Come And Get `Em: Space Technologies From Europe

The U. S. space agency, NASA, helps its contractors commercialize space research, which has led to such products as no-stick cookware. But the 1,000-odd contractors of the 25-year-old European Space Agency have never enjoyed coordinated help in spinning off their technology. Nothing prevented European companies from commercializing their innovations. It's just that without a clearing house, few have tried.

Now, the ESA is putting $3.4 million into a consortium called Spacelink, which is charged with helping contractors find licensees for their technologies. Spacelink, headed by JRA Aerospace in Marlow, England, recently sent the first annual catalog that describes 57 promising items -- from optical and laser-based sensors and nickel-hydrogen batteries to video compression and lightweight structural panels -- to about 20,000 European companies. About 5% have already made inquiries. To turn a profit, Spacelink will provide licensing and technology-transfer services for the technology owners and the potential licensees. In case that doesn't quite work out, non-Europeans will be eligible for licenses in three years.

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