Lift off for ActInSpace UK!

 Last weekend saw Harwell Campus open its doors to budding entrepreneurs, eager scientists and enthusiastic students for ActInSpace, an international space themed hackathon kicking off simultaneously throughout Europe. Driven by the ESA Business Incubation Centre (ESA BIC) Sud France, the ESA BIC Harwell represented the UK in a competition featuring 27 cities in 13 European countries.

The aim of the hackathon was to encourage the use space technology in non-space applications to solve everyday problems. Space technology challenges were offered by Airbus Defence and Space, CNES and ESA among others, providing the participants with up-to-date, industry specific information. It is hoped that the successful participants will be interested in applying to the ESA BICs following the competition to help develop their idea into a commercial offering.

The atmosphere was electric from the start as participants arrived smiling with a laptop under one arm and sleeping bag under the other. After a friendly introduction they quickly split off into teams and the hard work began. They were supported by space experts and business coaches from STFC and current ESA BIC tenants to ensure their ideas were as strong and relevant as possible.

After a long day brainstorming ideas and hacking away the teams were able to relax for a short time in the evening and enjoy a BBQ whilst networking with the coaches, the experts and each other. Once the BBQ was over it was back to business as usual as working recommenced and continued deep into the night.



On Saturday morning the evidence of progress was clear to see. Tired eyes and weary faces dominated the hackers but breakfast of bacon and eggs seemed to re-energize the teams to continue their hard work. As the deadline approached the presentations were frantically put together and rehearsed again and again.

All the hard work, dedication and lack of sleep proved worthwhile with some fantastic ideas well communicated to an experienced panel of judges including Head of Business Development, Chris Bee, new ESA BIC Operations Manager, Sue O’Hare from STFC and Entrepreneurial Director, Don McLaverty.

The winning team’s idea was focused around improving disabled mobility using satellite imagery to create maps which would show a wheelchair user the ‘most accessible’, instead of the quickest way to get from A to B containing data such as ‘gradient, road crossings and number of steps involved’.

The winning team ‘DYbyDX’ will represent the UK at the international finals in France on June 29th at the Toulouse Space Show. “We wish them luck!”


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