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BalticSatApps Successfully Paving Way for Earth Observation-based Innovations

  • Business has been built around the data provided by the European Copernicus program
  • The BalticSatApps project contributed to the establishment of ten new startups
  • The project was initiated by Turku Science Park Ltd. and coordinated by the University of Turku

The European Copernicus Programme provides Earth Observation (EO) data free of charge on an open-access basis. The Copernicus services are based on satellite and in situ observations, and cater to even near real-time data needs. The BalticSatApps project started by approaching the user and developer scene of EO data. Senior Scientist D.Sc. Ali Nadir Arslan from the Finnish Meteorological Institute led these activities.

Turku-based Tech Trout and BalticConnect from Aalto University were awarded in WeSeaChallenge-Turku-based Tech Trout and Aalto University students’ BalticConnect were awarded in December 2019 in the WeSeaChallenge idea competition organized by the University of Turku, the Finnish Meteorological Institute and Turku Science Park Oy. The competition was part of the BalticSatApps project.

– As part of our user uptake activities, we mapped potential users, along with potential and current domain-wise usage of Copernicus data. Furthermore, we conducted a gap analysis by category in order to match EO products and services, both existing and potential new ones, to the needs of industries in the Baltic Sea region. The results show that land, climate change and marine are the most demanded application areas for the users of EO data. In the future, we will see more usage in areas like agriculture, fishery, energy, tourism, natural hazards, and extreme weather events, describes D.Sc. Arslan.

Innovation contests, hackathons and acceleration activities

Based on the findings, the project proceeded to conduct innovation competitions and hackathons in EO. At the same time, an acceleration programme in EO was being developed and piloted in Estonia, Poland, and Finland for the first time after the first hackathons. After further innovation contests and hackathons, the acceleration programme was organised for the second time.

Turku Science Park Oy, on the initiative of which the preparation of the project started at the time, has long activated Finnish companies to participate in space activities. In addition to the BalticSatApps project, the development company is involved in providing the European Space Agency’s business acceleration services for companies like Awake.Ai Ltd. and UrbanZee Ltd.

– The space business is a fast-growing industry and the market is open to small and agile companies. The drivers of growth are e.g. climate change and the constant need to improve the efficiency of industrial processes. Food production is a good example of an industry where there is a growing demand for information services that help reduce environmental impacts and improve production traceability, says Timo Huttunen, TechTurku Network Manager at Turku Science Park Oy. He has guided several companies to access satellite data and the funding available to companies looking to pilot new services.

The possibilities of satellite data brought inspiration for new startups

Throughout its duration, the project has generated guidelines and materials including information and training documents aiming at assisting also other actors to conduct innovation activities focusing on EO. 

The BalticSatApps events attracted a lot of interest during the project.

– We have seen first-hand that EO data and the Copernicus Programme awake a lot of interest among the potential users of the data and the services as well as the solution developers. Through our information and training sessions, we have strived to make tangible opportunities and show that it is not necessarily so difficult to take data and start turning it into information that is useful. We are happy to have seen how all the interest and enthusiasm in EO has materialised in the BalticSatApps acceleration programme as new startups have been formed and their services taken forward with the assistance of BalticSatApps experts, says the coordinator of the project Tuomas Ranti from the University of Turku.

Through the acceleration programme, the project has contributed to the founding of 10 new startups and supported them on their way to commercialise satellite data. Mr Ranti would like to invite companies, aspiring entrepreneurs as well as public sector representatives to visit the BalticSatApps website and get acquainted with the result materials of the project.

– We believe that those interested in EO services find the groundwork we have done beneficial, and through adopting our experiences, they can get quickly up to speed with EO development and utilisation.

The BalticSatApps project has been co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund and the Interreg Baltic Sea Region Programme 2014–2020, and European Neighbourhood Instrument/financial support of the Russian Federation.

Read previous news about BalticSatApps:

Satellite data to help with improving the condition of the Baltic Sea | Turku Business Region

SpaceUp Acceleration Programme prepares for space business | Turku Business Region