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European space start-ups boost collaboration opportunities with Israel tour

In late January, a delegation of companies from across Europe’s space sector travelled to one of Israel’s leading annual space events, the Ilan Ramon International Space Conference, visited local space companies and benefited from a space entrepreneurship masterclass.

Several companies from the European Space Agency Space Solutions community travelled to Israel last month to meet their Israeli counterparts. ESA Space Solutions aims to maximise the business opportunities for companies it supports, and this Israeli tour was one of a number of initiatives being run to provide bridges to potential markets outside Europe. The trip was enhanced by a visit to a school science lab that is running space-related activities and included many opportunities for networking.

The tour started with a space entrepreneurship masterclass, in the centre of Tel Aviv. This included presentations from ESA and NASA, heads of space agencies, and an opportunity to present the entrepreneurs companies to everyone taking part. 

The attendees started their Israel tour with a masterclass in entrepreneurship, held in Tel Aviv

The trip was facilitated by Ran Qedar, co-founder of start-up company SPiN, an alumnus from the ESA Business Incubation Centre (ESA BIC) programme that has designed a multipurpose plug and play adaptor to connect and integrate satellite components. Among several space players, there were ESA Space Solutions start-ups alumni on the trip: Valispace, CrystalSpace and Hyperion. All the attendees were selected from the upstream sector (satellite hardware, software and ground segment) based on the maturity of their concepts or products.

Space conference

The following day saw the delegation attending the Ilan Ramon International Space Conference in Tel Aviv on 28th January 2020. Named after the Israeli astronaut who died in the Columbia space shuttle disaster in 2003, the conference is the main event of its kind in the Israeli space sector calendar. 

“The conference showcased the strengths of the Israeli space industry and gave valuable insights into their ambitious projects. The event provided excellent opportunities for sharing ideas, meeting people and connecting with businesses,” said Matthijs Klein from Netherlands-based start-up Hyperion.

Meeting local space businesses

The tour also included visits to three local space businesses, including SpacePharma, a start-up that designs and operates satellite payloads focussing on chemical and pharmaceutical experiments. Next stop was start-up company NSLComm, which develops deployable antennas. Here they heard about NSLComms’ technology and ground segment work, and the company’s plans for a satellite constellation that will provide data communications services to remote areas.  

The visit included a trip to the Herzliya Space Laboratory where students have built a 3U CubeSat

The final company to be visited was Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), which builds, launches and operates low Earth orbit (LEO) and geosynchronous (GEO) satellites, and was responsible for developing the Beresheet moon lander with SpaceIL.

“Both the conference and meetings with the Israeli aerospace industry provided extensive insight into country’s aerospace business, generating new ideas and cooperation opportunities,” explained Jaan Viru from Estonian start-up CrystalSpace. 

The European companies also went to the Herzliya Space Laboratory where local school students have built a 3U CubeSat, which they are operating along with eight others. After presentations by the students, the delegation was shown the ground station used to operate the satellites and the lab where the satellite was built. 

Israeli students use their own ground station at the Herzliya Space Laboratory to operate their 3U CubeSat and other small satellites

Valuable networking 

Over the course of the whole tour, participants had plenty of opportunities to exchange experiences and network with their Israeli counterparts. These included an exclusive gala dinner, hosted by the Israeli science ministry, and an evening drinks event with members of the Israeli space community and representatives of different companies.

The European companies were joined on the trip by Frank M. Salzgeber, ESA’s Head of Innovation and Ventures Office: “Supporting innovation is our main goal. This can be also be fostered by cooperation between start-ups from different countries. Providing opportunities for collaboration, access to new markets and engagement with international communities is a great way to support these ventures, and we are proud to work in this context with the Israeli Space Agency (ISA)."

The Senior Advisor to the Israel Space Agency at the Ministry of Science, Ofer Lapid, was also shared: “I'm grateful to ESA for endorsing our Entrepreneurial Space Workshop through the know-how and experience shared by some of their senior team. This is the second year our workshop has run alongside the Ilan Ramon International Space Conference. It proved yet again that entrepreneurs speak an international language that transcends geography, nationality and culture, and that when we get them together and give them the gift of time and mentorship, magic happens. We look forward to welcoming more European entrepreneurs to Tel Aviv next year for the 16th Ilan Ramon International Space Conference and the third Entrepreneurial Space Workshop.”

During the Ilan Ramon conference, individual meetings were held with local companies, allowing the European companies to present their products and services. They also had the opportunity to repeat this in front of teams from IAI and its suppliers when visiting the company. 

Among the companies visited during the Israeli tour was SpacePharma, which focuses on chemical and pharmaceutical experimental satellite payloads

The European visitors toured NSLComm, an Israeli start-up specialising in deployable antennas

Stefan Siarov from Valispace explained the value of the trip: “Understanding the business opportunities, the current status and local needs is instrumental to growing as a start-up. We’re currently expanding into new markets and Israel offers a great high tech scene which we can add value to. So it has been valuable to learn about the people, the culture and the way business is handled, which ultimately leads to a better and more professional way of building relationships for both sides.”

19 February 2020
Last updated at 17 March 2020 - 11:24