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South African National Space Agency and Airbus launch Open Innovation Challenge

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Open Innovation Challenge supports novel applications for earth observation data
Open Innovation Challenge supports novel applications for earth observation data.

The South African National Space Agency (SANSA) together with the Airbus Defence and Space have launched the Open Innovation Challenge project which is aimed at developing and supporting home-grown applications for earth observation data obtained by satellites.

Stakeholder and Business development manager at SANSA, Imraan Saloojee said, “At SANSA our mandate is to build and grow the space industry in South Africa. For us, one of the areas is not only the building of satellite but also the application that use information from the satellite.”

“The Open Innovation Challenge gave us a way to broaden our perspective to be able to get to the SME’s and micro enterprises to start stimulating the use of earth observation for decision-making processes”, he added.

The project has three phases. In the first phase of the project, digital and space entrepreneurs were identified and the shortlisted candidates were able to access support from Airbus Defence and SANSA. The second phase included a 2-day business model design, validation, pitching and negotiation workshop which helped the entrepreneurs develop their proposals for the final evaluation. During the final phase which took place on Friday, 26 January 2018 at the Tshimologong Digital Innovation Precinct in Johannesburg involved an evaluation and networking session with possible funders and the media.

Speaking about the phases Saloojee said, “In the first phase we designed a challenge and we advertised and distributed it widely and asked people to provide ideas around what it is that they can do. So we basically put a problem statement and in this case we said South Africa has the right to report on Sustainable Development Goals by the United Nations and a part of that is reporting food security and water and we wanted to see if anybody can come up with novel and innovative ideas to address the food security problem and water crisis.”

“We then go through an evaluation process to make sure that the solution is viable, It is not necessarily full solutions that we are loooking for, but it is the ideas around it. We then proceed to take the companies to a workshop where we train and include some input into how to write a proposal as well as how to write a business case,” he added.

“In the last phase, we do an in-depth evaluation of what the solutions are about, we also invite people such as decision makers so that we ignite conversation and help the SME and micro enterprises find funders”, said Saloojee.

Saloojee says that large enterprises are important to the economy, they have deep pockets to be able to conduct research and provide large-scale services but the way to grow the economy is to include SME’s and micro enterprises. “If we want to grow the economy, address social challenges and get people to work we have to focus on the small and micro enterprises”, he said.

The Open Innovation Challenge calls the public and intends to bring together as many great ideas and solutions as possible to solve social problems.

“We select the solutions based on the viability of the idea, the market potential as well as the novelty of the idea to name a few,” concluded Saloojee.

By Fundisiwe Maseko
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