New project launched in Tartu Science Park: BalticSatApps

In the past 30 years, substantial R&D efforts in the field of Earth Observation (EO) have been made globally, but the observation data has not yet been commercialised on a larger scale. The European Regional Development Fund has financed the international BalticSatApps project, which aims at speeding up the market uptake of EO data in the Baltic Sea Region. The project is led by the Brahea Centre of the University of Turku. From Estonia Tartu Science Park is involved together with Tartu Observatory.

At EU level, EO activities are coordinated through the Copernicus programme whose satellites provide useful data, for example, on the state of the environment. The Copernicus programme is based on free and open data policy, and the data it produces should be available to everyone in real time. However, technical barriers currently prevent users from fully exploiting the data and information that Copernicus delivers.

– The central aim of BalticSatApps is to increase the utilisation of the open access satellite data provided by the Copernicus programme in new business ideas, as well as for increasing the efficiency of already existing businesses. With the satellite data, challenges and needs related to, for example, environmental protection and safety can potentially be solved. The project activities increase awareness about the Copernicus programme in the Baltic Sea Region, and facilitate the practical application of the data provided by the programme in business activities, says Project Manager Tuomas Ranti.

Utilising the satellite data together with new technologies and information sources creates new opportunities for companies in the EU. According to Ranti, the commercialisation of satellite data, or more precisely EO data, requires stronger links with field-specific operators of the production chain.

– In addition, the project stimulates EO demand and related innovation activities through co-creation methodologies and iterative development. For example, a series of hackathons will be organised in order to generate new business ideas in EO, says Ranti.

International Multidisciplinary Co-operation

The international project consortium consists of three types of organisations. One group of collaborative partners includes organisations, such as Finnish Meteorological Institute in Finland and Tartu Observatory in Estonia, that utilise the data provided by Copernicus.

– The national satellite service centres of the Finnish Meteorological Institute offer an easy access to the satellite data in the Baltic Sea region and northern hemisphere, which reveal the changes in the arctic environment and support global arctic research. The BalticSatApps project is extremely important for the Finnish Meteorological Institute in maximising the benefits received from the national and international EO infrastructure, says Senior Researcher Ali Nadir Arslan from the Finnish Meteorological Institute.

The project also involves innovation developing organisations, such as the University of Turku and Swedish National Space Board, as well as Turku Science Park and similar science and technology parks in Tartu and Cracow. In addition to Finland, there are project partners from Estonia, Poland, Russia and Sweden.

– The Copernicus programme is extremely important for the Baltic Sea region. The Swedish National Space Board has already established a national data bank, which contains data from the Copernicus satellites. The data can be used for analysing climate change and air quality, as well as for acquiring forecasts and exhaustive general pictures of catastrophe areas. BalticSatApps improves the opportunities of companies and organisations to use the data for developing the society and economy, says Project Manager Björn Lóven from the Swedish National Space Board. 

Training for Science and Technology Parks

Open satellite data, mini-satellites and the interest of private companies towards asteroid mining suggest a revolution in space business. Also, it is possible for new start-ups to succeed in the field, even though it has traditionally been managed by governmental organisations and large corporations. BalticSatApps is doing its part to promote this change.

The measures of the project support the activities of the recently founded ESA BIC Finland business incubation centre, in which also Turku Science Park Ltd is involved. According to Ranti, the project also organises training for regional science and technology parks.

– The training strives to be able to provide EO-utilising businesses with support in the form of tailor-made incubation programmes, specifies Ranti.

The duration of the project is 1 October 2017-30 September 2020 and it has received a funding of €2.8 million. In addition to the Brahea Centre, the project involves the Department of Future Technologies and the Department of Geography and Geology at the University of Turku.

The project website can be found at