Space contest and Sustainable Development Goals at Antler program for start-up founders

As part of the work to promote the ESA BIC Sweden, the Swedish National Space Agency participated in Stockholm on 28 January 2019 in a 24-hour business development and pitch contest at Antler. The Antler program fosters and identifies becoming start-up founders and was started by some of the early investors in Spotify. There are 66 participants, from 20 countries, out of 1000 applicants participating in the program. The theme of the Stockholm event was “Space is open for business”. After a short expose of old space, new space and to some extent outer space, the participants were challenged to create a business idea based on the main pillars of the space sector, i.e space access, Earth observation, communication, exploration and positioning. They were also asked to consider the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Figure 1. 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by United Nations are an urgent call for action by all countries in a global partnership.

Three teams completed the challenge, two of them with business models and algorithms that were explicitly, or could be, powered by Copernicus services and data. The ideas focusing on water quality and infrastructure management had some common features that are interesting, from an old space perspective, and obvious from a new space perspective. It was all about Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML) and the mixture of data of different resolutions and from different sources. The services were digital with an api-access to the information created and based on different kind of subscriptions linking data and information directly in to the decision support systems of larger companies and organizations, while at the same time relying on crowd sourced data and the evolving economy of sharing. The winning concept was however looking away from the Earth with innovative ways for detection of near-Earth objects and space junk, based on AI, ML and crowd sourced data.

According to this small sample but interesting exercise the main business opportunities in the space sector will be based on data exploitation, of Copernicus and complementary data, promoting better information for a sustainable world.

Tobias Edman, Head of Innovation and Public Benefit, Swedish National Space Agency

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Learn more about the Antler Program from here:

Learn more about the UN Sustainable Development Goals from here:

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