ESNC 2016: Providing Europe with innovation all along the value chain

Once again this year’s competition is setting standards throughout Europe, in respect to the boost of Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS)-related startups and innovative entrepreneurs. This news article presents the diversity of the ESNC and takes a deep dive into two of the ESNC’s special prizes: the ESA space solutions® Prize and the GNSS Living Lab Prize.

ESNC’s unique benefits
No matter what stage the idea is – from the first business concept up to prototype testing -, the ESNC offers appropriate opportunities for all cases at any stage of the value chain. Thereby the ESNC is not only the prestigious competition for GNSS-related ideas but also serves as Europe-wide and effective support mechanism for entrepreneurs and startups. Industrial as well as institutional stakeholders and more than 130 regional partners are strong assets of the ESNC network and award the winners of the different challenges with prizes valued at approximately EUR 1 million. These prizes comprise a wide range including: cash awards, business incubation, business coaching, patent consulting, technical support, access to testing facilities, prototype development and marketing support, just to name a few. A recent study conducted by AZO – Space of Innovation -, has shown that every second winner of the ESNC has the strong desire to start his or her own company. Throughout the various challenges of the ESNC, which all have their own peculiar topic, manifold ideas are generated. At the same time this framework is used as an immediate and efficient scouting tool for incubators. Two of these specific challenges are put in the spotlight in the following paragraphs.

ESA space solutions® Prize – Participate and start to cooperate with ESA
The ESNC prize, named after the ESA trademark “space solutions”, recognises and supports extraordinary products and services which make use of space-technology as well as space-provided services. The main goal is to derive practical solutions on Earth by transferring them from space, where their reliability has been proved in a harsh environment. This innovative approach has helped to improve various business- and society-related areas: industrial production, in medicine, pollution control, transportation efficiency and surveillance, just to name a few examples. The ESA space solutions® Prize awards innovative ideas that can be immediately implemented and quickly fostered into profitable startups at the sixteen ESA Business Incubation Centres (ESA BICs) or other facilities in the European Space Incubators Network (ESINET). Depending on the concrete terms of the innovative idea, the ESA network has the suitable possibilities and locations all over Europe for the entire scope of submissions. The entrants of the ESA space solutions® Prize should be new startups (either yet to be created or younger than five years old) and be willing to apply to an existing or future ESA BIC for incubation. Major benefit for the winner is a EUR 7,000 cash award. Submissions for the ESA space solutions® Prize are appreciated at

GNSS Living Lab Prize – Participate and use the European test infrastructure
The GNSS Living Lab Prize requests developers and users to submit proposals for GNSS-related products and services that are ready to be tested and ideally implemented in a suitable Living Lab. A Living Lab is a user-driven research concept that focuses on ecosystems as open and large-scale experimentation opportunities in real-life contexts. The GNSS Living Lab Prize aims at acquiring services and applications which use satellite navigation technologies. It rewards one or more winners with the opportunity to conduct a “reality check trial” in a suitable Living Lab, along with relevant user communities and potential future customers. The winning innovator(s) will thus benefit from the chance to validate their idea, conduct user-oriented engineering of their product or service, develop their entrepreneurial team, and intensify their network of industrial relationships. Four Living Labs with different focus topics (media, health or open topic) are available to conduct a reality check trial with a suitable candidate. Support services may be provided by one or more Living Labs depending on suitability of the winning project. In order to be able to compete for the GNSS Living Lab Prize, participants must have a working prototype of their idea or solution available. Submissions for all the ESNC prizes are welcome at

The best chances of success for the ESA space solutions® Prize and the GNSS Living Lab Prize are achieved by submitting the idea for both a regional and a special prize. And remember, as long as the ideas are not based on the same generic theme, multiple ideas may be entered in the competition.

ESNC winners’ success story
The just recently opened ESA BIC Madrid already contains three incubatees, of which two are from the ESNC: The regional winner Madrid / Spain 2015 – VardiaN, Big Data Platform of connected PPEs to prevent accidents in hazardous environments – and GSA special prize winner 2012 – GEKO NAVSAT, 3D Sound Guidance System for Visually Impaired People -. These examples show how the success stories of regional and special prize winners’ do not reach their peaks at receiving the respective prize. The support of the largest space-related incubation network makes it possible for entrepreneurs to choose their incubation centre from more than 40 incubators worldwide.The ESNC network and professional competencies offer wide opportunities to large-scale innovations that deserve to develop their full potential. It is time for startups to initiate action and reach for the stars.

The ESNC’s annual search for new services, products, and business innovations is designed to encourage the use of satellite navigation in everyday life. Over the past decade, it has evolved into the leading innovation competition comprising partner regions worldwide, the largest space-related incubation network and the most relevant European GNSS stakeholders. Submission is possible each year from 1 April – 30 June at



Lena Nietbaur was Marketing & Communications Manager till December 2019.

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