Professionals explore how space technology can boost innovation in business

Corporate benchmark event at European Space Agency brought entrepreneurs and industry together.

Almost 25 professionals joined a CEMS corporate benchmark event, which was organised by the European Space Agency (ESA) and Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM). The event took place at ESA’s headquarters in Noordwijk, the Netherlands on 1 September 2017. Participants investigated how space technology can be transferred into business.

RSM is one of 30 top business schools worldwide to offer the MSc International Management/CEMS which develops high-quality graduates with a global mindset, ready for an international business career. Organisations can connect with these talented minded young professionals through a CEMS corporate partnership. The CEMS community regularly initiates benchmark meetings in which CEMS corporate and social partners can network, discuss and exchange best practices on business themes around the world. ESA has been a CEMS social partner since 2014.

‘Tremendous learning opportunity’

The event, ‘Creating space for innovation’, was attended by around 25 managers, analysts, policy advisors, engineers and alumni representing a wide range of organisations including Philips, American Express, Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Reckitt Benckiser.

“For innovators and science enthusiasts it is a treat beyond words to get such a privileged perspective into innovation, technology, and the future of space exploration at ESA,” says CEMS alumna Marina Martin, adding that the corporate event was ‘a tremendous learning opportunity’ for students, alumni and industry.

“RSM is a leading research institution and an esteemed CEMS partner, and ESA is a pioneer in the field of space technology and a sophisticated international service organisation. Together they have created a truly unique forum for knowledge-sharing and idea-generation right here in the Netherlands,” said Martin.

Transferring technology

Participants at the benchmark meeting explored how space technology can be transferred into business. ESA’s Massimo Sabbatini (ESTEC-Erasmus Centre manager) discussed the ideas for an innovation centre in the framework of the future Human Spaceflight missions. Tim Heijmann, business analyst at SkyfloX, held a session ‘From CEMS to job via entrepreneurship at ESA’. And Niels Eldering (RSM alumnus and technology transfer officer at ESA) shared examples of technological transfer innovation. Participants attended a workshop, and received a tour around ESA.

“The world's greatest challenges require bold, ambitious solutions,” says CEMS alumnus Björn Kuil. “ESA incentivises private sector and knowledge institutions, such as CEMS, to invest more in technology transfer. This seminar was much appreciated, provided food for thought and great opportunities for more co-operation between corporate partners, knowledge institutions, public entities and NGOs.”

“Our collaboration with CEMS students earlier this year has been extremely positive,” says Massimo Sabbatini of ESA. “In less than three months a group of four enthusiastic young professionals surveyed the market for possible partnerships to help create an Innovation Centre here at ESTEC, a hub to foster innovation together with new, non-space partners. We would like to continue this collaboration with CEMS and we are happy to keep hosting these events.”

Stimulating co-operation

RSM Distinguished Alumni Award winner Niels Eldering, technology transfer officer at ESA, is driven to bring together CEMS corporate partners to catalyse new technologies into business and potentially stimulating joint business between companies. The corporate benchmark event took place during a specialised block seminar, organised by RSM and the European Space Agency for 13 years, in which students from RSM’s MSc International Management/CEMS programme and CEMS partner universities work on space inventions and develop proposals on how to spin new products off to create new business. Frieda Franke, CEMS corporate relations manager at RSM and co-organiser, looks back at an event that next to content offered ample opportunity to network, being one of the added values of the CEMS community. 

Attendees at the benchmark meeting also included Roland Siegers, executive direct at CEMS; Wieteke Dupain, executive director CEMS Alumni Association, and Axelle Ducos from the newly elected CEMS Alumni Association Global Board. The seminar preceded the first Alumni Association Global Board meeting with the newly elected board, which took place 2 and 3 September in Rotterdam.

ESA’s Technology Transfer Programme Office (TTPO) aims to inspire and facilitate the use of space technology, systems and know-how for non-space applications. TTPO aims to strengthen European industry by identifying new business opportunities for providers of space technology and systems. It enhances the know-how and competitiveness of these providers while broadening their business horizons. The office and its technology broker network successfully transferred over 350 space technologies to non-space sectors for applications. Whether start-ups or spin-offs, ESA Business Incubation Centres (BICs) help to create viable business and new jobs by providing support to over 130 companies every year in Europe. More than 500 new companies have received support to date. For more information, please contact the Technology Transfer Programme Office at the European Space Agency – ESTEC via +31 71 565 6208 or by email at

More information

Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) is one of Europe’s top 10 business schools. RSM provides ground-breaking research and education furthering excellence in all aspects of management and is based in the international port city of Rotterdam – a vital nexus of business, logistics and trade. RSM’s primary focus is on developing business leaders with international careers who can become a force for positive change by carrying their innovative mindset into a sustainable future. Our first-class range of bachelor, master, MBA, PhD and executive programmes encourage them to become critical, creative, caring and collaborative thinkers and doers. Study information and activities for future students, executives and alumni are also organised from the RSM office in Chengdu, China.


For more information about RSM or this release, please contact Marianne Schouten, communications manager for RSM, on +31 10 408 2877 or by email at

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