Space-Match: fish seeks Q-Tip

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Maylandia lombardoi fish in freshwater aquarium, with male in front and female behind

Credits: Ged/Wikipedia

30 October 2012
It’s a familiar dilemma: you want to find a partner, but you aren’t sure how to do it. If you’re lucky enough to be a European space technology, or are looking for one, on 20 November you can turn to Space-Match.


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Space-Match is a matchmaking event that brings together space technologies and companies from outside the space industry.

It can lead to some spectacular pairings, in which space technologies are adapted in new ways for use here on Earth.

For the first time, the event is open to all ESA Member States this year, so the chances of meeting the right company are better than ever.

The idea for Space-Match, now on its eighth event, came about when the Dutch TNO research and development organisation conducted a survey of the Dutch space community in 2005.

Space technology improves our lives
“The space companies in the Netherlands said, ‘We’re so focused on our space work that we don’t have too many connections with the outside world,” recalled Len van der Wal, senior consultant for TNO, which organises the event in close cooperation with ESA and the Netherlands Space Office.

“They said they would appreciate an event or platform that allows people from non-space to have a good close look at our technologies.”

Space-Match event was born

This year’s event, with its focus on high-tech systems and materials, is open to European companies and entrepreneurs.

At the European Space Innovation Centre in Noordwijk, the Netherlands, space technologies will be presented to the expected hundred participants from outside the space sector.

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The Space-MATCH 2012 event will take place at the European Space Innovation Centre near ESTEC in Noordwijk, the Netherlands

Credits: ESA/TNO

In the morning, the world of space will be introduced to those who might not be familiar with it, along with a tour of ESA’s ESTEC technology and development centre. The matchmaking will be arranged in the afternoon.

While space companies might make proposals for where they think their technologies might be applicable – in the medicine field, say, or for the automotive industry – participants from other industries sometimes have completely different ideas. “People start discussions based on these ideas,” noted van der Wal.

“There’s a broad basis of matchmaking possibilities,” agreed Nico van Putten, deputy director of the Netherlands Space Office.

Established in 2009, the office administers the Netherlands’ space programme and is the central point of contact for the country’s space community.

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Barcelona aquarium with its 80-metres underwater tunnel

Credits: Paul Hermans /Wikipedia

If past events are any indication, results can be as successful as they are surprising.

Take Bioclear, a Dutch company that focuses on biological solutions. ESA had commissioned them to work on hygiene in space, and Bioclear had developed a kind of high-tech Q-Tip that would make it easy for astronauts to test surfaces, like computer keyboards and toilets, for bacteria, which grow quickly in space and can present a health hazard.

At a Space-Match, Bioclear came in contact with a company that had an idea for an unusual terrestrial application: testing ornamental fish.

Ornamental fish, it turns out, can be very expensive, but there is no way of determining if they are healthy.

An adaptation of Bioclear’s technology would let potential buyers swab the fish to test for disease before purchase.

“We were a little bit surprised,” said Inez Dinkla, project manager at Bioclear.

ESA’s Technology Transfer Programme Office (TTPO)

The main mission of ESA’s Technology Transfer Programme is to facilitate the use of space technology and systems for non-space applications, and thereby also further demonstrating realising the benefit of the European space programmes to the citizens.

ESA TTPO is responsible for defining the overall approach and strategy for the transfer of space technologies and systems, including the incubation of start-up companies at ESA business incubation centres and related funding.

The office has transferred over 260 technologies since the programme start and is supporting directly and indirectly around 100 new start-ups a year. TTPO has also initiated as a limited partner the Open Sky Technology Fund, a €100 million venture fund which invests in start-ups using space technology.

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