European Space Agency working with local space-tech companies

9th July 2018

Support for space-tech start-ups will strengthen local economies and create more space clusters across the UK

4 July 2018: A successful business incubation programme for space tech start-ups is to be rolled out nationally, to encourage the growth of new space clusters in the North West and Scotland and strengthen local economies. The programme will enable start-ups, who are using space and satellite technologies to develop new products, to gain a competitive advantage in an increasingly fierce market place.

Since 2011, STFC, in partnership with the European Space Agency, has supported 67 space-tech start-ups at the successful ESA Business Incubation Centre at the Harwell Campus in Oxfordshire. To date, 59 of these companies have graduated from the centre, with a survival rate of 94%, and collectively raising £39 million in investment1.

Now, STFC is making it easier for start-ups across the UK to access this support through the inclusion of its other national sites, located at Sci-Tech Daresbury in the Liverpool City Region, and the Royal Observatory in Edinburgh (ROE), creating a UK-wide ESA Business Incubation Centre (ESA BIC UK).

STFC’s Dr Sue O’Hare, Operations Manager at the ESA BIC UK, said: “In an increasingly fierce and global marketplace, the companies that survive and flourish are those that innovate.  Our mission is to enable start-ups to gain a competitive advantage in their sector using space technology. But coming up with a great idea is just the beginning, and turning that idea into a profitable commercial offering is a huge challenge. We are extremely proud of the success stories that have already come out of the programme since it began in 2011 and are now looking forward to extending our support to companies at locations across the UK.”

Each of these high-tech locations is associated with a number of specialisms that ESA BIC UK companies can benefit from.  At Harwell, there is an established space cluster which includes STFC’s RAL Space and the Satellite Applications Catapult, and which is already home to many space-related companies. Sci-Tech Daresbury, with more than 130 companies onsite, has established clusters themed around big data and medical technologies. ROE has a long heritage in the space, data and satellite industries in addition to the brand new Higgs Centre for Innovation. Start-ups can choose their location either according to location or specialism.

Part of a network of 19 successful ESA Business Incubation Centres across Europe, the ESA BIC UK will provide up to 15 start-ups every year with a combination of £41.5k funding and access to STFC’s world leading technical expertise and business development support.  This is in addition to the benefits that being part of a flourishing and unique network of science and innovation campuses can bring.

Successes to date at Harwell couldn’t be more varied, from developing sustainable feed for farm animals, to developing autonomous vessels for monitoring the ocean, and even a satnav that will fit in a bicycle bell for easier navigation through cities – the opportunities are limitless.

Further information about the ESA BIC UK and how to apply at the website.

1 Data provided by Beauhurst

Further information about the business incubation and support for SMEs at STFC more generally can be found at the STFC website.

The ESA BIC UK is part of a network of 19 ESA Business Incubation Centres across Europe.  Further information at the website.



Wendy Ellison

Science and Technology Facilities Council

01925 603232




9th July 2018