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Promoting the internAtional competitiveness of European Remote Sensing companies through Cross-cluster collaboration

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - PARSEC (Promoting the internAtional competitiveness of European Remote Sensing companies through Cross-cluster collaboration)

Reporting period: 2020-08-01 to 2021-12-31

The PARSEC Accelerator is a Horizon 2020 project successfully implemented between May 2019 and December 2021. The overarching objective of PARSEC – “promoting the international competitiveness of European Earth Observation (EO) companies through cross-cluster collaboration” – was to support European start-ups and SMEs to develop new EO-based solutions and to introduce them to the market. In other words, PARSEC Accelerator supported “innovation fuelled by Earth Observation”. Furthermore, the PARSEC Accelerator was designed to help companies apply EO technology to address challenges in the emerging food, energy and environment sectors. These sectors are of high priority for society and were selected on the basis of their increasing need to innovate to efficiently address the rise in food and energy consumption and the pressure on the environmental sustainability.
Why Earth Observation? Earth Observation data and EO-based services have the potential to exert a huge positive influence on European and global societal, economic, environmental, and industrial challenges, including those faced by the food, energy, and environment sectors. EO is acknowledged as a key enabling technology for reaching the sustainable development goals by 2030.
Why now? The EO sector is undergoing rapid changes, spurred by the maturation and convergence of a number of important enabling technologies such as cloud computing, the Internet of Things, big data and artificial intelligence. On top of this, the European Union’s Copernicus programme, with its dedicated Sentinel satellites, generates over 12 terabytes of data every day, which is freely and openly available. Consequently, EO presents an enormous opportunity for boosting the productivity, innovation and competitiveness of European SMEs.
How? To achieve its overarching goals, the PARSEC consortium – bringing together 9 clusters and SMEs from 7 countries – carried out a holistic two-stage acceleration programme which offered a total of €2.5 Million in equity-free funding alongside coaching, training and market entry support. The accelerator’s activities were centred around five specific goals. First, PARSEC fostered cross-border and cross-sectoral collaboration, enabling better access to integrated knowledge and developing SMEs' innovation. Second, PARSEC designed an innovative Open Call scheme to select excellent teams of SMEs and start-ups which were subsequently supported in delivering EO-based solutions. Third, the selected companies received a holistic set of support services designed to increase their business success potential. Fourth, PARSEC delivered 3 Large Scale Demonstrators – PARSEC Business Catalysts – providing the technological tools for the development of new products and services. Last but not least, PARSEC maximised the impact of its output through well-defined communication and dissemination activities.
To conclude, the PARSEC Accelerator has successfully achieved its objective to foster innovation powered by EO in the emerging sectors of Food, Energy, and Environment. Concretely, 15 new products and services have been created by the consortia of 2-3 SMEs accelerated through the project. The success of PARSEC as well as its benefits for EO-fuelled businesses and society at large has motivated the consortium to build on the work performed and maintain the PARSEC brand and its ecosystem in the future.
PARSEC started its activities in 2019 with the international team ensuring the quick and successful launch and management of two open calls and two acceleration stages. Disrupted by COVID-19, the acceleration programme was redesigned and carried out digitally from February 2020 until the end of the project in December 2021.
The first PARSEC Open Call attracted 348 applications from 36 European and H2020 associated countries. The 100 winners selected through the innovative peer-to-peer evaluation process became the so-called #100PARSEC. They received €10.000 in equity-free funding and accessed the business support services of the first stage of the accelerator.
To apply for the Open Call 2, the #100PARSEC teamed up and created cross-border and/or cross-sectoral consortia of 2-4 SMEs. In total, the second call attracted 60 such consortia representing 142 SMEs based in 32 European and H2020 associated countries. The winning 15 consortia or #15PARSEC were selected during Demo Days by a jury of experts consisting of industrial CEOs, investors and business leaders. The winning teams received access to funds (€100.000 per consortia) and to the second stage support services.
Throughout the two stages of the PARSEC a total of 113 SMEs received support to create and improve new EO-fuelled services for Food, Energy or Environment sectors. This holistic support was organised around four pillars: access to knowledge, markets, technology, and capital.
Access to knowledge included such elements as a comprehensive training programme, webinars, and online tools. To ensure access to markets, alongside matchmaking and networking, the accelerator designed internationalisation programme and provided access to the digital market platforms specific for the EO industry – eoMALL and eoPAGES. The technology pillar included establishing and providing training for the tools helping to master the use of EO data – the Big Data Toolbox and the In Situ Data Hub. Last but not least, access to capital went beyond the direct funds distributed through the acceleration programme, as it included a mentorship programme for investment readiness, meetings with investors, as well as information on other funding opportunities.
The project has paid special attention to the successful, strategic and sustainable dissemination of the results of the project – the development and commercialisation of 15 new EO-fuelled products and services. To this end, multiple actions have been carried out, notably, the organisation of a final event to present the project’s achievements – Launchpad to Success and a digital showcase presenting all solutions and their creators.
The PARSEC project had a significant strategic impact due to the importance of coordinated EO activities in Europe. In total PARSEC allocated more than 92% of its budget to support innovation in SMEs, which constitutes 4.9M EUR. Moreover, PARSEC showcases the direct impact on European entrepreneurship as 31 out of the 100 companies selected for the first stage were newly created. Consortia applying for the Open Call 2 put forward 60 new EO-based solutions, and whilst 15 of these were selected for the second stage, several of the others continued to be developed independently outside the PARSEC Accelerator. Similarly, the PARSEC Business Catalysts will continue to support new and established EO-based services after the end of the accelerator.
The main success of the project was the creation and maintenance of the PARSEC ecosystem of SMEs, clusters, start-ups and other stakeholders. Furthermore, the PARSEC beneficiaries established strong cross-sectoral and cross-border partnerships, working together within PARSEC and other initiatives fostering EO-based entrepreneurship. Overall, the successful and crucial work carried out over project’s lifetime and during the sustainability activities in particular have encouraged the consortium to continue with supporting the PARSEC ecosystem and look into opportunities to exploit the success of the project in the future.