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Tallinn, Europe’s Space capital for a week

Copernicus Observer

The European Space Week closed its doors last Thursday after seven inspiring days of conferences, roundtables, hackathons and many other activities. If you could not attend or you missed one of the parallel sessions, this article is for you!


Brussels, 14 November 2017

Estonia is definitely not known as the hub of the Space industry in Europe“, Andreas Veispak, the Head of the Space Data unit at the European Commission’s DG GROW stated in his closing remarks of the European Space Week.But it became the heart of the space world this week.



From 3 to 9 November Estonia’s capital Tallinn held the largest space event of the year – the European Space Week 2017 (EUSW2017). All different actors of space came together – the European Commission and European Space Agency, the European GNSS Agency, the EU and ESA Member States, the entrepreneurs, start-ups and digital communities, the businesses and academia, government officials and citizen space enthusiasts. Altogether more than 1,500 people shared their ideas, achievements and future plans in the rapidly changing space sector. Copernicus and Galileo were at the core of conversations in real-life, and trending on social media online, where more than two million messages reached tens of millions of people in Europe and around the world.


The Space Week kicked off with the Garage48 SpaceTech hackathon 2017, a choice that shows that the digital future is a priority for the EU. Estonia, for the first time holding the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, is a true digital pioneer. It is a country that dares to experiment with innovation on many levels. The Estonian government identified the free movement of data as one of the core aspirations ensuring the future of Europe’s economic success. And thus, the hackathon. It was a 48-hour non-stop coding and dev-fest.  Fourteen prototypes of new products and services were developed based on remote sensing and satellite navigation. You can watch the final presentations video on their Facebook.


“I Do Balloon” team from Latvia won the Garage48 SpaceTech hackathon 2017 competition.


The week continued with different parallel events, round tables and meetings. Over 140 participants gathered at the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications premises for the Copernicus Training and Information Session to learn about available Copernicus data and information, its potential uses and applications and how to access to the Copernicus data and services.


Two new Estonian initiatives were presented at the InfoSession:

  • ESTHub, the national Collaborative Ground Segment aiming to provide local access to Sentinel data;
  • BaltSatApps, an EU-funded regional project with participants from countries neighbouring the Baltic, which aims at speeding up the market uptake of Copernicus satellite data and information in the region.


The Copernicus Accelerator is the heart of the Copernicus entrepreneurship endeavours. Its Opening Bootcamp took place on Monday, with the second session on Tuesday where almost 170 start-ups and small businesses came to share their entrepreneurial ideas, connect with others and get inspired. A large group of mentors trained the audience on various skills, from technical aspects like data access to essential start-ups skills, like how to craft a perfect pitch using the wisdom of ancient Greek orator Demosthenes.


This Bootcamp marked the start of the 12-month coaching programme provided to the 50 finalists of the 2017 Copernicus Masters competition. A total of 43 mentors contributed to a tailored business coaching service with expert support, with each mentor working with a maximum of two start-ups. Philippe Brunet, Director for Space Policy, Copernicus and Defence at the EC’s DG GROW stressed that “Europe must become the best place to start a Space business”. “We [EC] hope that with the Accelerator Programme great ideas and the teams behind them are supported in their further development for their own success, and also for the benefit of all”.


A BootCamp of the accelerator for the European Global Navigation Satellite System also took place on Tuesday. Over 90 innovative ideas were boosted into the market through Copernicus and E-GNSS accelerators. 


Philippe Brunet, Director for Space Policy, Copernicus and Defence at EC’s DG GROW stressed the great value of the Copernicus programme for entrepreneurs during the Copernicus Accelerator Opening Bootcamp (© European Commission, 2017)


Alongside the Accelerator Programmes, a new EU-funded instrument for start-ups was presented during the Space Week: The Copernicus Incubation Programme, which is offering exciting opportunities for entrepreneurs.


