Private sector space tech companies — from Virgin Galactic to Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) — have been doing what only government agencies were empowered to do in earlier generations, launch vehicles into space, improve the fuel efficiency of aircraft, and more. A Boulder-based incubator called The eSpace Center for Space Entrepreneurship still thinks the industry could be friendlier to startups and innovators, though.
Founded in partnership with the University of Colorado, and with SNC as its lead sponsor, the eSpace incubator is currently seeking its third class of aerospace entrepreneurs, and reviewing applications on a rolling basis.
Diane Dimeff, executive director at the eSpace Center, says the incubator will: give financial grants of up to $20,000 in seed funding to selected startups, and match them with mentors who are chief executives of companies relevant to each new venture; also giving them office space in Boulder for up to 18 months; access to manufacturing facilities; and a network of contacts within government agencies and large corporations in the field.
The eSpace incubator program has supported nine companies so far, two of which have graduated and moved into professional offices, and three of which have environmental uses for their space technologies, Dimeff confirmed.
One of the clean- and space-tech businesses there now, TIGON EnerTec, is a University of Colorado spinout making light weight, hybrid propulsion systems for use in aircraft, boats and terrestrial vehicles. The company could be the Prius of the sky, seas, and streets if they succeed in commercializing their technology.
TIGON EnerTec’s chief executive, Les Makepace, told TechCrunch:
“In Boulder, there are a number of incubators affiliated with the schools here and various investor groups. One of the best known, TechStars, is a great program, but it’s pretty much software oriented. I wouldn’t have even tried to bring them this concept. And we became too mature to stay within university incubators at a point. So we were happy to learn about eSpace, which was really new when we applied.”
Contestants in the Google Lunar X PRIZE (who we wrote about recently, here) Next Giant Leap are also eSpace incubator alumni.
Image by: Patrick Campbell, courtesy University of Colorado