From logistics and space robotics systems to innovative structural batteries for future satellite applications, going through innovative solar panels and greenhouses designed to allow the cultivation of terrestrial plants on spacecrafts and services for environmental monitoring and telecommunications safety: these are some of the focuses of the 8 start-ups (Kurs Orbital, Adaptronics, Astradyne, Volta Structural Energy, Space-V, Synchropal, Mespac e Hipparcos) selected to join the first round of the ESA’s incubation programme from ESA Business Incubation Centre Turin, the centre created to support the technological and business development of space technology-based innovative companies, with both upstream and downstream implementations.
The goal of ESA BIC Turin is to promote the development of an attractive local ecosystem capable of encouraging the interaction and the involvement of all the active stakeholders in the space economy sector.
Over the past few months, there has been a strong national and international interest in the programme managed by the I3P incubator with the technological support of Politecnico di Torino and LINKS Foundation, in coordination with the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Italian Space Agency, which also provide financial and technical support.
Since the launch of the initiative, more than 35 entrepreneurial teams and 13 start-ups have applied for the first round of the open call and, among these, 8 have been selected to join the incubation programme. They will receive a financial contribution of € 50,000 (equity-free) for both product development and intellectual property management alongside with business coaching and mentoring, technological and fundraising support and access to the broad network of partners of ESA BIC Turin and ESA BIC network, which includes large companies, investments funds and research institutions.
A unique opportunity
Locally, the programme is supported by the Piedmont Region that provides part of the contributions to the start-ups, by the Turin Chamber of Commerce and by the Compagnia San Paolo Foundation, who will offer financial support for the management activities of the centre. The latter will also activate investment tools to support the technological development and the growth phase of the future start-ups.
Giuseppe Scellato, President of I3P and ESA BIC Turin Coordinator, comments: “We are very proud of the entrepreneurial and scientific talents that we have gathered for the inaugural edition of our incubation programme, which ranks as a unique opportunity in Italy. We are now working with start-ups to offer collaborations for technical and business development and support their growth and integration in the aerospace sector.”
Mauro Piermaria, Innovation and New Space Economy Manager at ASI, says:
“The response to the first call was beyond expectations; as an agency we are satisfied with the level of the start-ups we selected with our partners and we are convinced that the incubator will continue to produce positive effects for territorial innovation. We are always more conscious of the need for a further development and consolidation of a national ecosystem, functional to the growth of new entrepreneurial realities connected to space.”
Francesco Profumo, President of Compagnia San Paolo Foundation, says: “In the wake of the Techstars programme, Turin is increasingly establishing itself as the Italian reality where start-ups are accelerating, that is a lively ecosystem in which entrepreneurial projects can find the essential skills, financial resources and industrial fabric to stabilize and grow. So it is with enthusiasm that we are preparing to launch the inaugural edition of ESA BIC Turin, which our Foundation supports both by contributing to the coverage of the management costs and by using innovative financial tools to support start-ups”.
The selection of start-ups continues in the forthcoming months: the instructions to access the next round of selections are published on ESA BIC Turin's official website.
The selected start-ups
- KURS ORBITAL - Italian start-up born from a corresponding Ukrainian company with a high technical profile, Kurs Orbital develops a solution for space logistics based on a proprietary technology for docking satellites in orbit. In particular, Kurs Orbital aims to offer services for the inspection and maintenance of satellites promoting the extension of their service life.
- ADAPTRONICS - Bologna-based start-up, AdapTronics produces mechatronic devices for smart logistics on Earth and in space. In particular, the company has developed a solution based on a multifunctional electrostatic membrane which allows the gripping and manipulation of objects of any shape. The company, a spin-off from the University of Bologna, won the 2021 Italian National Innovation Award (PNI) in the area of industrial applications.
- ASTRADYNE – The start-up Astradyne, founded by a team with international experience in space agencies research laboratories, has developed an innovative technology for the production of flexible printed circuits. This solution can be applied to a variety of deployable space systems like antennas, housing units, solar panels. Specifically, the first application developed is a solar panel inspired by origami that aims to solve the limitation of its counterparts conventionally used in space applications.
- VOLTA STRUCTURAL ENERGY - Start-up focused on the development of structural batteries based on the use of aluminum ions, with the aim of obtaining satellite-integrated batteries to ensure weight reduction and high energy efficiency.
- SPACE-V - A spin-off company from the University of Genoa, Space-V is involved in the development of innovative greenhouses for the cultivation of plants in orbital stations and in future Martial and Lunar settlements. The start-up counts among its founding members Franco Malerba, the first Italian astronaut in history, who was part of the Space Shuttle Atlantis crew in 1992.
- SYNCHROPAL - Synchropal is a start-up that, starting from a proprietary technology, is developing an innovative system (MODO) based on satellite data for time synchronization, which guarantees protection from hacker attacks against digital terrestrial infrastructures. In particular, this technology finds applications in the field of telecommunication networks, synchronization systems of electricity distribution networks and, more generally, in all the infrastructures that use satellite signals for navigation services.
- MESPAC - Turin-based start-up specialized in the characterization of marine environments for the construction of offshore systems. The met-oceanic data provided by the company (i.e. meteorological and oceanic) are collected by combining satellite data with those detected by surface sensors through the use of proprietary algorithms.
- HIPPARCOS - Start-up specialized in the development and production of innovative star trackers, or systems based on sets of on-board cameras installed on satellites, to identify their location in space with high precision, according to the relative positioning of the stars.