The Irish Centre for High End Computing (ICHEC) has today announced Ireland’s first Copernicus Hackathon, aimed at promoting the Earth Observation (EO) services sector across the country. The event will take place in NUI Galway from May 10th to May 12th 2019.
Hackathon participants will be challenged to come up with solutions for real-world problems using Copernicus satellite data (Copernicus is the European EO programme), and will compete for a range of awards, including cash prizes. The winners will be offered a place in the Copernicus Accelerator which offers a customised business development scheme for 50 visionary startups and entrepreneurs from Copernicus Participating Countries – EU, Norway and Iceland – every year. A 30-day residency to develop solutions in ESA’s innovation-focussed Φ-lab in Frascati, Italy is another of the prizes on offer.
According to Dr. Jenny Hanafin, Senior Earth Observation Scientist at ICHEC, “the space and EO ecosystem in Ireland has been developing rapidly in recent years and the first National Space Strategy is about to be published, acknowledging that this field has grown significantly. The strategy also establishes the means to support it with further growth.”
“In Ireland there is a small but growing EO services sector,” she says. “ICHEC has recently launched its SPÉir platform which aims to make satellite data easily accessible for Irish users, and promotes the use and application of EO and Copernicus data on a national basis. It’s clear that the nation has a high level of the skills required to further develop this sector – our aim is that the proposed hackathon event will help to achieve this.”
The themes for the hackathon contest represent areas where there is already significant expertise in Ireland, or significant need. These include digital agriculture, marine environment and security, unmanned aerial vehicles, energy and power, air quality and sustainable/rural/socially responsible development.
Dr John Breslin, a Principal Investigator at the Confirm SFI Research Centre for Smart Manufacturing and Senior Lecturer at NUI Galway, says the hackathon is an ideal confluence point to bring together those with complementary skills – developers and designers, entrepreneurs and domain experts – to create exciting new applications based on Copernicus EO data and services. “Ultimately, post event, we want to see more EO and space innovation-driven enterprises in Ireland,” he says, “both hardware and software, with application areas ranging from smart manufacturing of new EO/space devices to systems tackling climate change or natural disasters.”
According to Breslin, throughout the hackathon the teams will get the opportunity to test out their initial innovative ideas on others, refine those innovations through a prototype, put a plan in place to take those ideas into a viable commercial proposition, and pitch the entire package to judges.
“It’s important that people who are interested in different aspects of EO/space entrepreneurship attend the event,” he says, “including those who like to hack or make things, like developers and designers, those who like to hustle and drive business, sales and growth, and those who bring the much-needed topic-specific expertise and know-how in EO and space. Remember that a technology innovation is nothing without a customer who wants to pay for it, so it must be a needs-led innovation.”
The overall aims of the hackathon are to raise awareness of commercial opportunities and to generate potential startup, spawn-out or spinout ideas, and where possible provide support pathways to pre-commercial level for successful participants. A more general aim is to highlight the relevance of Copernicus data beyond the space and ICT sectors, through the publicity generated by the event.
“To achieve these aims, we have invited a number of organisations to join us as partners for the event,” says Hanafin. “These partners will allow us to leverage a range of skills that will be important in organising a successful, exciting event, promoting it to the relevant people, and supporting successful participants to take their hackathon ideas to the next level.”
“We are aiming for 50-60 participants to take part, with skills in EO, GIS, thematic areas – like agriculture, marine, drones – data analysis, data visualisation, app development, web service development, graphic design, programming, project management, entrepreneurship and business development. We encourage anyone with any of these skills to register and take part, as it will be an exciting and fulfilling event.”
Alongside ICHEC the event partners include TechInnovate, Baily Labs, the Department of Geography at University College Cork (UCC), the National Centre for Geocomputation at Maynooth University (MU), the National Centre for Marine and Renewable Energy (MaREI), the Office of Public Works (OPW), Teagasc, ESA Φ-lab, ESA Space Solutions Centre Ireland, Údarás na Gaeltachta, and the National Digital Research Centre (NDRC).
The event takes place in NUI Galway from May 10th to May 12th. Registration is now open via the website. For further information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org, check out the Facebook event page, or follow on Twitter @CopHackIE.