Smart Data Access for All – Pathbreaking web service Sentinel Hub wins 2016 Copernicus Masters

On 25 October 2016, this year’s winners in the renowned Earth observation competition Copernicus Masters were recognised by high-ranking industry and institutional representatives before an international audience in Madrid. Taking home the grand prize was the team around Grega Milcinski from Slovenia’s Sinergise Ltd., whose Sentinel Hub – a cloud-based web service for satellite data – triumphed in the T-Systems Open Telekom Cloud Challenge before edging out the winners of the other six categories.

Earth observation satellites, including the Sentinels of Europe’s Copernicus programme, produce tremendous amounts of data every day. This presents an enormous potential for scientific and commercial applications here on the ground. So far, however, downloading, processing, and storing petabytes of data has posed major challenges to many user groups. Sentinel Hub makes it possible to browse, process, and distribute large amounts of data quickly and efficiently – even for non-expert users. Thanks to its ability to integrate into any GIS or web application, this online service is poised to fundamentally affect the daily work routines of developers, scientists, and many other target groups.

“According to a recent PWC study Copernicus has become the third largest data supplier in the world. Sentinel data access is full, free and open to all users world-wide. Sentinel Hub significantly simplifies the way users can access and process satellite data,” explained Dr. Josef Aschbacher, ESA’s Director of Earth Observation Programmes, at the awards ceremony in Madrid. “With applications like these, the 2016 Copernicus Masters competition has once again clearly demonstrated its potential to drive the innovative use of Earth observation data and make the Copernicus programme accessible to new user groups.”

Copernicus Masters competition

Having received a total of more than 900 ideas from over 70 countries to date, the Copernicus Masters has evolved into the leading international ideas competition for the next generation of Earth observation applications. Since 2011, it has recognised each year’s most promising and revolutionary innovations and business concepts. The 70 best applications produced through the Copernicus Masters and its affiliated Space App Camps are now presented in the new ESA publication Copernicus in Action, in partnership with AZO.

Prize pool designed to help bring innovations to market

In this year’s seven topic-specific challenges, prizes worth a total of EUR 600,000 were sponsored by the Copernicus Masters’ prominent partners: the European Space Agency (ESA), the German Aerospace Center (DLR), T-Systems International GmbH, Satellite Applications Catapult Ltd., the German Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI), and Stevenson Astrosat Ltd. The University Challenge, meanwhile, was geared towards students and research assistants.

Along with cash prizes, consulting and data packages, and other benefits, the winners will now have the opportunity to ready their ideas for the marketplace at one of the 16 ESA Business Incubation Centres across Europe. With financial support from the European Commission, the new Copernicus Accelerator  will also invite 40 Copernicus Masters’ finalists to take part in a tailored eight-months mentoring programme that will help them advance their business ideas.

“We’re proud of the fact that we’ve seen more and more start-ups getting involved in the commercialisation of Earth observation services since the competition’s inception in 2011, particular in the ESA BIC programme,” declared CEO Thorsten Rudolph from AZO, the organiser of the Copernicus Masters. “Through our initiatives, we’ve been able to provide support to innovative projects all along the value chain.”

The seven best Earth observation applications of 2016

In addition to highlighting the benefits Copernicus offers to a wide array of sectors, the winners of this year’s seven Copernicus Masters challenges present further proof of the competition’s ability to showcase market-oriented applications of Earth observation data.

University Challenge

SpaceToPlace – EO to Empower UNESCO Site Managers, submitted by Prof Dr Alexander Siegmund and his team from Research Group for Earth Observation (rgeo), Dept. of Geography, Heidelberg University of Education & Heidelberg University, Germany

ESA App Challenge

SnapPlanet – The Social Network for Earth Observation, submitted by Jérôme Gasperi, Jeobrowser, France

DLR Environment, Energy, and Health Challenge

Viridian Raven – Risk Analysis to Prevent Insect Outbreaks, submitted by Wendy Mensink and her team, The Netherlands

T-Systems Open Telekom Cloud Challenge & Overall Winner

Sentinel Hub – A cloud-based web service for satellite imagery, submitted by Grega Milcinski and his team at Sinergise Ltd., Slovenia

Sustainable Living Challenge by the Satellite Applications Catapult

EnviroSAR© – Managing Wildfire Disturbance in Moorlands and Heathlands, submitted by Dr. Gail Millin-Chalabi and her team at the University of Manchester, Great Britain

BMVI Earth Observation Challenge for Digital Transport Applications

RETRIEVE – Sentinels for Safe Transportation and Retrieval of High-value Goods, submitted by Hartmut Runge and his team at the German Aerospace Center (DLR), Germany

Astrosat End-to-End EO Challenge

SCAMPER – Safeguarding a EUR Six Billion Global Food Resource from Space, submitted by Bruce Hannah, National Space Centre Ltd., Ireland

Awards Ceremony and Satellite Masters conference held in Madrid

The Satellite Masters Conference has become a must-attend event for industries, scientists, and start-ups involved in the commercial use of Earth observation and satellite navigation. Initiated by AZO, co-organised by madri+d and Comunidad da Madrid and with support from Deloitte, the conference was held for the first time at Madrid’s Circulo de Bellas Artes. It thus provided a festive setting for the Copernicus Masters Awards Ceremony, as well: This year’s winners had the chance to present their ideas to the international Earth observation and navigation scene and discuss innovations in space-based technologies and services with those in attendance.

To learn more about the Copernicus Masters and this year’s winners, please visit the competition website at


Additional information on the Copernicus programme is also available at:

AZO – an experienced organiser

AZO has been organising the Copernicus Masters competition on behalf of ESA since 2011. By leveraging its extensive experience in building and maintaining global innovation networks and organising related contests, AZO supports product innovations and the creation of new companies all along the value chain, particularly in the field of commercial aerospace applications.

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