Many creative minds dream of outer space – in Switzerland too. While Switzerland will not be sending any of its own rockets into space, it does make a major contribution to space technology and its universities and startups make it a world leader in cutting-edge technology. That is why the European Space Agency (ESA) approached Switzerland’s State Secretariat for Education and Research and Innovation (SERI) to establish a Business Incubation Center in Switzerland alongside its existing ESA BICs.
This technology transfer programme from the ESA will offer targeted support to startups in the field of space technologies and applications. ETH Zurich was awarded the contract in September and is now ready to begin with the programme after just a two-month set-up period.
SERI State Secretary Mauro Dell’Ambrogio, ESA Director General Professor Johann-Dietrich Wörner and ETH Vice President Research and Corporate Relations Professor Detlef Günther presented the first three startups for the first round of the Swiss ESA BIC programme.
The first three startups selected are companies that use technology from space research and make it available for use by society and business. The startup TwingTec, which was founded in 2013 by EMPA and ETH Zurich researchers, is developing wind energy 2.0, based on twing (“kite”) system. Satellite navigation is used to position the twing (“kite”) more precisely and optimise their output.
The startup Insolight develops solar cells for satellites. These cells are more than twice as efficient as conventional products for terrestrial applications. The third startup is Ligentec, a young company that designs frequency combs which increase the data capacity of fibre optic cables by a factor of 200. By using silicon nitride, it is possible to increase the efficiency by a material developed for space.
ETH Zurich has worked closely with the ESA on research projects for several years. More recently, it has also considerably intensified its technology transfer efforts, which is why Detlef Günther believes it was a logical step for ETH Zurich to apply for the ESA BIC Switzerland programme. Now the task is to ensure that Switzerland as a whole can benefit, as Günther explains:
“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.” The ETH Vice President also highlighted the close connection with the startup scene across Europe as a particularly new dimension for Switzerland.