Slovenian hi-tech company with EUR 150m deal for Copernicus

Ljubljana, 20 December - Sinergise, a hi-tech company from Ljubljana, has brought Slovenia another deal in space technologies by signing a EUR 150 million contact with the European Space Agency (ESA) for setting up a data tracking, processing and distribution system for the EU Copernicus Programme for Earth observation.

The contract comes after the geographic information system (GIS) company won the Copernicus Masters challenge in 2017 in the open cloud category for its Sentinel Hub, a solution that significantly reduces the time it takes from the satellite taking an image to the image being available for use.

Developed in 2016 to make access to large amount of data gathered by Copernicus satellite system easier, the Sentinel Hub plays a key role in the upcoming project, said the company's director Grega Miličinski.

A key part of the Sentinel Hub is the EO Browser, an open-access tool for people to browse and compare full resolution images from the data collections over long periods of time. While high-resolution satellite images have been around for the past 50 years and used by researchers, this is the first time they can be accessed and analysed by the general public.

With the browser, people can follow what is happening in Ukraine or how forestation is taking place in Brazil, while scientists use it to track penguin colonies, pollution or floods, Miličinski explained. Currently the tool has some 400,000 users per month worldwide, with the company projecting that after the new project kicks off, this number will increase by up to tenfold.

"The EO Browser has revolutionised Earth observation by granting access to large quantities of data, said Krištof Oštir, professor at the Faculty of Civil and Geodetic Engineering and delegate of the technical committee for Earth observation at the ESA.

"We hope this will have a wide-reaching effect as now more people have access to this kind of data and are more aware of what is going on with our planet, specifically in relation to climate change," Miličinski said.

The deal entails open-access to data from the Copernicus Programme, the largest Earth observation system in the world. This will increase the Sinergise's profits and affect the entire Earth observation industry in Slovenia. Now the industry's top players are ZRC SAZU, Vesolje-SI, Skylabs, and GeoCodis.

Tanja Permozer, the head of the Slovenian delegation at the ESA, congratulated the company on their success, noting that Slovenia has been an associate member of the ESA since 2016, which paved the way for companies like Sinergise to apply to the agency's calls for applications.

In the last six years, Slovenian companies signed over 60 deals with the ESA, totalling close to EUR 18 million.

Permozer also added that Slovenia has increased its financial contribution to the ESA's programmes for the next three years in November, from EUR 3 million to 5.8 million per year.

Founded in 2008 and headquartered in the capital, Sinergise has a subsidiary in Austria's Graz and employs some 80 people. Since 2015, the company's main focus is developing technology for processing statistical data.