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CEMS students used ESA patent to create new business. Photo credits - European Space Agency
CEMS students used ESA patent to create new business. Photo credits - European Space Agency

When business students are given the chance to work on space inventions for a week, they can create great proposals on how to spin new products off to create new businesses. The European Space Agency (ESA) and Rotterdam School of Management Erasmus University (RSM) invited 61 students from RSM and 17 partner universities to take part in this year’s annual CEMS block seminar at ESA in Noordwijk, the Netherlands in August 2016.

At the start of their MSc in International Management/CEMS programme, the business students were challenged to foster new companies based on reusing space technologies in terrestrial applications.

Space patents and innovation

“Half of the group was challenged to develop a business plan using an ESA patent as the baseline for a new company while the other half worked as consultants for five start-ups in one of our ESA Business Incubation Centres,” says RSM alumnus Niels Eldering from ESA’s Technology Transfer Programme Office, who won an RSM Distinguished Alumni Award last year. “In just one week we got seven great ideas with business plans on how one of our space patents could provide innovative solutions to cases here on Earth,” said Eldering.

Entrepreneurial challenges

Working in teams, the CEMS students came up with new ideas on how an ESA patent for an advanced fluid filter could be used to create new businesses. ESA engineer Matthew Smith presented the 3D-printed device that ESA has developed and patented for filtering propellant flowing into rocket engines on satellites and launchers. The students had 80 hours to build their proposals, supported by engineers from Delft University of Technology, business coaches, investors and legal advisers.

“The nice thing about the seminar is that the students are in the drivers’ seat,” explained Bas Jan Veldhoen, entrepreneur and RSM guest lecturer. “They have the rollercoaster experience of any start-up, giving them insights into what it takes to be an entrepreneur.”

Winning team

The winning team of the ‘Entrepreneurial Challenge of Turning Technology into Business’ proposed cleaning water in farming, which often has problems with clogged water filtration systems and the resulting high maintenance cost. With 3D printing, it is easy to tailor the filter to the specific challenges, even retrofitting it into existing systems. The team argued that the market for such filters is large – there are 23,590 livestock farms in the Netherlands alone. The team members were Fleur van Sambeeck, Jonas Nitschke, Alexandra Maria Zacarias Bastidas, and Roman Pavlyuchenko.

Another team proposed adapting the filter to prevent blood clots travelling after operations. “I have learned that every task, no matter how impossible it may appear at first, is doable if you have got a great team behind you,” said Katharina Badenhausen, a German CEMS student from the University of Sydney, currently on exchange at RSM.

Belgian student Cyril Prioux agreed: “The seminar at ESA was a one-of-a-kind experience. I have never had the chance to learn so much in such a short time.”

More information

Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) is one of Europe’s top-ranked 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.

For more information about RSM or this release, please contact Erika Harriford-McLaren, Media & Public Relations Manager for RSM, on +31 10 408 2877 or by email at

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