Procuring innovation through the European Space Agency's network of business incubation centres

Cornelis J.J. Eldering*, Willem Hulsink

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articleAcademicpeer-review


The human endeavour to explore space, spurred the research and development of space technologies decades ago. A Big Science and a mission-driven approach was needed to meet the awesome challenges involved in space flight, such as the Apollo programme or the International Space Station. To this end, mission-driven organisations such as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the European Space Agency (ESA), procure space technology and infrastructure from industry. We specifically look at how ESA provides access to technologies and infrastructure with the aim for businesses to commercialize them. Besides industry, many start-up companies benefit from spin-offs from space-based research and development. To support these start-ups, ESA has established a pan-European network of 22 Business Incubation Centres (ESA BICs) in over 60 locations across Europe, supporting well over 900 start-ups and alumni. All ESA BICs are based on the same best practice of ESA's industrial procurement approach. This explains the standardization in ESA BIC operations European wide. At the same time, each ESA BIC is part of a regional economic development strategy with a strong focus on local entrepreneurs and operated by a local partner. In this paper, we explore how the procurement principles of the European Space Agency are at the core of its business incubation approach and how this approach stimulated the replication of multiple ESA BICs in Europe.

Original languageEnglish
JournalProceedings of the International Astronautical Congress, IAC
Publication statusPublished - 2020
Event71st International Astronautical Congress, IAC 2020 - Virtual, Online
Duration: 12 Oct 202014 Oct 2020

Bibliographical note

The authors would like to particular thank Thomas Weissenberg, Administrator at ESA's External Relations Department from the Director General's Services, and Claes Hansen, Legal Officer from ESA's International Law Division, Legal Services Department, Directorate of Industry, Procurement & Legal Services, for providing constructive feedback to our description of ESA policy

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 by DLR-SART.


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