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Innovation contest ActInSpace to boost entrepreneurship in the Netherlands

15 december 2022

From 18 to 19 November 2022, 66 participants gathered at PLNT Leiden to join the ActInSpace global hackathon. During an invigorating 24 hours, 10 teams formed to take on one of the numerous challenges listed under different categories ranging from everyday life business to flying to the Moon and beyond. 

ActInSpace the Netherlands

Initiated by the French Space Agency (CNES) and supported by the European Space Agency (ESA) and the ESA Business Incubation Centres network, ActInSpace offers participants worldwide the unique opportunity to work with space technologies, patents and satellite data. The hackathon has become a real global event, taking place across 5 continents in more than 30 countries. Designed for students but open to everyone, participants bring their best game to tackle challenges with a high potential for commercial applications. The objective is to foster entrepreneurship, encourage start-up creation and promote the use of space technologies and spaceborne data to improve life on Earth. 


After two successful editions in 2016 and 2018, the Netherlands is once again part of world’s largest space application hackathon. Home to ESA’s largest R&D facility, ESTEC, it has a long history in high tech development and astronomy research. It was also the first country in Europe to set up an ESA Business Incubation Centre (in Noordwijk), where startup companies are supported in creating a successful business from space-based technologies and satellite data. Located in the direct vicinity of this vibrant space hub lies the city of Leiden.

Ready for lift-off

The hackathon took place in PLNT Leiden, a start-up facility that houses innovation, entrepreneurship and education. It was the perfect location to develop business ideas and explore the possiblities of space technology. After collecting their goodie bags and cosmic sweets from the “Elon Musk” room, the hackathon’s launch base, participants were ready to start.

Teamwork makes the dream work

Once the teams formed and selected their challenge, the group was introduced to the mentors. With the help of a pool of experts offering advice and guidance round-the-clock, the teams propelled towards the first checkpoint and established the foundation for their solutions. In the afternoon, workshops on stakeholder mapping and problem definition followed to advance the business models of each team.

Preparing for touchdown

Day 2 started out with a breakfast and an energiser session to set the tone for another busy day during which the teams put the final touches on their projects and prepared to pitch their results. In the afternoon it all culminated in the presentations in front of a panel of judges.

Prizes up for grabs

It was a tough decision but after intense deliberations the jury announced the winners during the evening awards ceremony. As one of the judges, Raoul Voeten of the NL Space Campus, opened the ceremony with a message for all the teams: "I have been amazed with what you have achieved in just a few hours. We have seen a wide variety of approaches by the different teams but all with an incredible amount of ambition and spirit to make an impact and improve things on Earth." 

Prizes were awarded to the top 3 teams, giving them access to the space community in the region with invitations to the student startup zone at PLNT and office space at SBIC Noordwijk. The team of “Safe Space” won the third prize with their tracking solution to protect endangered wildlife and habitats in southern Africa. Runner-up “Gemini Analytics” took on the challenge “Fighting for climate change” with a model to build digital twin analogues of urban environments. Finally, with a solution for autonomous collision avoidance in space, “Ecosmic” was awarded the first prize. The team will get a spot in SBIC Noordwijk's Ignition Programme, a month-long pre-incubation programme during which they can tweak their business idea and enhance their applications for the ESA BIC Noordwijk incubation programme.



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