European Earth Observation Start-ups Survey – Key Findings

Source: ESA

The Start-up Survey 2021 presents the results of the 2021 start-up survey for companies in the European EO services sector, to which 43 startups from 16 countries responded. Start-ups formed since 2015 were included in the survey. This article summarizes the key findings from the survey.

Start-up Company Characteristics

The respondent companies had the following characteristics:

  • 74% had less than 10 employees,
  • 60% were initially funded by R&D projects or grants,
  • 45% are technologically market-ready,
  • 25% reported having no customers,
  • 42% reported being unprofitable, 42% reported being profitable and 15% declined to answer, and
  • 50% had 2019 revenues between 0 and €50,000.

Business Models

Value-added EO products and services were the most popular primary service (60%); Within this, most companies offer a per-use fee basis, although subscription, freemium and bespoke business models are also in use.

Market Segments

Agriculture, Environment, and Urban were the top market segments (42%); Full list of market segments:

  1. Agriculture (16.31%)
  2. Environment, pollution and climate (14.18%)
  3. Urban development (12.06%)
  4. Insurance and other services (9.22%)
  5. Infrastructure (9.22%)
  6. Forestry (8.51%)
  7. Renewable energy (7.09%)
  8. Citizens and society (5.67%)
  9. Maritime (4.96%)
  10. Earth observation service providers (4.26%)
  11. Oil and gas (3.55%)
  12. Security and defense (2.13%)
  13. Other (1.42%)
  14. Raw materials (1.42%)


Breakdown of customers:

  1. Industrial (28%)
  2. Local/Regional Authorities (25%)
  3. Government (18%)
  4. NGO (18%)
  5. Public (7%)
  6. Other (4%)

Operational Barriers

The top operational barriers were:

  1. market and user acceptance (20%)
  2. finding new customers (17%), and
  3. lack of funding for development (15%).

Customer Adoption Barriers

Top customer adoption challenges indicate that the market was/is immature. Top barriers are:

  1. Lack of awareness of the utility of Earth observation applied to their business processes (25%);
  2. Earth observation is only part of the solution, customers are unwilling to invest in a total solution (22%)
  3. Aware, but not convinced that Earth observation provides them with a business solution (18%)
  4. Solutions seen as too complex (15%)
  5. Lack of conviction to switch from from non-Earth observation based solutions (13%)

Dependency Upon Copernicus Sentinel Data

Respondent companies had a critical dependency upon Copernicus Sentinel data:

  • 73% of respondent companies use Copernicus data
  • 50% of respondents companies rely on Copernicus data for their business to run, or for competitive advantage.

An overview of the Copernicus sentinel program is provided in this article.

Note that the Copernicus Sentinel data is provided free of charge to the public, and private companies.

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