Free satellite data for CEE startups – interview with Omnilogy CEO Jacek Kujawa

Most of us have heard about the European Space Agency, but it’s Earth Observation ClimLab project is still not well known. I interviewed Jacek Kujawa, CEO of Omnilogy from Poland, the project manager of the program in the CEE region to learn more about this opportunity.

What is EO Climlab all about? And what part does Omnilogy play in this project?

The objective is to build a Data Analytical Platform (DAP) that will allow the integration of various data and easy access to it. What we are talking about here is mainly Earth image data, captured by satellites, which can be used to observe a number of phenomena connected with climate change, as well as to identify risks and business opportunities that arise.

Based on the DAP platform we organize LABs, events, hackahtons, seminars to get people involved into climate change observation. We are currently building and supporting a startup community in CEE around the processing of satellite data. The project is financed by European Space Agency. Companies from Poland, Czech Republic and Romania are involved into the project. Our role, as Omnilogy is to be the leader of the project and the facilitator of activities.

What is your goal with the program?

Our goal is to foster the use of Earth Observation (EO) data in the development of the new generation EO-based services, supporting climate adaptation and resilience. The project targets aspiring entrepreneurs and startups, as well as people who are interested in space technology and data.

It is a first pilot project of the wider ESA Earth Observation Accelerator (ELA). The goal of the ELA is to foster EO data- to drive open and socially responsible innovation in Europe.

How do you think startups can and will benefit from space technology and access to satellite data?

In the next couple of years with the rapid development of the IT infrastructure, the climate change application sector will surely have a rising momentum. Climate changes and their impact on our environment may be seen on multiple platforms, aided by the usage of data strams e.g. satellite images of the Earth (image data, radar data, drones data etc), data obtained from terrestrial systems or statistical data collected by many social organisations.
To create a piece of information which is valuable, it is necessary to develop tools allowing the integration of many heterogeneous data environments and of course good analytics is a must have. With discovering new business models that can support the rapid development of climate change related projects. Having in mind the sheer untapped innovation opportunity and the fact that there are no ready-made business models or technologies, it is a perfect area for adventorous startups and entrepreneures. Utilizing the already available space data is something that’s going to have a potentially huge impact on numerous fields in the future.

In our project we are focused on the space technology and climate change but I strongly belive that having such potential and data banks we are ready to help many startups focusing on other areas as well. All of you who are working around Earth observation, bigdata, AI, Analytical tools — can get help from us. We can support startups with data from satellites, platform for processing the space data, analytics, scientific expertise and mentoring. The most important thing is that all of it is free!

How do you collaborate with startups?

Well, for starters we organize hackathons in the CEE region. On these hackathons facilitate groups to develop their own ideas, which can later become effective startups. On our 9 hackathons, organized in 3 countries, there are already 4 functioning startups that focus on Earth observation data utilization.

We also organize trainings for space related startups at startup accelerators and universities across Europe — to teach them how to build prototypes, how to validate their ideas, how to go from idea to problem/solution fit and then to product/market fit, how to scale their startup and optimize their processes, once they get funding. They can also learn the basics of marketing and sales, if they need.

As a follow up — we do remote mentoring for the startups that are already part of the project. Our team is attending events/conferences in the CEE region, scouting for startups/companies that are fit for the project.

We also support existing startups, which previously worked only on data from drones and planes to accelerate their possibility and minimize cost of data processing in mainly the insurance, transport and utility sectors.