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Empowering space innovation in the UK

BLOG: SPRINT strategic partnership with ESA BIC UK

How a complementary partnership between SPRINT and ESA BIC UK can drive company growth in the UK space sector by promoting collaboration between universities and start-up businesses

With £6.2 million of Research & Development and 80 projects with 65 businesses, all in collaboration with the five SPRINT (SPace Research and Innovation Network for Technology) partner universities, it’s clear that SPRINT is creating a significant footprint in the UK space sector.

The SPRINT programme provides unprecedented access to university space expertise and facilities to help businesses through the commercial exploitation of space data and technologies.

This vision of matching UK university space-related capabilities with the commercial requirements of SME businesses in the UK to accelerate their product development cycles is resulting in a growing range of innovative applications that continues to strengthen the UK space sector proposition.

SPRINT, however, does not work in isolation within the UK’s space innovation ecosystem.

ESA BIC UK matches SPRINT vision

The vision of the national SPRINT programme is complemented by the strategic aim of the European Space Agency Business Incubation Centre United Kingdom (ESA BIC UK), part of the world’s largest business incubation programme for space tech start-ups to ‘support innovative start-up businesses using space technologies or data, enabling them to gain a competitive advantage in today’s global marketplace’.

The ESA BIC UK backs start-ups that are using space technologies to innovate and develop game-changing new products and services, or developing technologies for use in space. It supports up to 15 start-ups every year with a combination of funding and access to world leading technical expertise, facilities and business development support.

Consequently, SPRINT has recently formed a strategic partnership with ESA BIC UK to combine the strengths and networks of the two national programmes, and promote collaborative opportunities for UK start-ups and universities in the UK space sector.

ESA BIC UK businesses engage with SPRINT

Around one-third of ESA BIC UK companies have already engaged with SPRINT and a number of businesses on the ESA BIC UK programme have already secured SPRINT funding to collaborate with UK universities on innovative space-related technology and data research projects.

Some of these businesses include:
• Magdrive, whose vision is to become the go-to propulsion system for satellites and deep space transport
• Protolaunch, which is developing a novel rocket engine to enable low-cost access to space for payloads under 50kg and
• Route Masters

Route Masters has signed up to SPRINT to develop an innovative transport management solution for African cities. Funding from SPRINT will enable Route Masters to collaborate with the University of Leicester on building a full suite of technology tools and algorithmic data models. This will help the company to achieve its aim of becoming the largest integrated public transport platform for emerging African megacities.

Route Masters is also a member of the latest cohort to join the ESA BIC UK at Harwell Campus, Oxfordshire. Through its 18-month ESA BIC UK incubation period, the company intends to develop and deploy its technology, user application and interface to its initial target cities across Africa.

A UK-wide space innovation ecosystem partnership

Dr Sue O’Hare, Operations Manager at the ESA BIC UK said: “The ESA BIC UK is committed to encouraging engagement with complementary programmes such as SPRINT to further support our network of companies at all stages of their lifecycle, from early stage companies to programme alumni.

“The SPRINT offer is a really attractive proposition to ESA BIC UK companies as the funded access to university space-related expertise is a major pathway to further collaboration opportunities and business growth.”

Ross Burgon, Head of the national SPRINT programme added: “At the core of the SPRINT proposition is a funded pathway to help UK SMEs to access the space-related technology, facilities and fields of specialist research from some of the UK’s top space universities.

“Our partnership with the ESA BIC UK brings together a comprehensive network of innovative UK space sector companies and helps them to identify new opportunities to drive their business growth.”

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