How to scale up a space startup per UNOOSA Space Economy Initiative Report

UNOOSA Space Economy Initiative Outcome Report highlights how to scale up a space startup, get access to funding, and foster cooperation.

space economy
Credit: ESA

The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) has released the 2020 outcome report of its Space Economy Initiative. The Space Economy Initiative was launched last year to bring emerging and non-space faring countries together to strengthen their space economies.

The report, published in January, is titled, Space Economy Initiative: 2020 Outcome Report. The immediate objectives of the Initiative are to:

  1. Increase global awareness and understanding of how the space sector growth can reinforce socio-economic development, in line with the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development.
  2. Support countries to scale up their growth to deliver strong, responsible and sustainable national space economies
  3. Enhance cooperation across the global space sector, including public and private stakeholders, to foster inclusive and sustainable growth of the global space economy.

According to UNOOSA, the Space Economy Initiative would run for an initial three-year timeframe. And during this period, its focus would be on capacity building, raising awareness through public events, and providing online e-learning services.

Between June and September 2020, UNOOSA convened seven virtual events to dissect the subject of ‘space economy’. The events were for raising awareness. And representatives of space agencies, government institutions, private sector, and academia and civil society participated.

In introducing the space economy, UNOOSA submitted that space economy does not only cover the space sector but includes all industries linked to it. Before the launch of the Initiative, UNOOSA has been using the term to capture all the economic benefits of a dynamic space sector and the role space can play in prosperous socio-economic development.

PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), one of the private sector participants, identified four ingredients for creating a prosperous space sector:

  1. A well-established national space strategy and a clear roadmap to support its implementation over the long-term
  2. A governance framework of policies, regulations, and legislation that support growth. This can be achieved through a strong and open relationship between pubic and private stakeholders.
  3. Raising awareness and outreach on the space economy and the value a healthy space sector represents
  4. Enhancing the capacity to engage in space economic activities through capacity building and involving stakeholders.

At one of the events, how to scale up a space startup was discussed. The speakers were Jolanda van Eijndthoven, the deputy head of unit in the directorate-general for defence industry and space at the Europen Commission, and Victor Stephanopoli, MzansiSat’s chief operating officer. Ana Cristina Galhego Rosa, founder of Dipteron, and Gaëtan Petit, co-founder of Space4Impact were also speakers.

Many factors must be considered in setting up a space company. From the experience of Dipetron and MzansiSat, these are the important elements a space company needs to take off:

  • Assess market opportunities
  • Study legal challenges
  • Develop an idea
  • Build a team
  • Prepare a business model
  • Have a clear vision about what the company offers
  • Find a niche and focus on the application of space technology, not only space technology itself. Ensure potential customers fully understand what the company is offering them and the value of the product.
  • Marketing is critical to providing visibility for the company.
  • Set up partnerships and networks
  • Secure funding

The speakers opined there are many opportunities for a space company to scale up. These opportunities include entrepreneurship initiatives, incubation programmes, grants, startup loans, and mentorships. As space economies become sustainable, more programmes designed to support entrepreneurs in the space sectors would be launched.

Jolanda highlighted some European Commission’s programmes. Namely, Galileo and Copernicus Masters—two innovation competitions for satellite navigation and earth observation. Also, the Commission has developed a new space entrepreneurship initiative called, CASSINI. The objective of CASSINI is to increase the number of space startups in the European Union and increase their chances of success.

The report noted that all the elements notwithstanding, success will only happen in a space ecosystem that convenes customers, entrepreneurs, investors and bankers, policymakers and other stakeholders within and outside the space sector. And this needs to reinforced by adequate policy developments.

Other virtual events that were held during the period cover these topics:

  • Making the case for space: Baselines for building support for space economic growth
  • Access to finance: Building a sustainable financial system for space economies
  • International cooperation: International normative frameworks in domestic contexts, responsible and sustainable growth
  • Innovation and growth: Government, industry and academia working together to grow space economy
  • Building back better: How a health space economy can support post-COVID-19 recoveries 

The highlights of the different events can be accessed on UNOOSA’s website or its Youtube channel.


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