Success Stories

Success Stories

(Copyright: ESA - S. Corvaja, M.Pedoussaut)

Success Stories

Space 2 Business - ESA Business Incubation at ESOC

The European Space Agency is seeking entrepreneurs with innovative ideas using space technology for applications and services in a non-space environment. One of the agency's business incubation centres is located at the European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) in Darmstadt to support innovative project ideas providing professional and technical expertise.

The ESA Business Incubation Initiative and its associated network of business incubators is designed to bridge the gap between the idea and the actual business by giving start-up aid to technology transfer projects and assisting their development into a viable business.

The ESA Business Incubation Initiative is managed agency-wide by the Technology Transfer Programme (TTP) Office, which is part of the Directorate of Technical & Quality Management (ESTEC) in Noordwijk, The Netherlands. The initiative wants to facilitate the use of space technology and space systems for non-space applications, further demonstrating the benefit of the European Space Programme to the European citizens.

Incubation at ESOC

Technology innovation in and around ESOC has been strong since the centre was established in the 1960s.

In the past few years, local entrepreneurship received a boost through the set-up of a local ESA Business Incubation centre, coordinated by experienced space professionals at ESOC and implemented by an external contractor, the Centre for Satellite Navigation Hessen GmbH (cesah).

Centre for Satellite Navigation in Hesse (cesah)

As a partner of the ESA Business Incubation Initiative, cesah is the contact point at ESOC for entrepreneurs with a business idea related to satellite navigation or related areas. cesah is an experienced competence, information and incubation centre for satellite-based applications and is located within Darmstadt's Technology and Innovation Centre (TIZ), just a few metres from ESOC.

Founded through a common initiative by the German State of Hesse and the European Space Agency, cesah was established in 2006, with a focus on satellite navigation and its applications.

Next to its main shareholder, the State of Hesse, the centre is owned by the City of Darmstadt, Darmstadt University of Technology, Darmstadt University of Applied Sciences, T-Systems GmbH, Telespazio VEGA Deutschland, and INI-Graphics Net.

ESA, cesah and the ,European Satellite Navigation Competition'

In cooperation with ESA and the Hesse Technology Support Agency (Hessen-IT), cesah serves as the local organiser for the European Satellite Navigation Competition, held in 2009 from 1 May to 31 July.

(Copyright: ESA - S. Corvaja, M. Pedoussaut)

The European Satellite Navigation Competition is a worldwide innovation contest that recognizes the best ideas for innovative applications in the field of satellite navigation.

The kick-off for this year's competition in the Hesse region was hosted by ESOC on 23 April 2009, with opening addresses by ESA's Director for Operations & Infrastructure, Gaele Winters and Steffen Saebisch, State Secretary in the Hessian Ministry of Economics, Transport, Urban and Regional Development.

ESA's Technology Transfer Programme Office collaborates with the European Satellite Navigation Competition to promote spin-offs from space technology.

In 2008, ESA introduced a special 'Innovation Prize' recognizing the best idea for the use of global satellite navigation systems; the prize committee seeks ideas that can be quickly implemented and will have a long-lasting influence within the area of implementation.


The winner of the ESA Innovation Prize is to be hosted at one of the ESA Business Incubation Centres.

ESA - Europe-wide Incubator Activities

Since the start of the ESA Business Incubation Initiative five years ago, some 70 incubation projects have taken off at the three incubation centres located at ESA's establishments at ESTEC (Noordwijk, the Netherlands), ESOC (Darmstadt, Germany), and ESRIN (Frascati, Italy), and the number of incubatees is growing steadily.

As a result, various technological spin-offs from satellite navigation, satellite communications, remote sensing, satellite operations, and other areas have been transferred into business activities, like medicine and health care, materials, leisure and sports, textiles, education, IT, social networking, gaming, construction industry and flood monitoring.

ESA offers a common support package to its incubatees including seed funding (sourced from ESA and the local region), technical support (from our labs and in-house experts), support in the development of the business plan, promotion, marketing and communication support, access to international networks (via the ESINET Incubator Network), investor-related training and access to the ESA Investment Fund or other venture capital sources.

Proposals to the permanent open call for ESA Business Incubation are evaluated by two consecutive Tender Evaluation Boards according to ESA General and Specific Requirements and a number of criteria related to the background and experience of the team, the business case, the technology and service area.

Another important consideration is the possibility of generating intellectual property rights (IPRs).