The ESA Φ-lab mission is to accelerate the future of Earth Observation (EO) by means of transformational innovations, i.e. innovations able to completely transform or create entire industries via new technologies, with the aim to strengthen the world-leading competitiveness of the European EO industrial and research sectors.
The Φ-lab is a catalyst for Earth Observation innovative and transformative ideas and a bridge within Earth Observation’s ecosystem of innovative players which connects the actors of Industry, Investors, and Academia to fosters entrepreneurial initiatives.
The Φ-lab has been established to exploit and stimulate the favorable conditions of the European Earth observation market, by boosting its innovative ethos to enable a vibrant and worldwide competitive commercial sector.
Read more on the Φ-lab brochure.
We operate managing the full range of the innovation pipeline: we create or discover in our network new transformational ideas, select and nurture the good ones, develop the “solution” by testing and maturing them, up to investing in the best ones via the InCubed programme to reach the market adoption (i.e. at least revenue generation).
The Φ-lab is not an R&D lab but an innovation model aimed at generating competitive advantage via unique value proposition (commercial or scientific ones). This is an only model in ESA that can join the deep technical content with the business innovation view fostering and delivering successful commercial investments.This model is now adopted as ESA strategic action to deploy a network of ɸ-labs across Europe as described in the Agenda 2025 (page 8, Boosting commercialisation for a green and digital Europe section).
Explore the innovation universe and connect EO sensor revolution with the digital revolution
Team of Researchers
and aninnovation seed funding (FutureEO)
Stimulate competitiveness fostering entrepreneurial initiatives growth with investment actions from ESA MSs and private investors
Team of Business Innovators
and commercial co-funding programme (InCubed)
The Φ-lab is organized in two offices, the Explore Office mainly focused in generating innovation from inside and outside ESA and managing the initial part of the innovation pipeline, while the Invest Office takes the generated and discovered innovations to the market via the Invest Actions and the InCubed co-funding programme.
The Φ-lab is based in ESA/ESRIN center in Frascati (Italy), and counts about 35 members from 13 different nationalities, amongst ESA staff, research fellows (about 20% only), Academia and Industry Visiting Researchers, and Visiting Professors.
The Φ-lab concept is very recent: Spring 2017. Its constitution has been enriched with ideas from a journey made by some of ESA executives into USA Silicon Valley where they saw examples of organizations nurturing innovation in inspirational environments.
In this short period until today, the ESA Φ-lab have become the reference in Earth Observation sector for transformational innovation and business investment. The Φ-lab has already collected many successes that we report here. This is the kind of pages that is always obsolete, but as of end of 2020 we can present you the followings.