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Empowering innovation intermediaries to generate sustainable initiatives to incentivise and accelerate the commercialisation of space innovation

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - InnORBIT (Empowering innovation intermediaries to generate sustainable initiatives to incentivise and accelerate the commercialisation of space innovation)

Reporting period: 2021-01-01 to 2022-03-31

The commercial space sector (New Space) is growing globally. The potential for application of space technology in other commercial sectors is constantly expanding, creating opportunities for new products, services, and applications to improve the quality of EU citizens’ lives, create new jobs and respond to pressing challenges. Even though EU has heavily invested on the space domain, through a large number of initiatives and programmes to support space innovation, much effort is needed to reach the front-runners such as US and China. Space clusters, hubs and other innovation intermediaries can play a vital role in supporting space entrepreneurship through skills building, networking and connection to the market for their members. However, the majority of aerospace clusters are concentrated in Western Europe and the tremendous potential of people and the emerging technological industry in Eastern Europe is underexploited.

InnORBIT will support start-ups and scale-ups to start and grow their commercial space activity, through sustainable local space innovation initiatives run by innovation intermediaries (clusters, hubs, industry associations etc.) in European countries with vibrant tech ecosystems. A Capacity Building Programme is designed to train innovation intermediaries on the space sector and on setting up and running local space initiatives such as incubators, accelerators, hackathons etc. A Business Support Programme complements and enriches local space initiatives to help space entrepreneurs in starting and scaling up their commercial activities in the space sector. The business support service portfolio for space entrepreneurs includes trainings, mentoring, networking, support to access finance and funding. InnORBIT services are made easily accessible through the InnORBIT Digital Toolbox.

The InnORBIT services, programmes and toolbox are developed based on space ecosystem insights, needs analysis and co-creation with space market actors and then piloted in 2 consecutive rounds by Eastern European innovation intermediaries well-embedded in their ecosystems, starting with 3 consortium members, ROMSPACE in Romania, Corallia in Greece, and Algebra University in Croatia. After receiving training, innovation intermediaries are supported to design their local space initiatives and engage local space innovators. Well-trained experts will support pilot participants to customize InnORBIT services to their needs and the local market. A monitoring and evaluation framework will support the collection of evidence on the performance of our solutions, improve them and follow up to train and engage 17 additional intermediaries in Eastern Europe in the 2nd pilot round. The lessons learnt and final methodology will be included into a replication guide to enable other innovation intermediaries to apply them and a set of policy recommendations to support decision makers in creating more supportive frameworks for space innovation.
The work performed in the frame of InnORBIT project, kicked-off with an in-depth analysis of the current status of space ecosystems in 4 countries (Greece, Slovenia, Croatia, Romania) through desk research and several interviews with experts, including also the assessment of core trends of the broader space market in Central and South-Eastern Europe. Building on initial findings, a skills and knowledge assessment analytical framework has been developed and validated through several interviews with experts and deployed as an online survey to identify the skill gap of innovation intermediaries in Eastern Europe in comparison to the expectations of local start-ups and innovators. The survey results led to the identification of key training topics for addressing the skills and knowledge needs of both sides.

Following previous analyses, an online co-creation workshop was designed involving 25 experts and market actors in a collaborative brainstorming exercise to design the most valuable services and training topics for the InnORBIT programmes. Based on the draft designs, a first version of the Capacity Building and Business Support Programme was developed, including the training topics and services offered to its users. Space training focuses on both business and technical aspects, complemented by services for mentoring, networking, matchmaking and skills building for innovators. 5 local space initiative types were outlined, including space incubators, accelerators, hackathons, cafés and sprints. The InnORBIT digital toolbox was developed to support the delivery of the InnORBIT programmes and space initiatives, comprising 7 tools, including e-learning, a community forum, database of local space initiatives, database of partnering events, a database of funding opportunities and an investment readiness self-assessment tool for space SMEs and startups.

In their role as innovation intermediaries, Corallia (GR), Algebra University College (HR) and ROMSPACE (RO) are the first to pilot the InnORBIT support programmes and tools in their region. They were first trained by InnORBIT experts and guided to design and deploy their local space initiatives. A space café initiative is launched in all three countries, complemented by a space hackathon in Romania and Greece.

Meanwhile, an open call was launched to gather interest of additional innovation intermediaries in Eastern Europe to participate in the 2nd pilot round. Prospective participants are guided through info days and dedicated calls to customise InnORBIT’s support to their organisations’ needs. Innovation intermediaries start the pilot in summer 2022, with the training phase and preparation of their local space initiatives.

Business models are developed for the local space initiatives of the 1st pilot round, as well as for the InnORBIT digital toolbox and the Capacity Building Programme. Market experts will validate them to ensure a good fit to the market before proceeding to the development of business plans. Potential synergies and collaborations are being crafted, from the beginning of the project, with key space institutions, networks, initiatives and projects, to increase the outreach of InnORBIT programmes and connect with other efforts supporting the growth of the European commercial space sector.
Through the InnORBIT project and developed solutions the aim is to train innovation intermediaries and support the establishment of more than 20 local space initiatives (hackathons, incubators, accelerators, cafes) across Eastern Europe and support more than 50 startups to start or upscale their commercial space activities. The piloted and tested Capacity Building and Business Support programme aim to offer more than 30 customised services to support space market actors including networking, mentoring, awareness, investment and funding opportunities. Startups, scaleups and SMEs are expected to benefit from improved access to finance and funding, increased survival rates and sustainability as well as from the development of new cost-effective products and solutions enabled by space technologies and data services such as Copernicus, Galileo and DIAS. The InnORBIT Replication Guide will provide a complete guide for other innovation intermediaries to follow our methodology. InnORBIT policy recommendations will be communicated to decision makers and market actors in space to motivate the creation of a friendlier environment for space entrepreneurship.