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ESA BIC Harwell companies help keep London moving

Two start-ups from the European Space Agency’s Business Incubation Centre at Harwell (ESA BIC Harwell) have recently been working with Transport for London and Nitrous to keep London moving and reduce pollution in the capital.

Selected from several hundred other applicants, TravelAI and Blubel were among four other pioneering start-ups to take part in the three month Nitrous programme, which joined forces with Transport for London to find ways of reducing congestion on London’s public transport network and roads, and lower pollution levels. With access to open data from government and industry as part of the programme, the start-ups are already generating ideas on ways to help achieve this.

Sue O’Hare, manager at the ESA BIC Harwell said: “From improving cycling experiences to using AI to improve passenger flow, it’s fantastic to see the space-tech start-ups that have benefitted from the ESA BIC Harwell using their innovations and ideas to meet some of the biggest environmental challenges of today.”


A former incubatee at the ESA BIC Harwell, TravelAI is creating next-generation travel-usage data that lets transport organisations deliver efficiencies and service improvements that previously could not be identified without costly hardware and sensor investment. Its software runs in the background on smartphones to study speed, location and pattern of movement to automatically determine a user’s route and transport mode.  It can generate unique insights into how people use transport infrastructure, which can be used to capture seasonality differences, travel patterns, mode splits, predictability and behaviour shift opportunities, and even the impact of service disruptions and timetable changes on travel habits. 


Blubel, a current member of the BIC has designed and developed a smart navigation device in a bicycle bell.  It uses GPS technology to find the best cycling routes and intuitively guide cyclists, using a mix of sounds and lights, via a Bluetooth app. It also crowdsources data from its users, so that each time a cyclist rings their Blubel when encountering obstacles on their journey, such as roadworks or traffic, the app uses this data to identify alternative, safer routes for the rest of the community. 

Blubel’s video, including their work at the ESA BIC Harwell
(Credit: Blubel)

The ESA BIC Harwell

Managed by STFC, the ESA BIC Harwell is one of a wider European network of 16 successful ESA BICs, as part of ESA’s Technology Transfer Programme. It accepts up to 10 new start-ups every year to use space and satellite technology to develop products and services in both space and non-space sectors. Since opening in 2010, the ESA BIC Harwell has helped more than 60 start-ups, 48 of which have already graduated from the centre and are now rocketing their way to commercial success as vibrant, growing businesses.

Get involved with the ESA BIC Harwell

Further information and advice about getting involved with the ESA BIC Harwell, and how it could benefit your company, can be found at the ESA BIC Harwell website. Calls for proposals to join the ESA BIC Harwell take place throughout the year, the next deadline for applications closing on 27 October 2017.

Last updated: 02 November 2017


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