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ESA Investment Forum 2007 - Helping companies to grow

Space programmes have invested the past 40 years in raising technologies to new levels of performance and capability, and transferring these technologies back to applications on Earth to generate countless business opportunities.

An example is satellite based services being one of the most promising sectors of future business profit, guaranteed by the introduction of the next generation satellite positioning and navigation systems.

ESA Investment Forum supports the funding and growth of such opportunities by bringing start-up companies using space technology, applications or services in a non-space environment together with finance and investment communities.

Organised by ESA’s Technology Transfer Programme Office (TTPO) in collaboration with EC-projects FinanceSpace and INVESaT, the first ESA Investment Forum took place on 24 April at the European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC) in the Netherlands. The event attracted more than 100 participants from all over Europe, including representatives from the finance and investment communities, the European Special Applications Fund and 20 start-up companies.

"The focus of the Investment Forum is to highlight the commercial benefits of satellite and space technology in applications on Earth and to give potential investors an opportunity to meet with a number of start-up companies using spin-offs from space technology," explained Frank M. Salzgeber, acting Head of TTPO.

The inspiring Erasmus Centre at ESTEC was the venue of the day. It hosts a permanent exhibition of facilities for gravity-dependent research and introduces and demonstrates the array of different systems available for experiments in conditions of weightlessness.

"The Erasmus Centre is responsible for the information gathering, processing and distribution relating to the development and operation of European elements on the International Space Station as well as overseeing a number of other space carriers and ground-based facilities," said Dieter Isakeit, Head of the Erasmus Centre.

Twenty start-up companies presented their business plans to demonstrate the investment potential in spinning satellite and space technology back into Earth applications, and E-Synergy Ltd. introduced their Call for Investment to raise the European Special Applications Fund.

"E-Synergy is raising private finance to operate a €40 million European Fund which will specialise in the commercial application of satellite and space technology to non-space applications," said Richard Brook, founding director of E-Synergy Ltd.

The 20 business cases were selected especially for the ESA Investment Forum based on the level of investment readiness and potential:

EATOPS (the Netherlands), Remote Intuitive Visual OPerationS, space methodology for oil and gas production
Enteos (Italy), engineering services, system integration, HW/SW design for telecommunication industry
Euro Heat Pipes (Belgium), two-phase heat transfer systems enabling the development of more powerful electronics
Forsway Scandinavia (Sweden), internet by satellite in rural areas and IP hybrid terminals
Geosat Technology (Austria), defining of prospects and leads for resources on the basis of satellite images and geodata
GESEC R&D (France), semiconductor materials, devices and GaAs detectors for X-ray imaging
Global Online AG (Switzerland), worldwide online service centre for yachting sport
Innovation 4C (Belgium), marine product innovations
iOpener Media (the Netherlands), provide and facilitate real-time data for gaming applications using GNSS technology
Keyobs (Belgium), geographical services in mapping and topography
Kinotex Sensor (Germany), optical sensor technology for aeronautical, automotive and medical applications
Laster Technologies (France), transforming optoelectronics into mobile augmented reality display solutions
Lusospace (Portugal), development of optoelectronics navigation systems
M3 Systems (France), EGNOS-based solution dedicated to airport vehicles and R&D services for Galileo applications
Marine & Remote Sensing Solutions (UK), marine security and navigation solutions augmented by spaceborne data
OpenSky (Italy), satellite operator for value-added services, multimedia and TV IP based from satellite
Securecom Technologies (Ireland), wireless personal alarm device and service for healthcare and lone workers
Star2Earth (the Netherlands), GNSS-based products for environmental applications
T&T Telematica (Italy), intelligent transport system for better mobility of people and goods
ThruVision Group Ltd (UK), design, manufacture and supply of imaging systems for security screening

The cases presented covered a broad spectrum of technologies originating from space - sensors, optoelectronics, navigation data, remote operations, satellite communication and imaging technology – and their application in diverse industrial sectors such as automotive, medical, navigation, offshore, security, energy, environment, healthcare, wireless services, multimedia, gaming, sports, communications and transport.

The feedback from the participants was entirely positive; the Forum gave a good overview of the potential commercial benefits emerging from the space sector, the selected business cases were impressive and the start-ups established valuable contacts in the investment communities.

In view of the success of the ESA Investment Forum 2007, ESA’s Technology Transfer Programme Office is already planning next year’s event.

The main mission of the ESA Technology Transfer Programme (TTP) is to facilitate the use of space technology and space systems for non-space applications and to further demonstrate the benefit of the European Space Programme to European citizens. The Technology Transfer Programme Office is responsible for defining the overall approach and strategy for the transfer of space technologies and systems, including the incubation of start-up companies.

The ESA Investment Forum 2008 will take place at ESTEC on 14 – 15 April 2008. Please register at the conference website

Frank Salzgeber | alfa
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