Astropreneurs are cleared for landing

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

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After 36-months of intense mentoring from some of the world’s leading aerospace experts, the EU’s Astropreneurs are cleared for landing.

‘Astropreneurs,’ you ask?

As the name suggests, an astropreneur is a hybrid of an entrepreneur and a space sector actor. For the Astropreneurs project, it is a group of 167 start-ups and 500 entrepreneurs from across Europe who are on a mission to disrupt the space economy.

Funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, the project is dedicated to growing Europe’s space-based start-ups by helping them turn innovative ideas into viable businesses.

The main goal of the project is to provide these start-ups and entrepreneurs with the support they need to secure investments, find their first customers, and establish themselves as successful companies. We do this through an acceleration programme, combined with extensive networking.

Our partners offer participating start-ups mentoring on such technical skills as using Earth Observation data and GNSS positioning, help with accessing public and private funding and investment opportunities, and support in developing their business ideas.

Innovation from across Europe

Our Astropreneurs come from all across Europe. Take for example Anzen Engineering, a company from Madrid, Spain that provides specialised engineering services to the UAS (i.e., drones), aviation, and defence sectors.

Backed by a team of engineering experts, the company has developed an innovative tool for safety and reliability assessments that both reduces costs and improves overall quality.

There’s also SuperVision Earth. Based in Darmstadt, Germany, the company is using Earth Observation data and satellite imagery to help prevent pipeline incidents and risks. Meanwhile, Spacemanic, from Bratislava, Slovakia, is on a mission to bring space closer to end-users by providing innovative, time-and cost-effective satellite-as-a-service solutions.

To do this, the company has designed a range of nanosatellite platforms, components, and services that help customers get their payloads into space faster and cheaper than ever before.

Playing matchmaker

As the final step in the acceleration programme, the Astropreneurs were given a chance to match and meet European corporations and investors and find business, funding, and networking opportunities.

Our all-digital AstroMatchathon event, which was held on 15 December, brought together leading players from the European aerospace, agri-tech, aviation, education, energy, digital technology, IoT/Big Data, maritime, media, mining, mobility, new space, road infrastructure and operations, smart cities, safety and security, and tourism sectors.

The theme of the AstroMatchathon was connect, connect, connect. And connect they did! 175 participants, many of whom were startups, shared how their space-based products and services can help solve Earth-based needs and boost New Space.

For example, Portugal start-up Connect Robotics shared how it is using autonomous drones to make cost-effective deliveries directly to one’s doorstep. The company’s drones were recently used to deliver critical medicines to the elderly and nursing homes located in remote areas – a project that won the praise of the National Pharmacies Association.

Over 168 connections were made during the AstroMatchathon. We also facilitated 240 messages and 72 discussions between Astropreneurs and corporations or investors, with most meetings lasting nearly an hour.

Bringing together the space community

But matching start-ups with corporations is only the first step. If our Astropreneurs are to truly succeed in growing the EU space economy, they will also need the support of the entire space community.

This is where our Astropreneurs Touchdown event came into play.

Held on 16 December, this closing event was a great opportunity for all the project’s participants to virtually share best practices in space innovation and discuss the challenges that lie ahead. Not only was this event a who’s who of the European space community, it was also a chance for aspiring Astropreneurs everywhere to learn about the vast potential of Europe’s space economy.

Connecting the pieces

The AstroMatchathon and Astropreneurs Touchdown events made one thing abundantly clear: Europe has the talent, know-how, and means to be a leading player in the global space economy. What’s missing is an efficient method for connecting these differentiators.

By bringing together Europe’s major space stakeholders, including the European Commission, the European Space Agency, mentors, investors, and corporations, the Astropreneurs project has successfully laid the groundwork for connecting these pieces. Now, it’s up to the matches made at our events to go out, disrupt, and build the space economy that will define our future.

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