Attractive Opportunities For Swiss Entrepreneurs

11 November 2016
Celebrating the ESA Business Incubation Centre Switzerland's opening. Copyright U.Sollberger/

ESA’s business incubation in Switzerland is offering up to €500 000 to young entrepreneurs who apply space technologies to challenges in other fields.

As part of the family of 16 ESA Business Incubation Centres (BICs) across Europe, hosted start-up companies will have access to unique support from ESA and national partners.

At the opening ceremony in Zurich on 10 November, ESA Director General Jan Woerner said, “One of our key objectives is to improve quality of life here on Earth.

“To support progress and growth across Europe we make our knowledge and technology available to be used outside space. At our business incubators, young entrepreneurs and start-ups are supported to create innovative solutions by the use of satellite services and space technology.

“Our centres have already fostered more than 430 new companies throughout Europe. We are happy that Switzerland joins with this new centre.”

After working close with ESA for many years on research projects, Switzerland has recently intensified its technology transfer efforts. That is why ETH Zurich’s Vice President of Research and Corporate Relations, Professor Detlef Günther, finds the incubator to be the ideal next step: 

“If you want to conquer space, you can’t be short-sighted. Switzerland has a lot to offer as a hotspot of research and innovation.

“ESA BIC will enable us to better promote activities in the field of space technologies and applications.

“This will enable us to offer future-oriented technologies and start-ups a new platform, and will connect us with other ESA locations across Europe.”

Over the next five years, the new incubator will accept up to 10 new start-ups per year. They will have the option to relocate to Switzerland Innovation Park Zurich in Dübendorf or complete their two-year incubation period remotely. 

With a permanent open call and several selection campaigns during the year, entrepreneurs are invited to apply. The next deadline is 15 February.

State Secretary for education, research and innovation Mauro Dell’Ambrogio with ESA’s Jan Woerner and ETH’s Detlef Günther presented the first three start-ups selected for the Swiss site. All three use technology from space research and make it available for use by society and business.

TwingTec, founded in 2013 by researchers from ETH Zurich and the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology, is developing next-generation wind energy technology to capture wind energy up to 300 m above the ground, without a tower. Instead, the system uses a satnav-positioned kite to harvest the wind and transfer the energy through a cable connected to a station on ground.

The second start-up, Insolight, develops solar cells with technology from satellites. These cells are more than twice as efficient as conventional products for terrestrial applications.

The third company is Ligentec, a young company that designs frequency combs that increase the data capacity of fibre optic cables by a factor of 200. By using silicon nitride, it is possible to increase the efficiency using a material developed for space.

The consortium behind the Swiss centre is led by ETH Zurich and includes IFJ Startup Support and Venture Kick, an initiative to help entrepreneurs gain access to additional capital.

These partners have many years of experience in scouting, selecting and supporting start-ups. Also on board is Impact Hub, a global network that helps start-ups to establish themselves and connect with others.

Furthermore the Integrated Applications Promotion (IAP) Ambassador of Switzerland Altyn becomes part of the Swiss BIC. Founded in 2013 Altyn promotes new applications and services based on the integration of satellite data and technologies under ESA’s ARTES applications programmes. The centre is also supported by fifty other well-known national and international partners from industry and research to provide assistance to the start-ups and to fulfil the demands for public-private-partnerships.

ESA’s Business Incubation Centres

Started by ESA’s Technology Transfer Programme in 2003, the business incubation initiative has now grown to 16 centres in the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, UK, Belgium, France, Spain, Portugal, Sweden, Czech Republic, Ireland, Austria and Switzerland, fostering over 130 new companies yearly and creating high-tech jobs throughout Europe.

The initiative profits from space technology and expertise to generate new businesses and jobs in Europe, which also boosts local economies and Europe’s competitiveness. Thanks to these start-ups and their entrepreneurs, leading-edge technologies and expertise from Europe’s space programmes are used to create smarter terrestrial applications.

More on ESA BIC Switzerland here.