Established in Paris Region since 2013, Starburst founded the first and only Global Aerospace Accelerator before gaining ground internationally. Now with 8 offices worldwide and a portfolio of 10,000 participating startups, Starburst is shaping the future of aerospace. Starburst representatives sat down with us to tell us about their flagship accelerator program “BLAST”, give us insights on the region’s space ecosystem and explain why Paris Region has all the assets for a space company’s successful lift-off.
Tell us about BLAST, the accelerator program launched by Starburst?
BLAST (Boost and Leverage Aviation, Space and Defence Technologies) was born from the acknowledgement that there is a real breeding ground for Deeptech startups to emerge in France.
Led by Starburst in collaboration with ONERA, Ecole Polytechnique and SATT Paris-Saclay with BPI’s support – an unprecedented public-private consortium in our country - BLAST is the first acceleration program dedicated to Deeptech companies operating in the Aviation, Space and Defence (ASD) field in France. It aims to support projects led by startups as well as researchers and entrepreneurs.
BLAST's objective is to support startups that have the potential to become unicorns and to participate in future major aerospace and defence programmes, both at the national and European levels. In the short run, our ambition is to provide them all with the energy they need, the necessary contacts, and operational support to help them raise their first series of funding.
Every year, we select between 15 and 20 projects to be part of the program. A cohort of 12 startups and 4 research projects (of which we are extremely proud by the way!) have been selected to follow the program this year. These projects cover major technological breakouts such as space launchers, telecommunications, drones, materials, hydrogen propulsion, urban air mobility, sensors... and cover the entire ASD value chain.
What is your take on the Space ecosystem in Paris Region and how do you see it evolving in the years to come?
Paris Region is the heart of the French and European Space Industry. Paris Region is home to the main institutional players, the major industrial players, the main research centers, some of the best startups in the sector, but also to most investors. The region is simply unavoidable on a national scale and a go-to hub for international companies given its attractiveness.
Our objective with BLAST is to create a shared dynamic between all these emblematic actors of French excellence, to help them talk to each other and innovate together, but also to open the local ecosystems and connect all regional initiatives in a coherent way. We are a local player with a global network, which can act concretely to consolidate the ecosystem. We want to drive disruptive Aviation, Space and Defence innovations forward, faster, and further, by bringing together all the ecosystem’s players.
You mention that “The ambition of the BLAST program is to impel a new dynamic to promote the emergence and sustainability of a new wave of technological projects”. Could you explain how you ensure these projects are sustainable and why this criterion is important to you?
Whether climate change, demographic considerations, or unequal access to digital services, we feel that the aerospace sector is at the crossroads of the major societal issues of our time. It is therefore our duty to make ASD the leading sector in terms of sustainable innovation.
To meet this objective, we make sure we bring together in our cohort only projects that tackle these major issues and are in line with sustainable goals. For instance, our selected startups and researchers are working on more sustainable modes of travel, on bio-based materials that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, on space launchers that can be re-used, on devices to prevent the proliferation of debris in space, etc. And these are just a few examples!
What do you find most attractive about Paris Region for companies operating in space?
Startups and innovative projects in Space are spread-out all-over France, but the ecosystem that brings together most of the decision-makers and investors is in Paris region. No doubt you must be here if you want to raise funds.
Like our consortium which initiated the BLAST program, Paris Region is full of places of knowledge, technology transfer and cutting-edge research facilities that are simply invaluable to companies and researchers. An example that comes to mind is the ONERA research centres, the labs of the Paris-Saclay cluster or the master’s degree in Technological Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the Ecole Polytechnique. And we hope that other equally prestigious players will join us!
“Take us to the moon and back” and tell us about one of your success stories!
First, the creation of Starburst in Paris in 2013 - which is still our main base today - and then our international expansion first in the US in the heart of Silicon Valley, and then in the main aerospace hubs of the world.
Today Starburst has 8 offices (Los Angeles, Paris, Munich, London, Seoul, Singapore, Mumbai, Madrid, and Tel Aviv), 100 employees worldwide, a portfolio of 10,000 startups with 2,500 new startups identified every year. We now invest and take a stake in around 30 start-ups a year, among those that follow our acceleration programmes.
At a time when a lot is happening in the fields of New Space and Air Mobility in France, this incredible adventure could not have taken off without the Paris Region and the 15th arrondissement town hall, which granted us their support from the start. Hence our desire to contribute even more to the dynamism of the region with a program on the scale of BLAST and our other initiatives.
Paris Region in 3 words?
It is a very difficult exercise to summarise such a rich and unique territory, but the first words that come to mind are: innovation, business and international appeal. At the end of the day, this is very characteristic of everything Paris Region can bring to companies and researchers, such as those we support.
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Romain ErnyAerospace & Mobility