• Satellite Evolution Group

ESA empowering space innovation in UK: new Business Incubation Centre in Leicester and call for prop

Leicester's National Space Centre, home to the UK’s largest planetarium

ESA’s world-leading initiative to use space to spark business innovation will be extended to a new regional hub at the state-of-the-art Space Park Leicester in the East Midlands.

As the needs of society evolve, space provides businesses with the opportunity to develop innovative solutions and keep pace with a fast-moving global market.

The ESA Business Incubation Centre UK (ESA BIC UK) enables start-ups to transform ideas for applying space assets into viable commercial products and supports the development of technologies for use in space.

Managed by ESA and the Science and Technology Facilities Council, it has been nurturing businesses since operations started in 2011 by creating thriving communities focused on space-connected products and services.

ESA BIC UK is already located at three regional hubs – in Harwell in Oxfordshire, Daresbury in the Liverpool City Region, and Edinburgh – each of which has their own specialism in business, science and technology, allowing companies to benefit from the expertise on offer and collaborate with each other.

Crowdless mobile phone app shows when shops are crowded

The initiative has a proven track record, with 90 start-ups developing products or services in the fields of healthcare, renewable energy, transport and much more.

Innovative solutions include the well-known social distancing app Crowdless, developed by Lanterne, which allows users to identify where people are congregating so they can comply with guidelines put in place to slow the spread of coronavirus.

Space Park Leicester, due to open its doors in 2021, will be managed by the University of Leicester, which is renowned for its research into space and engineering, as well as data science and machine learning.

Businesses joining the new ESA BIC UK location at Space Park will benefit from the university’s research expertise and its links with the space industry.

Grant Bourhill, Chief Executive of Leicester Science Parks, said: “Leicester has consistently been recognised as one of the best cities in the UK for start-ups and the ESA BIC UK location at Space Park will offer access to state-of-the-art facilities and equipment, partnership working with our academic and student talent, as well as colocation with other companies.

“The space sector already underpins burgeoning commercial markets in communications, location-based services and Earth observation, and the ESA BIC will support new entrants to these and other space-enabled markets. This is an exciting step forward for the East Midlands.”

Sue O’Hare, Operations Manager at the ESA BIC UK, said: “I’m thrilled to welcome Space Park Leicester to ESA BIC UK, which is a significant milestone for the programme. UK start-ups are increasingly using space technologies to create game-changing products and producing new technologies that can reduce the cost or increase the functionality of spacecraft and satellites.

“However, taking a product from an initial idea to manufacture and market is a massive challenge. The UK is the leading funder in Europe for space business applications, and the addition of Space Park Leicester to our business incubation programme, with its successful track record in space research and industrial collaboration, provides an exciting opportunity to widen our support for start-ups across the vibrant and growing East Midlands space cluster and beyond.”

Cornelis Eldering, Head of the ESA Space Solutions Section, who, together with his team, is responsible for ESA’s network of BICs across its member states, said: “ESA BICs are all about partnerships and bringing the solutions that space has to offer to customers worldwide. We are very pleased with UK’s solid involvement in that ambition. With Leicester joining, not only are we bringing ESA closer to flourishing entrepreneurs in the area, we are also connecting the city’s excellent facilities and talents to our international Space Solutions business community.

“Space unites – and together with Leicester, our international partners, and a strong network of more than 900 entrepreneurs, we provide a substantial and sustained impact on society and the economy.”