Stela Tkatchova, EIC Programme Manager for Space at European Innovation Council and SMEs Executive Agency (EISMEA)
With the growth of the space industry showing no signs of slowing down, ensuring that development happens as effectively and successfully as possible is critical to driving innovation. Stela Tkachova is a key player in supporting the growth of the Newspace market, and shed some of her expert insight in the lead up to Space Tech Expo Europe 2022.
Please could you introduce yourself and tell us more about your role as EIC Programme Manager for Space at European Innovation Council and SMEs Executive Agency (EISMEA)
My name is Stela Tkatchova and I am the EIC Programme Manager (PM) for space systems. The role of PMs is novel and transversal as the PM has the power to create a common vision for their area of expertise. She/he has to continuously collect insights and strategic intelligence in their field and identify emerging trends and opportunities for future support. The PM proposes and constructs, with the support of external experts, a portfolio of projects and performs pro-active portfolio management by following-up the research results of the selected projects from the EIC calls. The PMs creates synergies between the projects in order to encourage market driven innovation. PMs bring critical insights and technology/market specific knowledge to the table. In this way, the PMs are the facilitators supporting SME’s and start-ups to achieve breakthrough innovation.
You’ll be speaking on a panel session about developing the New Space economy. Why is this such an important topic to discuss for the European space industry?
Competitive driving forces, changing business models, disruptive innovations, fast track flight qualification and launches of satellites are changing the space industry and the way we perform space exploration. We are witnessing the emergence of many Newspace SMEs and start-ups in the domains of active debris removal, in-orbit satellite servicing, in-space manufacturing & assembly, space transportation and innovative propulsion solutions throughout Europe. Disruptive technologies, driven by SMEs and start-ups, are changing the value proposition in the European space industry.
SMEs often have to design, test and successfully fly their hardware in space and in parallel identify and attract customers and investors. These simultaneously ongoing activities are quite challenging and complex for SMEs and start-ups. Therefore, Newspace SMEs and start-ups need to be supported in the best way possible for achieving breakthrough innovation and create new markets and contribute directly to the EU Space Economy.
What do you predict will happen with the development of SMEs and Start-ups in the coming years?
Honestly, I do not like to make predictions. Nevertheless, the European space industry in 2021 has registered a growth of sales worth around 1 billion Euro in 2021 reaching a value of around 8.6 billion euros.
The growth of the Newspace SMEs and start-ups will depend on a number of factors, but also on their own capabilities to develop and propose “customer-driven” interoperable, scalable and cost-effective space-based solutions.
Do you have any advice for such companies on how to be ensure future success?
There are a few points, which I believe are important to be considered by SMEs, & starts-ups: The first one is to develop "user driven“, innovative, interoperable and affordable solutions and services for both upstream and downstream space applications. Secondly, one has to be cautious of over-optimistic market estimates. The third point is to be well prepared for “end-user” changing requirements that will result in schedule and cost slippage. Finally, in case you are developing hardware, I would suggest to always perform an in-depth risk analysis and contingency plan for managing strategic and technical issues before and during flight qualification tests.
If you were sent to spend a year alone onboard a spacecraft, what one item would you take for entertainment?
Arthur Clarke and Isaac Asimov books- I can re-read them over and over again.