• Carlos Cerqueira

Astropreneurs project helps strengthen the European space economy

The Astropreneurs project, one of Europe’s leading space-based acceleration and networking programmes, has officially ended. 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.

Over the last three years, we provided intense mentoring and training to 167 start-ups and 500 entrepreneurs coming from across Europe, including Anzen Engineering, a company from Madrid, Spain, that provides specialised engineering services to the UAS (i.e., drones), aviation, and defence sectors. Our support was influential in helping the company develop an innovative tool for safety and reliability assessments that both reduces costs and improves overall quality.

We also helped Spacemanic, a Slovakian start-up, design a range of nanosatellite platforms, components, and services that help their customers get payloads into space faster and cheaper than ever before. And through our work with Portuguese start-up Connect Robotics, the company was able to successfully develop autonomous drones capable of making cost-effective deliveries directly to one’s doorstep.

An opportunity to match and meet

As the final step in the acceleration programme, the start-ups were given a chance to match and meet European corporations and investors during the all-digital AstroMatchathon event on 15 December. A total of 175 participants used the event’s match-meetings to connect with corporations, investors, mentors, and other start-ups and pitch their commercial products and services, create business and funding opportunities, and establish partnerships.

I strongly believe that the most important thing a start-up can do is connect, connect, connect – and the AstroMatchathon proved that when you have the right team, right investors, and right connections, the sky is literally the limit. By the end of the day, over 168 connections were made. We also facilitated 240 messages and 72 discussions between Astropreneurs and corporations or investors, with most meetings lasting nearly an hour.

Best practices in space innovation

The AstroMatchathon was followed by the Astropreneurs Touchdown event on 16 December. The virtual event was an opportunity for all the project’s participants to share best practices in space innovation and discuss the challenges that lie ahead. It was also a chance for aspiring Astropreneurs to learn about the vast potential of Europe’s space economy from such speakers as Tomas Jonsson from the European Commission’s DG for Space and Defence Industry.

“Our goal is to be able to compete with U.S. companies, but to do so, Europe must make it easier for companies to access capital,” said Jonsson. “We need a few success stories that open European investors’ eyes to the importance of the space sector.”

The event included several panel discussions, including one where start-ups shared their experiences with the Astropreneurs project. “Although the technology issues are important, it’s the business issues that often prove to be the most challenging,” said Tiago Cristóvão, COO and Founder of Matereosapce- UNDERSEE, a Portuguese company that provides water quality monitoring and forecasting to environmental agencies and aquaculture companies.

According to the panellists, the support provided by the Astropreneurs project was influential in being able to address such challenges. “Our mentors helped ensure we didn’t lose focus on what’s important when we’re overwhelmed by a million other things,” said Jan Kolmas, COO and Co-founder of SuperVision Earth, a German start-up that uses satellite monitoring to help prevent pipeline incidents and risks.

Connecting the pieces

Both the AstroMatchathon and Astropreneurs Touchdown events made one thing abundantly clear: Europe has the talent, knowhow, and means to be a leading player in the global space economy. 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.

About the author:

This article was written by Carlos Cerqueria, Director of Innovation at the Instituto Pedro Nunes and Astropreneurs project coordinator.

All images were taken from our materials!

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