ESA Space Solutions Portugal, in partnership with the Geophysics and Astronomic Observatory of the University of Coimbra, organized the 6th edition of Portugal Space Summer School, this year a totally remote event. 42 participants, 18 mentors coming from 10 space companies and 4 business incubators, along with 8 keynote speakers contributed to the event’s huge success!
This was the 6th year that ESA Space Solutions Portugal organizes Portugal Space Summer School (PTSSS), a national scouting event that has become a calendar milestone of space events in Portugal. Overall, almost 200 persons have participated in the event, since 2015.
Our summer school aims to attract students, researchers and entrepreneurs to explore space as a business enabler. With that purpose, we plan a set of activities aiming to create awareness about space opportunities, share knowledge, promote entrepreneurship and debate strategic and current themes, of course, with key people of this sector. Whoever participates is involved in teams, who will work on and present their joint business idea - based on the use of space assets within the proposed challenges. Teams receive mentoring from a pool of mentors - either from space companies and incubated startups, or from space-related business incubators; to improve their business ideas and get prepared the final pitch.
This year we had 42 participants, coming from many cities across Portugal, others that are studying abroad in the EU and even 2 participants from Brazil. The background area of this plethora of participants is mainly technical / engineering, with a high percentage of aerospace and aeronautic, but also physics among several fields of engineering (chemical, civil, electrotechnics and telecommunications, mechanics, IT). Nevertheless, we had many participants coming from Medicine, Geology, Archeology, Marketing, Communication, Design, Management and Law.
We have been seeing in the past editions that the event attracts attendees beyond the obvious space related areas. Though most participants are still students (Bachelor, Masters, and PhD), we also had participants already working in space startups and others are even entrepreneurs on their own - aiming at the creation of their space startups. As a result, Portugal Space Summer School is not only an important awareness raising instrument, but also a relevant scouting tool to the ESA BIC Portugal.
This 6th edition (that took place from the 8th to the 11th September 2020), due to our partnership with the Geophysics and Astronomic Observatory of the University of Coimbra, had as main theme the sun and space weather. Three out of five the challenges of the business idea competition were around this theme: mitigation of solar radiation effects, exploration of solar sails potential and prevention of solar catastrophes; to support the teams, a researcher from the Observatory gave technical talk about the solar activity and their staff was always available support the teams that were responding to these challenges. The other two challenges were: to develop a business based on space washing machines; or freely propose a business idea that could be submitted to the ESA BIC Portugal. We had 8 great teams working on these 5 challenges and the winners were: in 3rd place, Sky-Tomatoes (with a solution based on real time SAR imagery combined with drones/UAV/small-sats or light-planes that monitors tomatoes plantations ang gives information about soil condition and the crops).
In the 2nd place, SkySheild (a cosmetic cream enriched with selonomelanin acting as shield against the harmful space radiation – to be used by aviation crews, private jet owners and frequent passengers).
The winning team was Ad-Astra, with a solution that is an eco-friendly washing machine that does not use water or aggressive chemistry agents, consuming 70% less energy, quickly and effectively decontaminating clothes - of most importance in the current pandemic context.
Besides the business ideas competition, during the PTSSS, 2 webinars were live streamed on social media channels: Luca Rossettini keynote talk, the CEO and founder of D-Orbit, that inspired the attendees with his raising “journey to space”; followed by the Head of ESA Space Solutions Sector (TIA-IAS) – Venture & Innovation Office, Cornelis Eldering, that presented all about ESA for potential entrepreneurs.
The final session of the event was dedicated to the pitch presentation and also to listen to key note speeches: Vera Pinto Gomes, Policy & Equality Coordinator from EU DG DEFIS – on the importance of diversity and inclusion in the space sector; and the other from Chiara Manfletti, the President of Portuguese Space Agency – Portugal Space, presenting the “Great challenges in space for Portugal”.
Portugal Space Summer School had a very diverse agenda and activities, as always. The biggest challenge in 2020 was to organize it remotely, merging several online tools. Probably because of this remote participation, this edition was the most participated ever and the overall feedback was extremely positive. “We are living in a new era with this pandemic context, and adapting to this paradigm is demanding. But our efforts are starting to have positive indicators. We shall keep adapting to better serve our national space ecosystem” concludes Carlos Cerqueira, ESA Space Solutions Portugal Coordinator. It was 4 days full of space!