L-R: Mathias Link, Director of International Affairs & SpaceRessources.lu at LSA; Franz Fayot, Luxembourg's Minister of the Economy; Credit: SIP / Emmanuel Claude

The Luxembourg-based European Space Resources Innovation Centre (ESRIC) has launched the world's first startup support programme dedicated to space resources.

On Tuesday, the third day of Luxembourg's economic mission to Dubai, Mathias Link, Director of ESRIC, presented the ESRIC Start up Support Programme (SSP), in presence of the Luxembourg's Minister of the Economy, Franz Fayot, and representatives of the European Space Agency (ESA), the Luxembourg Space Agency (LSA) and the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST).

Located in Luxembourg, this is the first programme in the world dedicated to commercial initiatives in the field of space resources utilisation. The SSP will support the specific needs of early-stage ventures or startups to prove their technological value proposals and enable the development of near-term sustainable business models targeting terrestrial or space applications and space resources utilisation. The programme will be run together with ESA and Technoport, the leading technology incubator in the Grand Duchy.

ESRIC, powered by LSA and LIST with ESA as a strategic partner, was established in Luxembourg in August 2020. Besides developing research activities along the value chain of space resources, the centre supports commercial initiatives from established players and startups, enables technology transfer between space and non-space industries and encourages public-private partnerships and new initiatives in the field of space resources.

The ESRIC SSP is one of the four pillars of ESRIC and will support early-stage startups in the space resources sector to refine their business plan, attract their first customers and secure their first investments.

"The ESRIC Start up Support Programme will play a key role in accelerating the next generation of space resources related business ideas of the most promising entrepreneurial teams. It will be developed in close interaction with the other pillars of ESRIC, in particular its research activities all along the value chain of space resources utilisation", explained Mathias Link.

The programme is also expected to pave the way to the consolidation of an ecosystem of technical and business players and to contribute to promoting effective collaboration models with early-stage ventures with the aim of investigating the new technology developments that are the most relevant for future space resources applications.

The ESRIC SSP programme will be organised in three phases:

  • the three-month pre-incubation phase will allow five selected startups to validate technical concepts and align them with market opportunities. They will benefit from in-kind support, both for the technical and business aspects of their project, provided by ESRIC and its partners;
  • following the pre-incubation phase, the best project will be selected for a two-year incubation phase, during which the startup will be able to confirm its technical value proposal and further develop its business model. Further technical and business support will be provided during the incubation phase, and a €200,000 non-equity and non-refundable funding will be allocated to the startup;
  • a third residency phase of maximum 36 months will be possible for the startup, to ensure follow-up on technical developments and the further growth of the sales / customer pool.

Two application calls will be run on a yearly basis for the first phase of the programme, with the first call expected in November 2021. Whilst applications are open to all startups worldwide, a geographical presence in Luxembourg will be mandatory for the incubation phase.

"Luxembourg positions itself once again as a pioneer with the launch of the world's first start up support programme dedicated to space resources. This initiative was, after the creation of ESRIC in 2020, the next logical step for the development of Space Resources in Luxembourg, in Europe and beyond", commented Minister Franz Fayot. "Close collaboration between national and international partners has been key and I would like to congratulate them on a project which will be instrumental for the Spaceresources.lu initiative".

"Space Resources will drive the future of space exploration", added Marc Serres, CEO of LSA. "Today, technological breakthrough is needed to enable the use of space resources, and the SSP is an exceptional platform for entrepreneurs who have commercial ideas to develop in that field".

Thomas Kallstenius, CEO of LIST, concluded: "It's always a pleasure and an honour to work hand in hand with ESA. At LIST, we believe that space resources research will have a positive effect on our life on earth. We are particularly interested in dual use technologies. The ones that can have both terrestrial and space applications. [...] This Start up Support Programme is a win-win situation: startups will learn from us, and we will be challenged by their new fresh ideas to create a higher impact".