth Bridges Unit of Amey Consulting.

The success of the system led to a potential investment of £8,500,000 from China and as a result, GeoSHM is now being used on three Yangtze River bridges in China.  

“We liaised with bridge operators and other key infrastructure owners to understand their upmost needs and the gaps in the market,” says Dr Meng. “We worked with ESA to build our expertise in relevant fields and used our existing strengths to fill these gaps.”

Group photo of GeoSHM Consortium GeoSHM provides real-time measurements of bridges during normal and abnormal loading conditions and gives a complete picture of the structure in its changing landscape, identifying threats caused by environmental conditions, land motion, engineering works, landslip, mining and industrial activity.

Some structural monitoring systems were already using GNSS, but these had limitations when applied to long, flexible structures like bridges. Issues such as the very high cost of receivers, positioning accuracy and signal blockage impeded reliability. GeoSHM has solved these and taken patent pending technology to the next level with several novel features.  

“The system can give more accurate estimates of the movement of the bridge long-term – for factors like thermal expansion (changes as a result of temperature increases) - as well as giving deformation (strain) estimates of a wide area of land surrounding the bridge. This is of critical importance to infrastructure operators and owners,” says Roberta Mugellesi Dow, ESA’s technical officer.

GeoSHM targets a large bridge monitoring market that is worth approximately USD 2 Trillion globally. There are more than 264 long-span bridges in the world, over half of which are in China: and  GeoSHM is being supported by a subsidiary of China Railway Group, Asia’s largest construction company. The creation of a supply chain for GeoSHM has also created 50 jobs globally as of 2018, with bases in London, Nottingham and China. 

Dr Meng says: “We are very lucky to have had such support from ESA, they helped to make my dream come true and turn my PhD into reality! ESA has helped me make the transition from academic peer to being able to implement the idea – put it into practice. I cannot claim I’m a business man, but ESA provided the valuable input to deliver the project – they have been so supportive.”



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Mirpuri Foundation joins forces with the European Space Agency

Combining forces to advance sustainable innovation, the European Space Agency (ESA) is glad to announce its partnership with the Mirpuri Foundation. The cooperation aims to leverage space applications for advancing development addressing capacity building and education, marine and wildlife conservation, aviation, and health. Both organizations will join forces in order to achieve common objectives. 

The cooperation started with the Mirpuri Foundation sharing environmental inputs for a feasibility study to support post COVID-19 outbreak socio-economic recovery. The objective of this feasibility study is to identify and analyse the technical feasibility and economic viability of sustainable space-based services which can contribute to the post Covid-19 outbreak recovery in the vertical sectors as transport, health, education, manufacturing, agriculture. Additionally, the study will address societal and environmental challenges likely to emerge after the COVID-19 crisis.

Recently, the Mirpuri Foundation has also supported a new ESA initiative aimed at reducing the environmental impact of plastics, which will assess the viability of space based applications in support of reducing environmental impact of plastics/marine litter, and define a roadmap for services implementation and demonstration.

Paulo Mirpuri, President of the Mirpuri Foundation, described this partnership as “the best way to enable cross-sectoral sustainable innovation, with a prestigious and goal-oriented organization. At the Foundation, we feel very confident that this collaboration will show great results, an advance in technology that will benefit the environment”.

Rita Rinaldo, Head of the Partner-led and Thematic Initiatives for ESA Space Solutions, said: “The cooperation with the Mirpuri Foundation is a unique opportunity to demonstrate how space applications can support a green transition. We are confident that together with the Mirpuri Foundation, we will be able to unlock new opportunities for space and deliver tangible impact at scale."


The Mirpuri Foundation is a non-profit organization based in Portugal, and founded by entrepreneur Paulo Mirpuri with the aim of contributing to a better world for future generations. With its belief that leading by example is the best way to change mindsets, the Mirpuri Foundation fosters cooperation between legislators, corporations, communities and individuals. The Mirpuri Foundation acts in six distinct areas: Marine Conservation, Wildlife Conservation, the Performing Arts, Social Responsibility, Medical Research, and Aviation. The foundation’s commitment to sustainability is transversal and is reflected in all its activities. The Mirpuri Foundation is synonymous with technology, research, information and innovation. Allied to these characteristics are the values of integrity, perseverance and altruism in order to better impact the planet.

About ESA

The European Space Agency is Europe’s gateway to space. Its mission is to shape the development of Europe’s space capability and ensure that investment in space continues to deliver benefits to the citizens of Europe and the world. ESA is an international organization with 22 Member States. By coordinating the financial and intellectual resources of its members, it can undertake programmes and activities far beyond the scope of any single European country.

