Space start-ups growing in Finland

30 November 2017

High technology and Finland go together – this has been demonstrated many times. 

In space, Finland is at the forefront with projects such as an app-based astronaut training programme and a solar sail to reduce space junk. Now, 50 more entrepreneurs can turn space ideas into start-ups at the latest ESA Business Incubation Centre.

This year, the Aalto-1 satellite was launched carrying a solar sail to show how nanosatellites can be prevented from ending up as space junk. The sail exploits the flow of electrically charged atomic particles streaming in from the Sun to brake its host into a lower orbit to burn up in the atmosphere.

Radar on microsatellite

Space Nation’s Astronaut Experience app provides smartphone access to activities used to prepare astronauts for their journeys into space. Following $3.4 million in crowd funding, it will be launched next year, when subscribers will compete online for a spot at a camp supervised by real astronaut trainers.

The Aalto University spin-off company ICEYE is developing a microsatellite radar that can monitor port traffic, detect illegal forest cutting or improve disaster assistance. It recently received $13 million funding and plans to launch the first radar microsatellite over the next 12 months.

Soon: 50 more Finnish space start-ups

Signing agreement

ESA’s 18th Business Incubation Centre opened this week to support 50 start-up companies in Finland – the second in a Nordic country after Sweden’s opened in 2015.

“The space industry is developing rapidly worldwide, and much has happened in the sector in Finland as well in recent years,” said ESA Director General Jan Wörner at the opening event in Helsinki.

“With the ESA Business Incubation Centre in Finland, 50 national space technology start-ups will be supported in the next five years. 

“As a significant research community, strong promoter of entrepreneurship and already involved in many space technology projects, Aalto University is for us a natural and highly valued partner for such a centre.”



Finland has been in the space business for many years, involved in ESA programmes since 1987, a full Member State since 1995, and has contributed to most major mission.

“Finland’s goal is to substantially increase the turnover of new business based on space technology. The ESA Business Incubation Centre will strongly contribute to supporting this goal,” noted Petri Peltonen, Under-Secretary of State at the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment.

The incubator will be hosted in Aalto University’s new A Grid centre, one of the largest of its kind in Europe, housing dozens of start-ups, other businesses and partners, and the university-run Aalto Start-Up Center. A second location will be in Helsinki. 

ESA BIC opening

“Already, a number of space sector businesses have been born from Aalto’s space research,” added the university’s Vice President of Research and Innovation, Tuija Pulkkinen of the Aalto University.

“The incubator will strengthen our connections with ESA and, in addition to strengthening our start-up activities, it will also support our research and teaching.

“In particular, Aalto’s expertise in building small satellites could gain a lot of new international visibility through this project.”

Finland’s first two satellites were launched this year: Aalto-1 and Aalto-2 are research CubeSats built by students at Aalto University. 

Presenting ESA at Slush

ESA Business Incubator Centre (ESA BIC) Finland joins the Agency’s European-wide incubation network, which has fostered more than 500 new companies and each year supports additional 140 new ones.

The incubation initiative was started by ESA’s Technology Transfer Programme in 2004, and has now grown to 18 centres in 15 countries, which together host start-ups at more than 40 locations throughout Europe.

The companies receive €50 000 of funding for product development as well as support for business and technological development through the partner network.

“We hope to receive applications to the ESA incubator from Finnish businesses that are less than five years old and which either have innovative technology for space industry use or use space data or space technology in their operations,” said Kimmo Isbjörnssund, manager of ESA BIC Finland.

“The first application period will begin at the start of 2018 and we will support start-ups at two sites, in Espoo and in Helsinki.”

More on ESA Business Incubation Centre Finland here.

More on the ESA Business Incubation Centres here.


Poul Z Nielsen
Senior Editor
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