This year, five unique startups using specific space technologies and satellite data have been selected for the Prague and Brno branches of the European Space Agency’s Business Incubation Centre (ESA BIC). A total of 43 startups have been supported within this incubation programme since its inception in 2016. These startups appeared together with those that have already been incubated in the Demo Day event, where they presented themselves to the space industry, and in a competition held in connection with the Space2Business event, which is part of the Czech Space Week festival. The national round of the competition was won by the startup World from Space, the European award went to the startup SPiN.
“The space industry in the Czech Republic is growing year by year. There are currently more than fifty companies and twenty research facilities directly involved in space projects and dozens more that are participating as subcontractors. I would also like to highlight the success of the Czech Presidency of the Council of the European Union, during which we succeeded in reaching an agreement with the European Parliament and the European Commission on a draft regulation on secure connectivity and the EU’s satellite mega-constellation, newly named IRIS, whose mission will be to provide secure satellite communications for government and non-government purposes,” says Minister of Transport Martin Kupka.
The incubator combines the activities of the Prague and Brno branches and has thus been officially named ESA BIC Czech Republic since 2001. Since its establishment, the incubator has supported 43 startups – 30 in Prague and 13 in Brno. The focus of the individual startups is very diverse, though nearly half of them are focused on satellite navigation and Earth observation. Other areas include unmanned aerial vehicles and drones, space technologies, software simulations and the ground segment. Thirteen startups are currently being incubated, while the remaining startups have already completed their incubation. Festka, Vrgineers, Dronetag, Spacemanic, World from Space, GROUNDCOM, Varistar and Hydronaut are undoubtedly the most significant startups that have undergone incubation to date. All of the supported startups, including information about their projects, can be found on the website at esa-bic.cz.
“In connection with this year’s edition of the Czech Space Week festival and the two-day Space2Business event, we organised an international startup competition. This is a completely unique event in the Czech and European environment, and the best European space startups took part in it. This was the first such event in which startups from different ESA BICs, of which there are already 26 in Europe, competed against each other,” says Tereza Kubicová, Deputy Director for Technological Development at CzechInvest and founder of the Czech Space Week festival.
The national round of the competition was held on the first day of the event, 28 November. The participants were incubated startups from ESA BIC Czech Republic. The winner of this round was the startup World from Space, which advanced to the international round held on the following day. “Space2Business is a great opportunity for us to get to know both our customers and our competitors from abroad. If we want to be a successful global company, we need to have a strong local base, and events like this help us to build it. We are glad that we have the opportunity to start collaborating with companies with a strong market position and to become an integral part of the Czech space industry,” says Jan Labohý, co-founder of World from Space.
The national round of the competition also served as a Demo Day for presenting not only previously incubated startups, but also newly selected startups whose incubation is just beginning. In 2022, five startups were selected, namely the Liberec-based Statotest, which has established a branch in Prague and focuses on long-term monitoring of building security using data from modern sensors, IoT technologies and, in the future, navigation satellites; the Prague-based company Corac Engineering, which is focused on the security of access and communication between satellites and ground stations; ICEE.Space Czechia, also of Prague, which focuses on analogue missions that serve for the simulation of space flights; and two Brno-based startups – SPACERACE and VisionCraft. SPACERACE is developing electromechanical components that will serve for the ground testing of mechanical parts of satellites. Among other things, VisionCraft is developing the RoadVisNet system, which uses IoT data to, for example, analyse road surfaces and determine the occupancy rate of parking facilities.
The contestants in the international round comprised startups from European ESA BICs – specifically from Austria, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, Sweden and Hungary – as well as startups that were successful in competitions held by the European Space Agency (ESA) and the European Union Agency for the Space Programme (EUSPA). The winner was the German startup SPiN (Space Products and Innovation), which was incubated in ESA BIC Bavaria and received a prize in the amount of EUR 10,000.
The Czech space incubator began operations under the name ESA BIC Prague in 2016 with the purpose of supporting startups that work with space technologies. Startups can either use existing space technologies and satellite data for projects in non-space industries or introduce new, innovative technologies for the space market. CzechInvest is the operator of the programme. Other partners that supported the establishment of ESA BIC include the Ministry of Transport, which is responsible for space activities, the Ministry of Industry and Trade and the City of Prague. In 2018, a second ESA BIC branch was opened in Brno, also with CzechInvest as the operator and with the South Moravian Innovation Centre (JIC) and the South Moravia Region as local partners.
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