Nurturing the future: Business incubation practices and mechanisms in the European space sector
Cross-fertilisation between the space sector and other sectors is an important condition for innovation and entrepreneurship in high-tech industries. Organizations that perform research and development permanently seek mechanisms for supporting business and entrepreneurship though facilitating the development of disruptive technologies and new product and service development. Over the last decade, public sector agencies such as the European Space Agency (ESA) and its member states have acknowledged the importance of technology transfer and the need for business incubation centres to support new ventures. ESA has initiated a network of business incubation centres (BICs) throughout Europe. Additionally, other activities have been initiated by government. These centres essentially work as `brokers' who specialize in identifying game changing technologies and facilitate in adapting them for adaptation in another industry in search of commercial opportunities. The objective of this study is to develop a set of design principles for technology transfer and incubation practices, based on current literature and existing incubation practices in the sector. This study adopts a science-based design to investigate prevailing business incubation practices in the European space sector. The study focuses on entrepreneurs (start-ups and SMEs) in the sector, conducting or finishing their incubating period in space-related business incubators (e.g. ESA BICs) in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. Semi-structured interviews (48 in total) were conducted and combined with archival sources of the business incubators. The data enables an in-depth qualitative analysis of technology transfer and business incubation practices that takes place between space actors and start-ups.