One of the highlights of the week took place on Tuesday with the opening of the ESA-BIC Estonia, the 17th ESA Business Incubation Centre (BIC), the first incubator of the European Space Agency in the Baltic region, having offices in Tartu and Tallinn. This Estonia ESA-BIC is inaugurated only two years after Estonia became a full member of ESA.


And at an event of this magnitude, the opinions and statements of high-level representatives of the European Commission and the European Space Agency received particular attention. Elżbieta Bieńkowska, Commissioner for the Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, Jan Woerner, Director General of the European Space Agency, and Urve Palo, Estonian Minister for Entrepreneurship and Information Technology, gathered for the EU-ESA Informal Space Ministerial Meeting with EU Space ministers and delegates. There was a wide-ranging consensus to ensure a stable future for the Copernicus programme beyond the current EU financial perspective which will end in 2020. All delegates acknowledged that Copernicus is becoming a driving force of the European digital economy thus its potential needs to be developed further. Speaking to the media, Ms Bieńkowska declared: “the success of the Copernicus programme goes far beyond our initial expectations”.


Elżbieta Bieńkowska, Commissioner for the Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, Jan Woerner, Director General of the European Space Agency and Urve Palo, Estonian Minister for Entrepreneurship and Information Technology next to EU Space ministers and delegates in Tallinn. (© Estonian Ministry of Economic Affairs & Communications)


One of the most uplifting moments of the week came with the Awards Ceremony of Europe’s major innovation competitions for both Copernicus and Galileo - the Copernicus Masters and the European Satellite Navigation Competition. The top 40 entrepreneurs and inventors who participated in these competitions received recognition for the most outstanding Copernicus and Galileo applications of 2017.


Estonian Minister for Entrepreneurship and Information Technology, Urve Palo, highlighted the importance of Space and the digital economy during the Awards ceremony. (© European Commission)



Prizes were presented by high-ranking representatives of institutions or companies such as the European Commission, the European GNSS Agency, the European Space Agency, the German Aerospace Center, the German Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure, former Copernicus Masters Stevenson Astrosat Ltd. and Sinergise, or the British Satellite Applications Catapult. You can find the full list of winners here.



FFSCat, a federated EO system for sea ice and soil moisture monitoring, won the overall Copernicus Masters Competition 2017. The award was handed by the Director for Earth Observation Programmes at ESA, Dr. Josef Aschbacher (left image). Pierre Delsaux, Deputy Director-General at the EC’s DG GROW handed the prize to the overall European Satellite Navigation Challenge winner, SORUS which produces spoofing-resistant Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (right image). (© European Commission)


The Space Week also hosted the 4th edition of the Satellite Masters Conference, divided into four different sessions and combined with the Horizon 2020 Space Info Days. The topics of the four H2020 workshops were:

  • The upcoming H2020 calls in the following topics: Space Technologies, Science and Exploration and Secure and Safe Space Environment;
  • European GNSS – EGNOS and Galileo;
  • Earth Observation and Copernicus evolution;
  • Space business, entrepreneurship, Outreach and Education.


Pierre Delsaux, Deputy Director-General at the EC’s DG GROW, sent a key message to the audience referring to Copernicus “not only as a Governmental initiative” but also as an instrument that “needs entrepreneurs to continuously develop new products and applications”. And the huge success of the Space Week showed that we’re well on our way, but we have only scratched the surface of the wealth of opportunities.


If you had told me years ago that we would bring together actors of the space industry from across Europe into my home, a small country in Northern Europe for a week in cold autumn – I would have said it is a crazy idea,” Andreas Veispak said in his closing remarks to the audience the last day. “It was a crazy idea when we started putting it together a few years ago. It is a crazy idea still. But all of us - the Estonian government, the teams working behind the scenes, and everyone who attended – made this crazy idea into reality.


The photo gallery of the Space Week is now available!


Access to the gallery... (password EUSW_2017 and copyright © European Commission / Pablo Garrigós)


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