ESA Space Solutions aims at reaching commercial exploitation of space assets, data and capabilities addressing incubation, proving technical feasibility and business development. This includes the development of operational services for a wide range of users through the combination of different systems, and support in creating viable companies as well as to existing companies

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Anywaves’ 3D printed ceramic antennas take flight

Anywaves was initially incubated at ESA BIC Sud France and then at ENAC, after which it became a founder member of the Newspace Factory, a group of 12 French SMEs based in and around Toulouse, including Anywaves’ premises seen here.

Advances in space technology don’t always require new technology. Sometimes what is needed instead is the insight to match existing materials and technologies to create a new solution. With support from ESA, this is exactly what Anywaves, a French Space Agency (CNES) spin-off and ESA Space Solutions alumnus, has done to create ceramic antennas for small satellites, resulting in a recent contract for antennas for Omnispace’s satellite-based Internet of Things (IoT) infrastructure.

Five of Anywaves’ antennas were put into orbit on EyeSat and Angels satellites in December 2019.

The Anywaves payload user antennas will be used in the initial pair of satellites that Thales Alenia Space has been contracted to build for Omnispace. They will be integrated in a NanoAvionics platform and delivered by the middle of 2021. 

Thales selected Anywaves due to its experience in deploying commercial antennas and its expertise in payload antenna design. The small form factor S-band antennas will be customised to support Omnispace’s IoT communications requirements.

Identifying the opportunity

The contract from Thales marks a significant stage in the history of Anywaves, which started in 2014 when Nicolas Capet, an antenna engineer for CNES, travelled to Limoges, France, to visit XLIM (a joint research unit of the University of Limoges and CNRS, the French National Centre for Scientific Research) and 3DCeram, later to become a key Anywaves’ collaborator. Capet, an expert in electromagnetism and microwaves, immediately identified the potential benefits of ceramic 3D printing for aerospace.

“At first sight, it might seem there is a huge gap between ceramics, traditionally used in making crockery, and all the high-end technologies associated with spacecraft. But when you stop to think about it, ceramics is known for durability and high heat-resistant properties, so is actually a very interesting material to work with for the space industry,” explains Capet, Anywaves Founder and CEO.

EyeSat is a triple CubeSat project being developed by students which belongs to JANUS, a CNES programme that supports French universities in developing their CubeSat projects. Each EyeSat includes an Anywaves antenna.

“If you then consider 3D printing, it has the capability to produce specialised and customised versions of almost everything. It is also known for having a lower rate of failure and a lower cost of manufacturing.” 

The incubation advantage

The Anywaves technical concept and business was officially launched in April 2017, after which incubation was an important step for the development of the French start-up. Anywaves was initially incubated at the ESA Business Incubation Centre (ESA BIC) South France, from July 2017 to May 2018. While there, Anywaves won its first contract for the ESA Innovation Triangle Initiative (ITI-139 project for 3D printed substrate tests and qualification) and sold its first antenna: an S-band model for EyeSat. 

Anywaves was then incubated at Ecole Nationale do l’Aviation Civile (ENAC) from June 2018 for 16 months, where the team collaborated intensively with the Electromagnetism & Navigation R&D department. It has since become a founding member of the Newspace Factory and five of its antennas have been put into orbit with EyeSat and Angels smallsats. 

Ceramics and 3D printing – a winning combination

“ESA BIC Sud France is very happy to have supported Nicolas Capet during the first steps of his company’s birth,” says Aurelie Baker, ESA BIC South France manager. “It is a perfect example of a technology and knowledge transfer from a space agency to an external company for the benefit and development of the new industry of nanosatellites. Anywaves is relying not only on an innovative technology, but also on a highly qualified team. It is a growing company and we bet it's not over yet.” Anywaves’ novel 3D ceramic antennas have garnered many awards. In 2019, it won the I-LAB competition and the Euroconsult FinSpace Satcom & Connectivity Category award during World Satellite Business Week. Then in 2020, recognition came from the Occitanie Region, which hosts the European Space Capital, for Anywaves with the prize for Start-up of the Year.

Omnispace selected Thales Alenia Space to design and build an initial set of two satellites as part of of its satellite-based Internet of Things (IoT) infrastructure. These will include customised antennas from Anywaves.

