A new government initiative modeled after the Small Business Innovation Research program in the U.S. promotes innovative growth in the small businesses sector.
The federal government has recently opened up a challenge that calls for the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and big data analytics in finding innovative uses for the plethora of available space data. The challenge is a component of Innovative Solutions Canada, which aims to ramp up technological innovation in the small business sector.
The challenge arises with the recent popularization of space platforms. 2017 saw the launch of 450 satellites–more than double the previous year. The increasing number of satellites is producing an enormous amount of data, much of which can be publicly used and analysed. Innovative Solutions Canada aims to combine the plethora of data with AI and big data analytics. The challenge is also in alignment with Canada’s Open Data policy which strives to provide Canadians with free, government-curated data.
Potential outcomes of the challenge can include autonomous disaster prediction and prevention, improving the coordination and efficiency of satellites to minimize interference and redundancy, and using the satellite data in novel ways to enhance space exploration.
The challenge, sponsored by the Canadian Space Agency, runs on a contractual basis. In the first phase, which was opened up to proposals Monday, successful proposals can receive up to $150,000 to develop a proof of concept. In the second phase, the small business may receive up to $1,000,000 to develop a prototype. If suitable, the government of Canada may be the first customer in the newly developed innovation. “If the federal government is the first customer, it means a lot to companies,” said Robert Smith, executive director of Innovative Solutions Canada, at the Canadian SmallSat Symposium. “It means a lot to venture capital, and it shows that the government of Canada is backing this initiative.”
The call for AI and big data analytics in innovating usage of satellite data is one in five challenges currently open from Innovative Solutions Canada, which is modelled after the Small Business Innovation and Research (SBIR) program in the United States. Twenty government agencies including the Canadian Space Agency and the National Research Council are giving 1% of their internal procurement budget to put out challenges for the small business community. By 2019/2020, the agencies will spend $100-million annually on innovative challenges.
Small businesses interested in submitting a proposal are required to be incorporated, for profit, fewer than 499 employees and at least 50% Canadian.
With additional reporting by Marc Boucher. More stories from the Canadian SmallSat Symposium 2018.