Did you know that many of the technologies that help us in our daily lives were originally intended for use in space? Take, for example, Teflon. Before going to the kitchen, it went to the moon. Uniforms for firefighters? Originally a thermal rocket shell. LED lights? They were intended to be used for growing plants in space. The ESA BIC Prague business incubator supports projects like these and more, such as stratospheric platforms, luxury light wheels made from cosmic composite materials, small satellites, drones, X-rays to verify the authenticity of works of art or applications that help farmers. These are projects that combine space technology and business ideas, use space patents, satellite navigation or Earth observation.
ESA BIC Prague, the first space incubator in Central and Eastern Europe, was established in May 2016 as part of the European Space Agency’s (ESA) network of Business Incubation Centers (BICs). The ESA operates two dozen of its business incubators across Europe. These centres provide background and support to innovative technology startups that work with space technologies, further develop them and seek their commercial use.
The business incubator focuses on the growth and development of technologically progressive start-ups that use space technologies or systems in their commercial products or services. The project aims to support the use of space technologies in everyday life, thus ensuring support for research, development and innovation, and the monetization of their results.
“The number of high-quality companies with better business plans and presentations among those interested in incubating at ESA BIC is gradually increasing. Initially, there was a predominance of software companies, however, today the number of hardware companies is rising. The competition is growing and, therefore, it is not easy to choose. But if someone has a good idea and a well-coordinated team, they can still succeed,”says Michal Kuneš, ESA BIC Prague project manager.
Meet some of the ESA BIC Prague successful start-ups:
At the first sight, space and the art market do not have much in common. However, the Prague company InsightART was able to connect these two fields in its business – it uses a particle detector, which is used on the International Space Station ISS to measure radiation. InsightART adapted it to its current form of the RToo robotic scanner, which is one of the first X-rays in the world to specialize in the exploration of works of art. Last year, the company succeeded in confirming the originality of the image of Madonna and Child, the origin of which was previously questioned several times. InsightART was able to provide unique data and confirmed that the author of the painting is indeed the Renaissance artist Raffael Santi.
This year’s newcomer to the incubator is a Czech company with international roots, Turncircles. It manufactures ultralight electric motors that extend the flight time of drones and now, they also want to get into space. The Turncircles team spent three years developing a prototype engine that is up to half as light as commonly used ones. Its use can shorten flight times for manufacturers of UAVs, or pseudo-satellites operating on Earth, or reduce the cost of launching electronic devices into space.
The Indian company Numer8 wants to prevent overfishing and support smaller fishermen with their O´fish application. The application can determine suitable places to fish based on Earth observations from satellite navigation data and at the same time, notify the fishermen in the application in case there are too many boats in the given place. The project is currently being tested in India and Sri Lanka. The start-up with a similar product also won the Copernicus Masters competition last year and was also selected as one of the five best projects for the UN World Food Program.
The operator of ESA BIC Prague is the CzechInvest agency and important partners of the project are the Prague City Hall, Ministry of Transport and Ministry of Industry and Trade. The incubator is located in the Prague Startup Center in the Adria Palace.