From a well-spotted opportunity back in 2014, Anywaves has grown from one person in 2017 to 20 in 2020 and sold more than 30 antennas. The new contract with Thales for Omnispace marks yet another success for this ambitious company. Julie Ruhlmann, Omnispace Programme Manager at Thales Alenia Space, comments: "Anywaves capacity to design customized antennas perfectly suited to our needs is the reason why we selected them to work alongside with us on this project.” 


ESA Space Solutions is the go-to-place for great business ideas involving space in all areas of society and economy. Our mission is to support entrepreneurs in Europe in the development of business using satellite applications and space technology to improve everyday life. Our programme is designed to provide multiple entry points such as ESA Business Incubation Centres (ESA BICs), ESA Technology Broker Network, and ESA Business Applications programme. Funding typically ranges from 50KEuro to 2MEuro and supports everything from space technology transfer, early stage incubation programs, feasibility studies to large-scale demonstration projects.

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Czech cosmic start-up helps decode Enigma of Raphael painting

A Madonna and Child painting with a history almost as enigmatic as the Mona Lisa's smile has now been analyzed by Czech company InsightART  – whose RToo robotic scanner is one of the first X-ray machines built explicitly for art investigation.

The 500-year-old painting had always been attributed to Leonardo Da Vinci's contemporary, Raphael, but doubts about its authenticity have occurred in its recent history. At the end of the 19th century, the painting disappeared from the general consciousness, and only in recent decades has extensive research been carried out into its authenticity.

The Madonna and Child painting's turbulent backstory encompasses some of European great historical figures, as well as violent fights and lucrative art deals. That Raphael was indeed the artist of this masterpiece has now been confirmed by many expert studies from around the world and by the international advisory board. 

InsightART's RToo robotic scanner had already been used to unveil a previously unknown painting by Vincent van Gogh. The machine uses a particle detector developed at CERN, re-purposed for space exploration, and manufactured by the Czech company ADVACAM.Their decision was backed up by a study by InsightART – one of the start-ups of the ESA BIC Prague business incubator, part of ESA Space Solutions, which uses cosmic detector technology.

"This technology – which is also used to measure radiation at the International Space Station – is capable of detecting and counting single photons, as well as establishing their wavelength," explains Josef Uher, a physicist, and InsightART's CTO.

 "While the standard X-ray machine only creates a black and white image, RToo provides 'colour' – or spectral – X-ray images, which allow the materials to stand out based on their elemental composition," he says.

Colour X-ray images by the RToo robot reveal previously hidden layers of the painting.  (Image credit: InsightART)

The Madonna and Child was scanned in great detail – from the foundation layers to the final glazes, revealing the internal structure of Raphael's painting. "During this process, it became clear that the work was executed layer by layer by Raphael himself, without the aid of his workshop" says InsightART´s cofounder and art restorer, Jiří Lauterkranc.

InsightART says they benefited greatly from the ESA BIC in Prague, who were very happy to help the company in deploying the space technology. "We are used to different kinds of technological applications which make use of satellite data, navigation systems, airplanes or satellites. However, the combination of space technology and art is very unconventional – this is the only project," says Michal Kuneš, project manager of the ESA BIC Prague. 

The painting was the subject of a recent press conference at the observatory of Prague's Žižkov Television Tower. The conference featured Jiří Fajt, art historian and former director of the Czech National Gallery, InsightART's art restorer Jiří Lauterkranc and physicist Josef Uher, as well as Kateřina Syslová from the ESA BIC Prague space incubator.

ESA Space Solutions aims at reaching commercial exploitation of space assets, data and capabilities addressing incubation, proving technical feasibility and business development. This includes the development of operational services for a wide range of users through the combination of different systems, and support in creating viable companies as well as to existing companies.

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SatADSL widens global Internet access through PaaS model

SatADSL now provides brokered Satellite Bandwidth globally, having added additional points of presence (PoPs) in multiple continents to connect its cloud C-SDP platform, with the support of ARTES.

Belgian company SatADSL is broadening access to affordable Internet globally through its innovative Cloud-Service Delivery Platform (C-SDP), developed over the last two years through an ESA ARTES Competitiveness & Growth project. This Platform as a Service (PaaS) solution benefits satellite and ground station/teleport operators, who can more easily sell their capacity, adding value added services developed by SatADSL.

Founded in 2011, SatADSL bridges the gap between satellite operators who offer Internet access and those unable to access it (reliably or at all) through a first-of-its-kind cloud-based model. Originally serving the Sub-Saharan African region, SatADSL now serves communities across the Americas, Europe, Africa and Asia. 

