Research is an essential piece of the puzzle

The ESRIC Start-up Support Programme (SSP) is a unique worldwide incubation programme, entirely dedicated to space resources utilisation. Start-up programme lead Lari Cujko explains how the programme is progressing and its vision for the future.

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Publication date : 03/13/2023


Why is the focus of the programme on space resources?

The SSP is one of the key initiatives of the European Space Resources Innovation Centre (ESRIC), established in 2020 by the Luxembourg Space Agency, the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology, in strategic partnership with the European Space Agency. The programme is directly linked to the initiative, launched in 2016, aimed at establishing the space resources field as an additional priority for Luxembourg’s space ambitions. More specifically, the SSP falls under the umbrella of the Luxembourg Space Agency and the Ministry of Economy. At ESRIC, we put a lot of emphasis on sustainability because one of the critical considerations of space resources is how to reuse materials and find creative solutions to thrive in difficult environments. While the objective of space research is not to solve the problems we have on Earth, it can be an enabler. More specifically, with the SSP, we aim to create an ecosystem of
companies and ventures that can dedicate their activities to this.

How is this programme different from other space incubators?

It is broader than a pure incubation programme because it has three different stages: pre-incubation, incubation, and post-incubation. On top of that, we aim to have a diverse set of experts supporting startups in their journeys. After the pre-incubation period of three months, one startup out of five is selected to continue its incubation, validate its technical value proposition and work with its first customers. At this stage, there is also the opportunity to unlock funding of up to €200K and further develop the business model for up to two years.

The first edition of the programme took place last year. How did it go?

We were pleasantly surprised to see how well it went actually! The five ventures really made the most of the programme. In the end, FourPoint (Poland) was chosen to go to the next stage, proving that their project would work both in terrestrial and space applications, as well as in the field of space resources.

What did you learn from the first edition?

One of the most important lessons learnt was how to leverage our experts’ knowledge from the beginning. Connecting the start-ups with the right experts from the start really helped them with their business approach which is essential to advance to the next stage of the programme.

Last year you mentioned that “research is an essential aspect of the entire space value chain” and played an important role in the programme. What role does research play in the SSP now?

It is true that the main objective of the programme is commercialisation. But you will never be able to build an entire space project with €200K, which is why we try to ensure that the participants collaborate with our space experts to create a good R&D roadmap. At ESRIC, we work closely with researchers, bringing their expertise in a whole range of space topics and who are at the disposal of the start-ups. Without this research expertise, the commercialisation of projects cannot take place, which is why research is such an essential piece of the puzzle.

When can we expect one of the participants’ projects on the moon?

I cannot commit to clear dates, but I have big hopes that the wheels will move faster and faster in the upcoming years. I’m hoping that in 10 to 15 years we will see one of our projects on the Moon.

Louis Juste


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