UK’s first ESA business incubator signs first tenant

UK’s first ESA business incubator signs first tenant

The European Space Agency’s Business Incubation Centre Harwell (ESA BIC Harwell) has announced (17 May 2011) that its first tenant is The Electrospinning Company, a pioneering developer of revolutionary space age materials for the biomedical research industry.

Microscope image of electrospun fibres

The first of its kind in the UK, the ESA BIC Harwell will create jobs and opportunities by enabling pioneering, innovative companies to translate space technologies and applications into viable and profitable businesses in non-space industries. Managed by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), the ESA BIC Harwell will complement the work of the International Space Innovation Centre ISIC by offering a unique and focussed package of technical expertise and business support for up to 10 start-up businesses every year.

The Electrospinning Company uses an established process called electrospinning in which electrical charge is used to produce extremely thin fibres, one hundred times thinner than a human hair. These nanofibres are used in biotech research, particularly in the development of new stem-cell therapies to repair or replace damaged organs in the body. The silicon nozzle used in the manufacturing process was originally developed by STFC as part of its Microsystems In Space Programme.

Paul Neilson (left) signing the official tenancy agreement with STFC’s Paul Vernon

The Electrospinning Company currently offers its customers these revolutionary materials for laboratory use in the discovery phase of new stem cell therapies for a wide range of diseases.

As a tenant of ESA BIC Harwell, The Electrospinning Company is set to benefit from an impressive support package, which includes:

  • up to £41.5k towards the protection of intellectual property, design, prototyping and market studies;
  • easy access to both STFC’s and ESA’s technical expertise and experience;
  • well equipped offices;
  • a dedicated business champion from STFC to help with business planning and provide guidance towards access to STFC’s facilities and expertise.

Paul Neilson, Chief Executive at The Electrospinning Company, said: “We are delighted to have been selected as the first tenant at the ESA BIC Harwell. Moving there will provide us with access to important financial, technical and business support as well as to a number of innovation networks. All of this will accelerate us towards our goal of enabling doctors to implant three dimensional nanofibre structures containing stem cells that will enable patients’ bodies to regenerate damaged or diseased organs.”

Paul Vernon, Head of New Business at STFC, said: “This is excellent news. The space sector can bring huge social and economic benefits to the UK economy and business incubation is an effective tool for enabling technology transfer.  By working with both STFC’s and ESA’s scientists The Electrospinning Company is now set to make its mark with its revolutionary technology and applications.”

The tenant agreement was officially signed on 17 May at an ESA Technology Transfer Network (TTN) Showcase held at STFC’s Daresbury Laboratory in Cheshire at which Paul Nielson was a key speaker. Both the ESA BIC Harwell and the ESA TTN in the UK are operated by STFC Innovations Limited, STFC’s commercialisation company. This is the first time that the technology transfer and incubation functions have been brought together under one organisation.

Bruno Naulais, European Space Incubators Network Manager at ESA said: “We are delighted with the set-up of this new ESA BIC in the UK. ESA BIC Harwell is the fifth of its kind in Europe and we have plans to open two more in Belgium later this year. ESA’s Technology Transfer Programme aims at strengthening European industry by identifying new business opportunities for providers of space technology and systems. This contributes to enhancing the know-how and competitiveness of these providers as they broaden their business horizons. ESA BICs have supported about 125 companies since their creation and, with the addition of ESA BIC Harwell, a total of 50 companies will be supported annually, directly through ESA BICs”.

Businesses interested in finding out more about the ESA BIC Harwell can contact: