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University Challenge

The University Challenge is looking for students and research associates to compete for the chance to transform their bright ideas into successful commercial ventures.

The Finalists

Discover the TOP submissions to the University Challenge below. Please note, that finalists are presented in an alphabetically order of their submission title.

Carbon Monitoring Using Earth Observation Satellites

Team: Patrick Kalonde, Regeza Kamunga, Alick Chisale Austin, Treaser Mandevu, Fred Sajiwa, Tadala Makuluni, Dr Suresh Muthukrishnan

This solution utilises Sentinel-2 data to monitor, measure, and verify carbon storage in forests at a low cost. It quantifies above-ground biomass and estimates carbon sequestration based on drone and in-situ field measurements. This makes it possible to verify and calibrate the carbon storage of forests while enhancing related satellited-based estimates. Furthermore, partnerships are being developed with local communities and non-profit organisations across Malawi to incorporate them into tree maintenance and field data collection processes. Online GIS platforms are also being provided for field data collection and the communication of the results. The revenue generated from carbon storage verification for clients will then be used to compensate local community members. Meanwhile, the team behind this solution is developing training programmes for local community members to provide them with the knowledge and skills necessary for this project. This will allow local communities in Africa to participate in the global carbon trade while promoting transparency in carbon monitoring, helping address climate change by expanding reforestation, and promoting sustainable development.

INFORMAT – Can You Imagine a World Without Forests?

Team: Pegah Mohammadpour, Carlos Viegas, Silvia Faria
INFORMAT is a digital platform that automatically produces 3D land coverage and semantic vegetation maps based on satellite and drone data fusion using Copernicus satellite data and API sources. Its approach to tech-based forest management combines digital platforms with fully autonomous and electric mobile robots for mapping land, managing forest parameters, and cutting and collecting vegetation. In the first stage, satellite and drone data deliver complete terrain mapping and characterisation. Based on this, an action plan is developed to optimise land management and also reduce wildfire risk (here, INFORMAT offers a complete service for fuel management). This will ensure that public and private landowners’ properties comply with local legislation and are prepared to better cope with the impact of wildfires. This technology can help reduce land management costs and wildfire vulnerability and damage while maximising profits from clean spaces and biomass leftovers to foster sustainable local and regional economies.

WATER Space-EYE – Ground Measurements with Millimetre Precision

Team: Rubén Martínez, Miguel Marchamalo, Sergio Alvarez, Adrián García, Carlos García-Lanchares
When an aquifer is being depleted, this usually leads to ground subsidence and uplift during recharge, which affects cities and infrastructures. WATER Space-EYE is a service that measures deformations in the ground, buildings, and infrastructures down to the millimetre without the need for ground instrumentation. It uses Copernicus Sentinel-1 as its main data source for calibration and application, but is also compatible with other sensors. WATER Space-EYE monitors deformations in selected areas with a short revisit time (up to six days) and also provides additional historical analysis of deformations from the past 25 years. This enables it to provide early warnings based on Artificial Intelligence and detect anomalies in the surveyed area.

Want to know the winner of this year’s challenge? Then join the Space Awards via livestream on 14 December 2021. Register now for free!

The Challenge

Seeking to bridge the gap between Earth observation (EO) research and entrepreneurship, this challenge is designed to offer a creative platform for developing the most cutting-edge ideas using EO data. In addition to establishing links to the world of business, the University Challenge increases the exposure and credibility of student-driven innovations at the global level. Those tasked with evaluating the solutions submitted will thus focus on creativity and market needs rather than technological maturity.

Submissions are welcome in any relevant application field, including but not limited to:

  • Agriculture
  • Transportation
  • Emergency Management
  • Environmental Protection
  • Renewable Energies
  • Tourism/Leisure

Rewards 2021

Cash Prize
The winner will receive a cash prize of EUR 1,000.
Consulting package to develop the solution into a valid business case. Additionally, business qualification for one of the 21 ESA BICs (worth up to EUR 50,000).
Satellite Data
Possibility to access EUR 10,000 worth of commercial datasets from the Copernicus Contributing Missions in the Copernicus Data Warehouse (financial support by COM).

Additional Reward for the Overall Winner 2021

Cash Prize

EUR 10,000 if your concept gets selected as Copernicus Masters 2021 Overall Winner

Evaluation Criteria

Submissions to the University Challenge will be evaluated against the following criteria:


Does the solution demonstrate a novel application of Earth observation data?

Copernicus Connection

Does the solution use Copernicus data to add value for end-users?

Technical Feasibility

Does the solution apply Copernicus data in a technically feasible way?

Project Sustainability

Does the solution have real market potential?

About the Anwendungszentrum GmbH Oberpfaffenhofen (AZO)

AZO Anwendungszentrum GmbH Oberpfaffenhofen is an international networking and branding company for the European space programmes, supporting entrepreneurship with more than 700 companies founded in Europe. Since 2004, AZO has established the leading European space cluster innovation ecosystem for the satellite downstream market, while providing the necessary marketing and promotion platform, incubation and expert network, as well as regional funding programmes with the objective to increase the uptake of business cases. Besides the Copernicus Masters, AZO also organises the important space-related innovation competitions Galileo Masters and INNOspace Masters.


Anwendungszentrum GmbH Oberpfaffenhofen (AZO)

Ines Kühnert
Head of Galileo & Copernicus Competitions
+49 8105 77277-19

Hall of Fame

Discover all previous winners of the Copernicus Masters!

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Anwendungszentrum GmbH Oberpfaffenhofen (AZO)

Ines Kühnert
Head of Galileo & Copernicus Competitions
+49 8105 77277-19