Satellite operators looking to sell their capacity but lacking the means to identify alternative markets – and the physical infrastructure to supply them – face a challenge. SatADSL enables them to sell on that capacity by acting as an aggregator, brokering and supplying capacity in any band (C, Ka and Ku) to those who need it. Through its model, operators benefit from range of added value services such as an online payment system and voucher options on satellite capacity. 

Expanding services globally

Initially, SatADSL focused on providing services to Africa, where vast swathes of the population lack terrestrial services and rely on satellite-based options. 

SatADSL services are valuable for larger service providers too. The company has expanded its services across both Africa and Latin America this year. In September 2020, SatADSL signed a partnership with teleport operator Andesat to deliver flexible satellite services to Spanish speaking South American markets. And in April 2020, SatADSL partnered with YahClick, a  Ka-band provider to consumer and enterprise markets in the Middle East, Africa, Brazil, Central and South West Asia, to add additional satellite capacity to the C-SDP  (Image credit: SatADSL)

For four years, SatADSL has also targeted satellite and teleport operators and proposed access to its platform in the form of a PaaS in order to offer them all the embedded advantages of it. Now, as a result of the ARTES project, it is able to provide brokered satellite bandwith globally, having added additional points of presence (PoPs) in multiple continents to connect its cloud C-SDP platform too. For users, this avoids any additional latency associated with fiber on top of the unavoidable latency of geostationary satellite communications.

Technical developments during the two-year project, which finished in July 2020, have also enabled SatADSL to offer its services to teleports as well as satellite operators, unlocking new revenue opportunities for operators without them having to make significant technology investments. The PaaS solution is provided on a risk-sharing model and enables operators to sell on their capacity anonymously.

At the other end of the value chain, the deployment of two PoPs (one in Singapore and one in Orlando, Florida) not only broadens the geographical spread of SatADSL’s service, but should also make it easier for local Service Providers to sell on capacity af-ggregated on the C-SDP to their end-users fleet. The newly conceived VNOFlex service offering allows service providers to subscribe toa dedicated VNO  and allocate it dynamically across their customers as required. This bandwidth flexibility is also important for many end-users whose demand is not static, either across the year (such as schools) or even week-to-week. 

Through SatADSL’s platform, Service Providers can also offer their own branded vouchers, allowing customers to buy access as and when they need and can afford it, and allocating bandwidth accordingly.

Benefitting from ESA technical and business support

The SatADSL team including astronaut candidate and ‘TechWoman’ Caroline De Vos, Co-Founder and COO of SatADSL (Image credit: SatADSL) Both the funding and support provided through the ARTES project were important for the development of the technology required for the new cloud-based service and to widen SatADSL’s offering at both ends of the Internet bandwidth supply chain.

 “Working with ESA is really good for us. This isn’t the first time we’ve worked with them and the technical feedback is always beneficial,” explained Caroline De Vos, Co-Founder and COO of SatADSL. “What we’re doing is very niche – there is nobody else doing it and we’re in the process of gaining worldwide patents. Ultimately, we are a company of engineers, so the support they give us with the project management side, such as reporting and planning, is extremely valuable.”

ESA’s ARTES programme enables European companies to explore innovative concepts to produce leading-edge satcom products and services. The Competitiveness & Growth element is dedicated to the development, qualification and demonstration of products, systems and/or applications.

“During the PaaS project, ESA has supported SatADSL to trial an innovative service idea. PaaS allows teleport operators to maximise the utilisation of their assets and also offers satellite Internet access to millions of potential users. The trials have shown a large interest for this new model,” said Olivier Becu, Application Project Manager, Downstream Business Applications, Telespazio Vega for ESA.


ESA Space Solutions is the go-to-place for great business ideas involving space in all areas of society and economy. Our mission is to support entrepreneurs in Europe in the development of business using satellite applications and space technology to improve everyday life. Our programme is designed to provide multiple entry points such as ESA Business Incubation Centres (ESA BICs), ESA Technology Broker Network, and ESA Business Applications programme. Funding typically ranges from 50KEuro to 2MEuro and supports everything from space technology transfer, early stage incubation programs, feasibility studies to large-scale demonstration projects.

