Space Startups in the SDG Ecosystem

 Space Startups in the SDG Ecosystem

A few weeks ago Amsterdam-based consultancy firm PHI Factory published a map of 200 Dutch startups that contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Space as a contributor to SDGs

Just two years earlier, the director of the United Nations for Outer Space Affairs Simonetta di Pippo claimed that ’65 of the 169 SDG targets (almost 40%) are reliant on geolocation and Earth observation’, making space a critically important resource for monitoring the SDGs. She later said ‘Adding satellite communication into the equation would take us to well over 50 percent.’ (source)

Contribution of space to each of the Sustainable Development Goals (source: UNOOSA/EUSPA)

The underlying study by UNOOSA and EUSPA became the basis for the Space4SDGs programme within UNOOSA. This programme describes the role of space in the SDGs, in support of the UN 2030 agenda for sustainable development.

See the UN Space4SDGs website here

Space as the 18th SDG

She even went as far as asking whether space should become the 18th SDG in and by itself, although she answered her own question:

“Rather than reasoning for goal in itself, I deem it Space as a a powerful vehicle driving us towards a better future by immensely contributing to the existing goals. However, while its importance is recognized at a certain level, it is far from what it deserves. Space is truly a gamechanger and the space community must even more strongly articulate for its placement at the centre of discussions going forward.” (source)

SDG 18 – Space for All (source: Space for All)

The idea of space as the 18th SDG was picked up by a Dutch student initiative ‘SDG 18 – Space for All’, although its focus is less on development of the planet, but rather looks at the space environment itself as an area for sustainable development:

“As the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are only focused on this planet, we found it important that more awareness should be given to space to tackle all problems that we currently face and that will hinder our development in the future. The ‘SDG 18 – Space for All’ initiative has the goal that another SDG, focusing on space, will be implemented in the very near future and that space is recognised on a global agenda.”

The role of Dutch space startups

Looking back at the map of the Dutch startup ecosystem, comparing it with our recently published map of the Dutch space industry, we find two space startups present on both maps. Space4Good is recognised as a contributor to SDG 13 ‘Climate Action’, while Vandersat (now part of Planet) is seen as supporting SDG 14 ‘Life below water’.

With 61 companies in our space industry map working on Earth observation applications, 22 active in space data analytics and insights, 12 organisations involved in GNSS location-based services and 9 in drone observation and other space data applications, the two companies on the SDG map is probably and underestimation of the importance of the Dutch space startup scene in the context of contributions to the SDGs. Of course not all organisations on the Dutch space industry map are startups, but a quick look at the map shows that most actually are.

Dutch Space Industry Map 2022
Dutch space startups in the space industry map of the Netherlands (source: author)

SDGs as a driver for all space startups

Looking at the role of space data for the SDGs and the proliferation of Dutch space data startups, the relevance of the Dutch space startups cannot be underestimated. For the same reason, it can also be argued that all space startups should reflect their contribution to the SDGs in their mission statements. This is not only good for the awareness of the people involved in these startups, but enhance the position, and attractiveness of the space data sector for new entrepreneurs and funders at the same time.

In the last one or two years we have already seen that the integration of the EU Green Deal in Horizon Europe are providing great funding opportunities for space data startups and SMEs. It would be great for the (Dutch) space sector, the startup scene, and the planet of these opportunities would be recognised (and advertised) even wider!

Check out funding opportunities for space startups in our Open Calls section

Read about how to integrate SDGs in your mission statement in this good article by German startup advisory

Why SDGs are important for startups (click image to read the article)

Remco Timmermans

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