(PresseBox) (Oberpfaffenhofen, )Believe it or not, airbags, antilock brake systems, cooling suits for Formula 1 drivers and satellite navigation do have one thing in common: the technologies behind them were originally developed for use in space. The Technology Transfer Programme of the European Space Agency (ESA) sees to it that trend-setting innovations find their way to Earth, having already converted over 200 space technologies for more common uses up to now. The ESA Innovation Prize, to be awarded as part of the European Satellite Navigation Competition 2008, is looking for creative, market-ready ideas for commercial use of global satellite navigation systems (GNSS).
The main focus of ESA’s Technology Transfer Programme is applying existing space technologies to new fields of use. Of course, this also increases public awareness of the economic potential of the European space programmes.
Promotion of high-tech start-ups is another of the programme’s key elements. Three incubation centres in Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands provide young entrepreneurs with technical and business-related support, bridging the gap between an abstract idea and a successful company foundation.
As part of this year’s European Satellite Navigation Competition, ESA is sponsoring a special prize for the first time as a way of investing systematically in new ventures at the European level.
The ESA Innovation Prize concentrates on application ideas that can both be quickly implemented and have a long-lasting influence. To be eligible, an innovation must involve terrestrial use of satellite technology.
“The business of the future needs interdisciplinary solutions. For instance, in a few years, satellite navigation and Earth observation will be used to optimise agricultural processes. The European space programme provides the technological basis for these new solutions. From entertainment to flood protection, there is potential in nearly every conceivable business area. You only need the courage to think outside the box – and the right support, of course,” says Frank M. Salzgeber, Head of ESA’s Technology Transfer Programme. “By sponsoring the ESA special prize, we want to do more than just encourage creative minds and lateral thinkers to develop their ideas; we want to provide the winner with the unique ESA resources that can bring their ideas to life.”
The prize winner can look forward to an extensive support package for implementing the winning innovation. In addition to an incubation programme at one of ESA’s Business Incubators, the most innovative entrepreneur will receive technical and financial assistance to bring the application to market as quickly as possible.
Successful start-ups supported by the ESA incubation programme are, for instance, iOpener Media GmbH and its real-time racing concept for the interactive gaming market, the mobile social network bliin.com, and Sport-Track, a sporting events tracking and visualisation system that has already seen use during the Tour de France.