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ESA Business Incubation Centres drive growth of SMEs

ESA BICs foster growth and are helping to counter a downward trend in SMEs, with a direct impact on SDG 9 of the Sustainable Development Goals. (Image credit: Shutterstock)

A recent case study has revealed that ESA Business Incubation Centres (ESA BICs) are subverting a general downward trend in the number of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Over the years an impressive twenty ESA BICs have been deployed across Europe allowing local economies to benefit from space data and technologies. In doing so, the ESA BICs have contributed to the growth of SMEs with a direct impact in relation to Sustainable Development Goal 9: Inclusive and sustainable industrialisation.

ESA BIC event poster: Thousands of new high tech jobs have been created thanks to the application of space systems and space technology transfers. More than 180 new start-ups are taken in yearly at the ESA BICs.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) constitute a comprehensive framework developed by the United Nations, who adopted a set of goals to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity.

The path to sustainable prosperity also involves the creation of start-up and small/medium-sized enterprises that help to create employment – making a virtuous link between the ESA BICs and the SDGs. 

ESA BICs work to inspire entrepreneurs to turn space-connected business ideas into commercial companies. They provide funding, marketing, technical expertise and business-development support.

“Helping start-ups to set up, to grow and to become successful is a very challenging and timely business; but it is the most sustainable and economical way of creating the jobs of the future. If you want to have a big tree you have to start to plant some,” says Frank Salzgeber, Head of Innovation and Venture at ESA. 

SMEs are a boon in European and other economies, delivering more employment and investments when compared to larger companies. But unfortunately over the years there has been a perceptible decline generally in the number of SMEs. 

Now it’s being observed that the support to SMEs from ESA’s BICs might in fact be countering this downward trend.

In order to statistically verify the impact of the ESA BICs, Celine Dubron and Elia Montanari from ESA Space Solutions set out to quantify the effect of the ESA BICs on the growth of SMEs by country using an ‘Instrumental Variable (IV)’ tool. 

This is a statistical technique that mimics – at least partially – a Randomised Controlled Trial.  By applying the IV, it is possible to measure impact by comparing the effect of the ‘treatment’ (ESA BIC support) on countries that implemented an ESA BIC against the ‘counterfactual’ (the control group –  i.e. countries that did not implement ESA BICs).

“Impact assessment, be it for SDGs or for other empirical indicators, has recently been popularised by Economics Nobel Prize neo-laureates Esther Duflo, Abhijit Banarejee and Michael Kremer - for  experimental work done in developing countries,” says Elia Montanari, Head of Management & Control at ESA Space Solutions. 

“Implementing randomised control trials is the gold standard. In the absence of such an opportunity, we went for second best by measuring the impact of the selected SDG using the IV instrument. The ESA BIC case study is a particularly important case for the Agency because it allows to link the implementation of ESA BICs to the growth of SMEs as a % of total value-added industry,” Elia Montanari, ESA. 

This graph shows how the treatment group (yellow) compared to the counterfactual (blue), delivering a positive impact even though the ‘general trend’ after implementation is sloping down.

For the case study, the  SDG Indicator 9.3.1 or ‘proportion of small-scale industries in total industry value added (%)’ was studied as the outcome variable. This relates to SDG 9 of the UN framework.

The results of the case study showed a statistically significant positive result. It was observed that while the percentage of SMEs have generally decreased over the years across the treatment group, in the counterfactual – or control group – the percentage of SMEs had deteriorated further.

“This means that the ESA BIC network has an impact on the amount of SMEs that is greater than zero and that this holds true for 95% of the cases,” says Montanari. 

“In other words: When a country became part of the ESA BIC network, the amount of SMEs increased relatively to the downward trend that would otherwise have been observed.”

The results of the case study are robust enough to potentially influence future policy decisions on the establishment of ESA BICs and, where possible, further studies are envisaged to dig into more granular geographies and assess the impact of ESA BIC implementation – at a regional level, for example.


ESA's pan-European network of Business Incubation Centres is operated by ESA Space Solutions. The network has now grown to 21 in 18 European countries. Together they form the largest ecosystem in the world for space-related entrepreneurship. Over 900 new start-ups have been fostered and another 220 are taken in annually at the network’s business incubation sites.


ESA Space Solutions is the go-to-place for great business ideas involving space in all areas of society and economy. Our mission is to support entrepreneurs in Europe in the development of business using satellite applications and space technology to improve everyday life.  Our programme is designed to provide multiple entry points such as ESA Business Incubation Centres (ESA BICs), ESA Technology Transfer Broker Network, and ESA Business Applications programme. Funding typically ranges from 50KEuro to 2MEuro and supports everything from space technology transfer, early stage incubation programs, feasibility studies to large-scale demonstration projects.

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