EIF infuses €300m into start-ups, space technology SMEs

Breakthrough innovations in the area of cryptography, data storage and processing, rockets and satellites are among the projects

The European Investment Fund (EIF) partnering with the European Commission, announced €300m of investments into the EU space sector, supporting ground-breaking innovation in the industry. It was presented during the vibrant European Space Conference that went hybrid, in Brussels and via video link, and was followed online by 1500 participants and 100 journalists from across Europe and beyond.

Investments will be infused into two space tech focused funds - Orbital Ventures and Primo Space, under the first ever EU-backed equity pilot - the InnovFin Space Equity Pilot. An additional investment expected to be signed by end of March will mark the full deployment of the €100m InnovFin Space Equity Pilot.

These agreements are supported by the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI), the main pillar of the Investment Plan for Europe.

Orbital Ventures, a Luxembourg-based early stage fund, focuses on space technologies including communications, cryptography, data storage and processing, geolocation, earth observation as well as on areas like space hardware, materials, electronics, robotics, rockets, satellites.

Primo Space, an Italian early-stage tech transfer investor, was the first fund selected by the EIF under the pilot and now is increasing its support.

The fund is one of the first technology transfer funds only focused on space technologies in Europe, and the first one in Italy, in which the Italian Space Agency is an active stakeholder. It invests in proof-of-concept, seed and early stages projects or companies, and will foster the commercialisation of breakthrough innovations in the space industry in Europe.

Commissioner for Internal Market, Thierry Breton, commented that bolstering competitiveness in the space industry is an essential element for the recovery of the sector.

I strongly welcome this investment into space technology SMEs, which brings us closer to our digital transition goal, the Commissioner said specifying that this supports the development of European space start-ups and shows that the European space business is booming.

Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Research, Innovation, Culture, Education and Youth, added that these transactions, benefiting from the InnovFin Space Equity Pilot, will help to bolster private equity for innovative SMEs and start-ups in the space sector.

According to Commissioner Gabriel, the investments in Orbital Ventures and Primo Space is a testimony to Europe's booming space sector and “demonstrates our commitment to supporting companies with breakthrough ideas". During the conference Commissioner Gabriel announced as well the launch of the European Knowledge Centre on Earth Observation.

On his part, EIF Chief Executive, Alain Godard underlined that these investments in the space sector demonstrate how public support can be deployed to attract private investment and catalyse the development of this sector in the EU. We are pleased to be supporting new players in the European landscape, focusing on seed and early stage space-related VC opportunities, he said. “Orbital Ventures and Primo Space will play a vital role in supporting the space ecosystem and EU space-related start-ups. Attracting more private capital to this sector enables us together to reach new heights.”

Pierre Festal, Partner at Orbital Ventures stressed that the New Space sector is at an inflection point and start-ups have an important role to play in the development of new technologies and applications to fully realize the industry's potential. Europe, with a strong track record of innovation in the sector and support from the continent's institutions, has a leading role to play in this revolution, he urged.

The support of EIF has been instrumental to attract new private investors in Primo Space, said Gianluca Dettori, Chairman of Primomiglio. We will be fundraising until the summer and we see growing interest from investors to be exposed to a €300bn industry that is growing fast. 

Dettori also outlined that on the same day the fund is announcing its second investment of €2m in Leafspace, a Como based startup that provides a ‘ground segment as a service' solution for satellite operators and space service providers. We are looking for new investments across Europe, he explained.

So far, EIF has made one co-investment alongside the Polish VC fund OTB Fund into the Finnish company ICEYE, as well as several investments into specialised Space funds, attracting €300m of space investment to the sector. The InnovFin Space Equity Pilot will be fully deployed in the coming weeks and will support around 50 space tech companies across Europe.

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