The partners final interviews: Science Park Graz

1. Tell us more about the very beginning of SUN: setting up the team, the excitement, and your very first impressions.

As leaders of the Pre-Incubation programme of SUN, since the first day of the project we started planning activities to identify and support the most promising space entrepreneurs in Europe. The most interesting aspect was doing so in collaboration with the international SUN project team as we got to better know each other during the first weeks. The process led us to many stimulating brainstorming sessions on how to design effective programmes that could generate value for the start-up ecosystem.

2. These almost three years have brought a lot of challenges, and the project has turned out more virtual than planned. What were the challenges behind it?

Due to the international dimension of the mentorship programmes, virtual activities were already supposed to be part of SUN. Nonetheless, the lack of more in-person events that could serve as a touchpoint with start-ups made it more difficult to create and nurture one-on-one relationships. We tried to overcome this situation by increasing our efforts on online collaborative workshops, which proved to be very valuable and fun opportunities for our teams. And, when the situation finally allowed for it, we took the chance to meet in person at the EU Space Week in Prague – a great event that brought together the SUN community.

3. SUN is all about helping startups scale in space – what that means to you?
In the Pre-Incubation programme, we focused on finding visionary entrepreneurs with the willingness to create new solutions with high growth potential. In most cases, our early-stage start-ups had strong technical capabilities within their teams and needed support on the business side of their activities. We thus supported them in this area with the help of our mentors from all over Europe and, of course, from our Innovation Consultants at Science Park Graz / ESA BIC Austria.

4. How do you think SUN impacted the startups?

All the teams received one-on-one support, which mostly focused on how to create a successful business out of promising technical ideas. In addition to having increased their investment readiness level thanks to their mentors, the biggest impact for the SUN start-ups was the exposure to an international network of experts, peers, potential partners and clients. This will ensure that the SUN impact will go beyond the end of the project and its mentorship programmes, but it will continue in the relationships built among the SUN stakeholder ecosystem over the past years.

5. The project is now ending! How do you feel about these three years, and what’s still coming in the future?

It was a fascinating journey, during which we had to reinvent ourselves multiple times to keep up with the unpredictability of events. We look forward to continuing to support start-ups within our core programmes and in the context of international projects. We are also excited to keep working more closely with the SUN start-ups that, after having received mentorship from the programme, decided to continue their journey within the ESA Business Incubation Center network.