ESA BIC Portugal reaches 15 incubators

The Portuguese network of incubators associated with the European Space Agency’s incubation programme has increased from three to 15 organisations some of which will work together in local subnetworks.

The ESA Business Incubation Centre (ESA BIC) Portugal is expanding its presence across the national territory, including the Azores and Madeira. The two Archipelagos are now home of four incubators – which are located in Funchal, S. Miguel, Santa Maria and Terceira Island – belonging to the ESA BIC Portugal Network.

“It is an essential step in our goal of expanding the reach of the Space sector to the whole economy and to all the country. The local economies , including those in the Azores and Madeira, will now benefit from the presence of new space-based solutions, services or applications”, says Chiara Manfletti, Portugal Space president.

The jury, comprised of members from the national and international startup’s ecosystem included Nick Veck, international panel member for FCT/ANI, Roberto Cossu, from the Downstream Business Applications Department at ESA, João Borga, president of Startup Portugal and Stephen Morais, Managing General Partner at Indico Capital Partners. Portugal Space was represented in the jury by Tiago Peres, Industrial Relations and Projects Officer.

The Portuguese ESA BIC Network will now include the following incubators, some of which will join forces to create subnetworks locally:

• IPN Incubadora (Coimbra)
• UPTEC and CEiiA (Porto and Matosinhos)
• Startup Braga (Braga)
• Startup Lisboa (Lisboa)
• SANJOTEC (São João da Madeira)
• UA Incubator (Aveiro)
• Startup Madeira (Funchal)
• PARKUrbis and UBImedical (Covilhã)
• PACT (Évora)
• NONAGON, TERINOV, and Incuba+ (S. Miguel, Santa Maria and Terceira Island, Azores)

“In reviewing the applications, I was extremely impressed not only by the high number of proposals and their geographic spread across the nation, but also by the quality of the proposals”, states Nick Veck, the chairman of the jury. Connected to the UK’s space sector, Veck is a former adviser of Satellite Applications Catapult (UK), a British company dedicated to transform the UK’s capability for innovation in specific areas and to help drive future economic growth by accelerating the growth of satellite applications.

“The number and quality of the proposals means that Portugal will have a strong network of ESA BIC incubators spread across the country”, says Tiago Peres. The Portugal Space Industrial Relations and Projects Officer expects “that the extended network will continue the excellent work of ESA BIC Portugal”, coordinated by the Pedro Nunes Institute (IPN). The new incubators will be able to “support even more startups finding new approaches to use space technology and develop products and/or services, enabled by space technology”.

Created in 2003, the entire European ESA BIC network has now fostered over 700 startups, contributing to create thousands of new high-tech jobs. With more than 20 centres spread over more than 60 cities in 17 European countries, the network takes in more than 170 startups yearly.

Since 2014, Instituto Pedro Nunes (IPN) leads the first European Space Solutions Centre to host within the same entity and team the three ESA elements promoting downstream businesses: ESA Business Incubation Centre, ESA Innovation Partners, and ESA Business Applications Ambassadors. The aim of hosting the three elements in one center is to foster synergies between the programmes and initiatives. IPN has been a case study of how these tools can better foster national economies by the use of space technologies and satellite data as the “one stop shop” ESA Space Solutions Centre in Portugal.

ESA’s incubation centre supports startups aiming to use space data or space technology for non-space industrial and commercial uses such as health, energy, transport, security and urban life, among others. Over the past six years, ESA BIC Portugal has supported 30 projects using space technology to create new products and services, with an investment of 2.5 million Euro, which allowed the creation of approximately 100 new jobs, with a total turnover of around 5 million euro and an export capacity of over 75%.

“The entrepreneurship new space ecosystem in Portugal is in a clear growing phase”, said Carlos Cerqueira, Head of the ESA Space Solutions Portugal, and “ESA Space Solutions Portugal was the spark that boosted it and made it a truly vibrant community”.

ESA’s BICs have the tools to help startups create a successful business, offering office space, technical and logistics support and business assistance. They also ensure seed money and access to equity loan facilities, access to inventors, VCs and other finance opportunities. Finally, the ESA’s incubators help startups finding partners and launch business internationally through the extensive ESA BIC network.

For the new members of the family, Nick Veck gives a piece of advice: “Make contact with their new siblings and to share thoughts on their issues, difficulties and importantly, their new ideas for supporting young businesses and entrepreneurs.” He also suggests, that all the national ESA BIC centres should work “closely with the CoLAB network – helping to bring the exciting new developments from those business-academia collaborations to create even more innovative companies to make use of the thrilling new applications from the latest generation of small satellites”.

Portugal Space
9 of June, 2020