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October 12, 2021

InCubed funding contract signed for DFKI’s AI4EO Solution Factory

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ESA InCubed and the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI) have signed a contract to support a new development initiative focused on Artificial Intelligence for Earth Observation (AI4EO). The three-year programme will involve setting up an innovation seedbed where DFKI’s AI experts will collaborate with major industry players on new EO business cases.

Earth observation is enjoying an ever-widening field of applications, from crop yield forecasting and land cover detection to urban planning and disaster management. However, with the sheer volume of data generated, simple manual analysis is often no longer practicable, giving rise to the need for automatic Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools such as Machine Learning (ML).

In order to provide such tools for commercial customers, the Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Künstliche Intelligenz (DFKI) is creating the AI4EO Solution Factory. Co-funded by the ESA InCubed programme, the AI4EO Solution Factory will combine the market knowledge of industry partners with DFKI’s AI expertise to provide customised algorithms for satellite data exploitation.

The funding contract for the AI4EO Solution Factory was confirmed yesterday at this year’s ESA Φ-week event. Commenting at the signing ceremony, ESA Acting Director for Earth Observation Programmes Toni Tolker-Nielsen emphasised the landmark nature of the activity: “I’m very pleased to be here for the launch of this initiative, which is the first of its kind supported by ESA. We see a great deal of potential in the AI4EO Solution Factory, and I look forward to following its progress in delivering AI-powered EO solutions to customers.”

“This exciting InCubed activity will allow DFKI, together with major German industry partners, to show what great benefits Earth observation can unfold through the use of AI. We anticipate that the AI4EO Solution Factory will break new ground in the commercialisation of Earth observation for various industry sectors,” added Michael Nyenhuis, InCubed Programme Coordinator at the German Space Agency at DLR.

Prof. Andreas Dengel, Executive Director at DFKI Kaiserslautern and Head of Smart Data & Knowledge Services, spoke of some of the envisaged benefits: “The AI4EO Solution Factory creates a collaborative environment to open up new business scenarios in the field of Earth observation, based on the combined expertise of DFKI and ESA, and to develop customised AI solutions for partners and users. Our transfer lab ESA_Lab@DFKI, which was founded at the beginning of the year, also provides the perfect framework to explore further technology needs in ESA projects and help shape modern space applications and resulting business models with the latest AI methods.”

DFKI Project Manager Marlon Nuske explained the Solution Factory’s model: “The central idea is to leverage synergies from the development of AI solutions for various Earth observation use cases. While each individual solution will be unique in its applications, many of the underlying building blocks can be reused for additional products and projects.”

“The support from InCubed will inject some essential financial impetus into the AI4EO Solution Factory,” Mr. Nuske continued. “We’re officially kicking off this week, with several leading industrial corporations already on board for the first joint product development in the agricultural sector.”

ESA Technical Officer Nicolas Longépé was enthused by the Solution Factory’s prospects: “This is the largest ever InCubed initiative with a German partner, and we’re certain the AI4EO Solution Factory will produce important advances in AI-driven EO applications over the next three years and beyond. The genesis of the collaboration, initially between DFKI and the Φ-lab Explore Office and now with InCubed, is a salient example of our ‘innovate and apply under-one-roof’ approach.”

To know more: AI4EO Solution Factory Activity page,DFKI, Φ-week

Photo Copyright: Valentina Stefanelli

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