Air quality startup, UrbanZee, finalises EU Copernicus Accelerator programme

Last year, UrbanZee was qualified for the EU Copernicus Accelerator programme when its team won the main price at the AtmosHack hackathon in Helsinki.

The Copernicus programme is one of the two major satellite programmes run by the European Commission, its Galileo programme providing the next generation global position alike GPS, and its Copernicus programme consisting of various Earth observation satellites.

As all the satellite data is freely available and to get the maximum benefit out of these satellites, the Copernicus accelerator programme is an annual programme facilitating start-ups to develop new services using satellite data. UrbanZee was one among the best 50 start-ups from across Europe to qualify for the 2018-2019 programme.

“Many accelerator programmes have similar content, but what made this accelerator unique is that they paired us up with our own personal mentor”, explained Aschwin van der Woude, CEO of UrbanZee. “Our mentor, was crucial to UrbanZee as his expertise in building communities around satellite data help us develop the right business models”, continued van der Woude.

UrbanZee’s mentor, Hans van ‘t Woud is an experienced entrepreneur with a successful company using satellite data and the power of crowds to identify features on maps, which can help disaster relief or detect illegal rainforest cuts. “As a an entrepreneur I endured ample failure while success is rare but worthwhile. Hence, it has taken me a lot of willpower and a blind belief in my concept to be able to keep up”, says mentor van ‘t Woud, “and I see similar characteristic skills in Aschwin, and he has what it takes to see his platform to come alive”.

Within the start-up industry it widely known that failure rates are high, and while there are many reasons for failure, often it is because a new product or services has no market or the market is not ready to adopt novel innovations yet. “Connecting the crowd to space assets and providing them with tools to do something about our environment is just one of these things that must succeed. This, along with sellable data, in the end makes it a perfect combination”, concludes mentor van ‘t Woud.

UrbanZee is developing several services with business models that fit with the costs of measuring cities in fine detail. Building communities that have a measuring capability is one such business model, and satellite data provides the initial data to identify where in a city detailed measuring should take place. “It is for innovative ideas such as those developed by UrbanZee that the Copernicus programme needs to exist”, explains programme coordinator Tamara Naydenova, “as it is not just about using satellite data but it is also about creating meaningful impact in our lives”.

UrbanZee’s next steps are to test the concepts developed during the accelerator programme. Even though the programme has ended, CEO van der Woude and mentor van ‘t Woud intend to continue to work together, and that in itself has been the biggest success of the programme for UrbanZee.