STFC celebrates support for 100th space tech start-up

Man with autonomous drone in a field

Skyfarer is developing the UK’s first autonomous drone delivery network for vital medical supplies.

The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) is celebrating the 100th UK company to join the world’s largest space innovation network for technology start-ups.

Since 2010, 100 start-ups have joined the European Space Agency Business Incubation Centre UK (ESA BIC UK). The start-ups will use space and satellite technologies to develop new and innovative products and services.

Since then, these businesses have:

  • raised over £86 million in investment (Beauhurst)
  • filed 12 patents in 2020 alone
  • have an 89% survival rate, despite the uncertainties of the last 18 months.

UK-first technology

The 100th company to join the ESA BIC UK is Skyfarer.

Skyfarer is developing the UK’s first autonomous drone delivery network dedicated to the fast and direct delivery of vital, time-sensitive medical supplies, such as:

  • blood
  • vaccines
  • organs.

As well as the real potential for saving lives and supporting the NHS, the service would bring reductions in:

  • transport times
  • road congestion
  • CO2 emissions.

Eventually, it would become available to other businesses and organisations for increased efficiencies in diverse logistical operations, safely, autonomously and cost effectively, without the requirement for a drone specialist.

Man holding autonomous drone

Credit: Skyfarer

Business support brings tangible benefits

The ESA BIC UK is managed and partly funded by STFC, in collaboration with:

  • ESA Space Solutions
  • UK Space Agency
  • University of Leicester.

It provides start-ups with a carefully designed 12 to 24 month support package.

The package helps them through the development of their game-changing products and services in an increasingly competitive and global marketplace.

At the ESA BIC UK, Skyfarer will now further develop and enhance the software and navigation system behind its autonomous drone delivery platform.

It will use live ESA earth observation satellites to access key weather and positioning data.

Maximising the potential of space

Paul Vernon, Executive Director of Business and Innovation at STFC, said:

For any start-up, turning a great business idea into a profitable, marketable offering is a daunting challenge.

Here at STFC, through the ESA BIC UK, we can provide the right environment and support to do this.

It’s really encouraging that our incubatees are continuing to maintain an 89% survival rate, despite the challenging times created by the COVID-19 global pandemic.

I’m thrilled to be celebrating this major milestone with Skyfarer, whose innovative use of satellite technology sets out not only to support the NHS and save lives, but also to reduce emissions created through our traditional transport systems.

The ESA BIC UK is clearly playing a crucial role in maximising the potential of space for future economic growth, creating jobs and profitable businesses.

Collaboration and expertise

Elliot Parnham, Founder and CEO at Skyfarer, said:

Making drone delivery possible is an audacious challenge and one that requires collaboration and expertise in various areas to realise the vision.

Being accepted into the ESA BIC UK at Leicester is not only an achievement for Skyfarer, a company four years in the making that has persevered through multiple challenges and pivots, but an exciting opportunity to realise the vision of autonomous drone delivery of medical supplies.

We are honoured to be the 100th company to be accepted into the ESA BIC UK and we are looking forward to the journey ahead during our incubation at Space Park Leicester.

Overcoming challenges with tailored support

The ESA BIC UK is part of the ESA Space Solutions network. It consists of 23 ESA business incubation centres across Europe, as well as access to technology transfer ambassadors and applications brokers.

The ESA BIC UK support package includes:

  • access to funding
  • STFC’s world class expertise, research and technical facilities
  • dedicated business support.

Crucial milestone

Niels Eldering, Head of the ESA Space Solutions Section, said:

With the UK representing an important part of our journey, the ESA BIC network has grown to 23 ESA BICs, supporting entrepreneurs all over ESA member states to bring space as a business solution to the market.

Reaching this milestone is so crucial to show that we are continuing to support our entrepreneurs, who are transforming their promising ideas into successful products and services, creating jobs and prosperity.

The UK is setting a clear example of this commitment to the entrepreneurial community.

The ESA BIC UK has strongly demonstrated that the use of space technologies can help improve our lives and wellbeing, with incubatees operating in a diverse range of sectors.

These have ranged from:

  • the development of regenerative healthcare technologies
  • using insects to convert food waste into sustainable farm feed
  • technology to help the shipping industry reduce CO2 emissions.

Get involved wherever you are in the UK

Up to 15 companies per year can join this UK-wide programme at:

  • Harwell Campus in Oxfordshire
  • Sci-Tech Daresbury in the Liverpool City Region
  • The Royal Observatory in Edinburgh
  • University of Leicester’s new Space Park Leicester.

Each location is firmly associated with world leading specialisms, providing a unique network of science, innovation and business opportunity.

Companies joining the programme can benefit from these specialisms wherever they are located in the UK.

Opportunities to join the ESA BIC UK take place throughout the year; the next deadline for applications is 16 September 2021.

Top image: Credit: Skyfarer

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