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September 21, 2023

Maine's space industry launches a business pitch-off, with more than prize money at stake

File photo / Courtesy bluShift Maine startups in the New Space industry include bluShift Aerospace, which is headquartered in Brunswick and launched this prototype rocket in 2021 from Loring Commerce Centre in Limestone.

The New Space industry and its economic potential for Maine are the focus of a pitch competition that has launched in search of businesses trying to get off the ground.

Organized by the Maine Space Grant Consortium, Maine Space Corp. and Maine Center for Entrepreneurs, the competition is part of Maine Space 2030, a campaign to raise awareness of the state's research, education and commercial assets for the industry.

Prizes include $10,000 for the pitch-off winner followed by $5,000 and $2,500 to the first and second runners-up. 

It has been estimated that the commercial space flight could contribute $550 million to $1.1 billion a year to Maine’s economy and provide between 2,800 and 5,500 jobs by 2042.

Some of that activity is already underway, with Maine companies contributing to an industry that is already exploring Mars, circling the moon and sampling interstellar dust in quests to determine the origin of life and the universe.

The pitch competition is looking to get more of that activity going.

The Maine Space Corp. is a quasi-state body established by the Maine Legislature and signed into law in April 2022, with the mission to manage the growth and development of a Maine Space Complex. The corporation held its first meeting in June.

The Maine Space Grant Consortium, led by Executive Director Terry Shehata, is putting together Maine's first-ever space conference, scheduled for this November, as a key initiative of Maine Space 2030.

“A foundation of the Maine Space Complex is to create an environment that encourages startups and the development of globally based applications for research, commercial and consumer uses that would advance Maine to a new competitive level in a fast-growing new space industry,” said Shehata.

“The pitch competition is one proven approach to energize Maine’s entrepreneurial spirit among students, faculty, researchers, entrepreneurs and startups to support Maine’s growing space industry.”

Eligible applicants must hail from a New England state and can be businesses, startups, budding entrepreneurs, nonprofit institutions, and undergraduate and graduate students from institutions of higher education, including faculty and researchers. 

Applicants do not have to own a business or be actively involved in the space industry, but they must demonstrate how their innovations will support Maine’s space economy.

“A thriving entrepreneurial community is vital to the success of the Maine Space Complex as it sets its sights on becoming an integral player in the future of the global space economy,” said Emily Dwinnells, cofounder of Maine Space 2030.  

Dwinnells noted that Maine Space 2030 looked to partner with the Maine Center for Entrepreneurs to bring rigor and discipline to the competition and to raise awareness of the broad goals of the Maine Space Complex, which include an advanced analytics and data center; a series of innovation hubs dedicated to new space; and launch sites with associated services.

Applicants of the competition must submit a 3-minute video that addresses questions facing the space economy in Maine, including, “What problem does their idea address and what solution does it provide? How will their idea advance the space industry and contribute to the Maine Space Complex and local space economy?” 

The deadline for submissions is Oct. 6. 

Video applications will be reviewed the week of Oct. 9 and up to six finalists will be invited to make their pitch in person to a panel of judges at the inaugural Maine Space Conference, scheduled for Nov. 5-7 at the Holiday Inn by the Bay in Portland. Three winners will be announced on the evening of Nov. 6.

“Pitch events create an environment of support and connection vital to helping early-stage companies or innovators move forward successfully," said Laurie Johnson, program manager for the Maine Center for Entrepreneurs. “They also allow entrepreneurs to share their ideas with an audience of interested individuals.”  

To help prepare for the pitch, Johnson said she has agreed to coach finalists on how to prepare slides and make pitches. 

For more information, click here or contact Emily Dwinnells at   

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