“I hope that Sobolt will be one of the success stories coming from ESA BIC”

"I  hope that Sobolt will be one of the success stories coming from ESA BIC"

Recently, the Space Business Innovation Center in Noordwijk accepted Sobolt into its network. Along with a grant for product development, SBIC, in partnership with ESA, provides Sobolt with a vast network of like-minded space technology innovators. SBIC helps solve problems by bringing space technology back down to earth. We spoke with Martijn Seijger, director of SBIC, about this unique opportunity.

How did SBIC come to be? How did it get started?

SBIC is the ESA business incubation program that brings together entrepreneurs which use space technology as a platform. The program has been running for over 10 years and we have already helped over 100 companies to start their business.


What are SBIC’s main roles?

Well, we are more of the business side of ESA. ESA BIC, which is a part of SBIC, directly involves entrepreneurial businesses that apply space technology to earth issues.


What are some of the activities you all have coming up at SBIC?

In November, we had European Space Week, which overlapped with the Slush event in Helsinki. There are a lot of officials from the European commission, national delegations and large industry players there every year. So, this is a very relevant network to be involved in.

Additionally, every last Thursday of the month, Verhaert and SBIC Noordwijk organise TechXfer Drinks in Noordwijk to meet and connect with the space business community. The next one is on January 31 of next year. Also in January, we will most likely will represent ESA at an expo on drones in combination with InfraTech. This also offers a good opportunity for Sobolt.


What do you think SBIC and Sobolt could bring to each other?

I think the added value for Sobolt is that we can give access to our European network. SBIC is part of the European Network of Business Incubation Centers. This can be helpful for Sobolt’s international expansion. We operate with a lot of partners that are active in many domains, not just in space technology. So this broadens the applicability of Sobolt’s products. For example, we have a partnership with an IP company, which can give advice and help to startups. For example, the small businesses and startups in our network, like Sobolt, can receive help building their IP strategy and portfolio. Of course, we also offer money for product development or innovation. Which is always helpful.

Sobolt can bring a great entrepreneurial spirit and helpful advice to the SBIC network. I hope that Sobolt will be one of the success stories coming from ESA BIC. It’s a matter of claiming your real markets with products. If you can develop this, then you are really an early innovator. Sobolt can do this and will give you a head start over the application providers, which will develop rapidly over the next few years.

How will you carry out your position as chairman?

"Most importantly, by being the linking pin and ensuring that solicited and unsolicited advice from the Board reaches Jeroen van Zwieten, the director, at the right time. In addition, I will combine that with the deployment of my network and knowledge. I believe in Sobolt’s mission, so I will provide my support wherever I can."


What do people need to know about Sobolt?

"That a collaboration will pay off. In other words, that Sobolt’s services generate money as a result of saving and generating energy. By becoming energy neutral, stakeholders are thus able to contribute to their social responsibility. In addition, it is fun to work with the people of Sobolt. They are young and driven, they inspire and push boundaries. On one hand by thinking along with the customer, but on the other by applying their own methodologies. The people at Sobolt can do things for you that you yourself have never even thought of. "

 The vast amount of data in remote sensing makes it ideally suited for unsupervised deep learning

What do you think are the greatest benefits and deliverables when combining AI and earth observation?

Being able to extrapolate satellite data to GIS data might be a challenge, but is extremely beneficial for efficiency and scalability of application. I think these could be the greatest benefits that Sobolt can bring to the market.


What do you think are the biggest challenges for AI and earth observation?

There is a large potential market for AI and EO, but so new that’s it is not always understood correctly by future customers.

My experience is that companies push the technology first rather than taking the customer demand point of view. We have to balance that.

Also, if you look at the market for EO in Europe, it is very fragmented. You not only have to develop the technology, but also educate your customer of EO, with or without AI. I think that Sobolt and SBIC could bring this balance.

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