Estonia, together with the BalticSatApps project member states, highlighted the possibilities of using free satellite data in the development of innovative services and products.  Earth observation satellite data is available to everyone and anyone can get information on, for example, climate change or urban development. However, in service and product development, this data is still underused.

Copernicus is a program created at the initiative of the European Commission that collects environmental data from Earth observation satellites and in situ sensors – measured from the air, sea and land. The data collected will be processed and made available to the end user through thematic services. Copernicus program data is free. The task of the BalticSatApps project was to promote entrepreneurship that uses the same satellite data to create specific services. The project focused on the entire service development chain, from understanding user needs to marketing potential applications. The project focused on the Baltic Sea region and was implemented with partners from Estonia, Finland, Sweden, Poland and Russia.

The University of Tartu was responsible for mapping user needs in all countries around Baltic Sea participating in the project. “In Estonia, users are most interested in applications in the fields of environment, atmosphere, agriculture and forestry,” explains Piia Post, Associate Professor of Meteorology and Climatology, Institute of Physics, University of Tartu, who participated in the project.  “A very good example is the ARIB, where satellite data is already used to monitor several area-based subsidies. The Estonian Environment Agency is implementing an ice monitoring system using satellite data. However, compared to the number of Copernicus services, the number of users is still insignificant, “explains Piia Post.

In terms of all partner countries, land, climate change and atmospheric applications were of the greatest interest.  Based on the results of the mapping, innovation competitions and hacking machines were organized.  After the first hackathons, acceleration programs were launched in Estonia, Poland and Finland.

“The BalticSatApps acceleration program provided an excellent opportunity to collaborate with startup and monitoring data experts operating in the Baltic Sea region,” said Andrus Kurvits, Member of the Board of Tartu Science Park.  “We are now able to better support startup teams working with monitoring data and test their business models in the European Space Agency’s business incubator.”

The project produced information and training materials aimed at helping interested parties to implement innovation activities based on Earth observation. One of the outputs of the project is the BalticSatApps Service Catalog, which contains many examples of different services from our neighboring countries. Our entrepreneurs and the public sector can also get good new ideas from there. “As part of the project, we wanted to show that turning monitoring data into useful information is not necessarily difficult,” says project coordinator Tuomas Ranti from the University of Turku.  Ranti invites both proven and aspiring companies and public sector representatives to visit the BalticSatApps website and get acquainted with the project results: “The basis created by the project is useful for all those interested in remote sensing services.

Anu Noorma, Professor of Applied Remote Sensing of University of Tartu, Tartu Observatory, confirms that the project provided an opportunity to introduce Copernicus services to many new users among entrepreneurs. The accelerated program has led to new start-ups whose services are being developed with the help of project experts.  As a researcher, Noorma is satisfied that the project has improved existing working methods and communication skills and found new partners: “We have jointly developed the BalticSatApps idea and will continue to involve Copernicus users in the EU project FPCUP (Copernicus User Reception Framework Agreement).  Through these international networks, we can also present the result of our RITA “Remote Sensing” applied research more widely. ”

The project “Speeding up Copernicus Innovation for the BSR Environment and Security” (BalticSatApps) was funded by the Interreg Baltic Sea Region Transnational Cooperation Program.

Project website: balticsatapps.eu