It’s a yearly tradition that we have come to love and look forward to: the ESA-CEMS block seminar. As part of the opening of their academic year, more than 60 CEMS students (International Management) from all over the world come to Noordwijk each year to test their skills. One half of the group is invited into the heart of ESA ESTEC to come up with a business idea based on a real ESA patent. The other half of the group camps out at ESA BIC to consult for start-up companies in the incubation program.
On Monday, both groups of students gathered in the High Bay at ESA ESTEC, where ESA Technology Transfer Officer Niels Eldering welcomed them into the world of European space exploration and – most interesting for the students – business and technology spin-offs. In the afternoon, the ‘consultants’ met their ‘clients’: Goodwood/Gemini, Magnitude Space, Polariks, SkyfloX, SOOSR and Spectral Industries – all current ESA BIC incubatees. Each start-up company had prepared a specific question, like “which country should we expand to and how?”, “which market segment should we (not) tackle?”, “which legal barriers should we look out for?”.
Three hard days’ work
The next three days, the students worked in their individual groups, deliberated with ‘their’ start-ups, and attended workshops and presentations about pitching, entrepreneurship and consultancy.
Thursday 23:00 was the hard deadline for the final reports, and this year the students seemed extraordinarily calm and composed. And if there were any jitters before the final pitches, the presenters managed to hide those very well. Each team had 15 minutes to present their findings, after which the expert jury, consisting of Martijn Seijger from SBIC Noordwijk, Rob Postema from ESA and Randal Meijer from StartCapital Partners, briefly grilled the students on feasibility, method and their conclusions.
And the winner is…
Finally, the jury picked the team that consulted Spectral Industries as the winner. They had made the best analysis of their client’s problem and given the most apt advice.
Meanwhile, at ESTEC, inspiring new business ideas had taken shape, such as a portable car-cover with built-in solar cells and a private flood barrier for up-market homes. But the first prize was awarded to team Ramp It Up! for their instant wheelchair ramp.
Hopefully, this high-pressure week will lead to many new collaborations and initiatives. We’re already looking forward to next year’s edition of the CEMS block seminar.