Report: Copernicus Sentinel Benefits Assessment (ESA 2019)

Source: ESA 2019

Executive Summary

This report presents the result of a study on innovation and entrepreneurship driven or supported by data from the Copernicus Sentinel satellites.

Based on a survey of 97 individuals conducted during October 2018-April 2019, the study explored the characteristics of Sentinel-based start-ups, their business and revenue models, and entrepreneurial and technological maturity, as well as the challenges standing in the way of Sentinel-based entrepreneurship.

The objective was to explore the dynamics of this ecosystem and the possible presence of patterns or trends, deriving a baseline for the number of new companies (i.e. start-ups) making use of Sentinel data.

A sample of enterprises was assembled from a range of sources within the existing entrepreneurship community surrounding the Sentinels and the Copernicus programme (such as the Copernicus Start-up Programme and the ESA Business Incubation Centres). A questionnaire was distributed in digital format and disseminated via email and social media, as well as being promoted in person through physical flyers distributed at events.

The concept framework for data-driven business models put forward by Hartman et al. (2014) was used as the basis for the identification of Sentinel-powered business models. The technological maturity of the products) or services) of the companies in the dataset were assessed within the questionnaire using the definitions of Technology Readiness Level proposed by ESA. Entrepreneurial maturity was elicited by means of questions on the legal status of respondents and the commercial readiness of their Sentinel-based products.

Deeper understanding of the challenges and obstacles was achieved by selecting a representative example of different analytical categories (e.g. different technological and entrepreneurial maturity) and requesting a short interview with a view to developing case studies.

The main business models in use by start-ups are Geospatial VAS, Software-as-a-Service, followed by Data-as-a-Service and Information-as-a-Service. For pre-commercial entities, Consulting and Data-as-a-Service are the most prevalent. Companies aiming at B2C are found mainly within the top four business models, whilst business models providing Information-as-a-Service are aimed purely at other businesses.

Analytics, Aggregation and Visualisation activities are most common amongst start-ups, closely followed by Aggregation. The high degree of permutation of business model components amongst respondents may suggest increasing vertical integration across the four tiers.

Sentinels-1 and -2 clearly dominate as far as the choice of datasets is concerned. The main revenue model in use across the sample is subscription fees; the usage fee model is almost exclusively applied by pre-commercial entities. Extrapolating from text comments, consulting sales may also constitute a significant contributor to revenue.

Most of the respondents indicated that their business models could continue, less efficiently, without Sentinel data. However, some 30 start-ups indicated that Sentinel data provided the basis for a competitive advantage and/or that their business models would not be possible without Sentinel data.

For start-ups, the main challenges are sectoral knowledge, legal support, partnership opportunities and infrastructure, and although access to Sentinel data is not regarded as a challenge by the majority of respondents, access to finance is considered to be the most difficult challenge.

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