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An Ode to Open Innovation

How innovation through collaboration has shaped us and our communities.

This past November Space4Good was part of the community of organizations that contributed to the Hackathon for Good hosted by the Municipality of The Hague. We supported the hackathon with workshops and mentorships, along with a unique prize offered via our partnership for open innovation, Mothership Mission. But our journey in open innovation didn’t just start there…

First, what is open innovation? Open innovation is ‘“the use of purposive inflows and outflows of knowledge to accelerate internal innovation, and expand the markets for external use of innovation, respectively” (Source). Following Isomäki’s Open Innovation Method Framework matrix, one can quickly gather the different levels of degrees of openness, and stages of innovation that are possible within a company. Some are with the intention to explore, extract or exploit ideas and customer needs. Some occur from ‘open-inside’, where ideation occurs within the company by employees, others ‘outside-in’, where ideas are sourced from external counterparts and finally, some happen ‘inside-out’, where ideas and intellectual property are shared with the outside world to create new business opportunities.

We find hackathons enthralling as they are often a dynamic convolution of people, rapid learning curves, tools, ideas and network expansion - an open innovation dream! The fourth edition of the Hackathon for Good was another living proof of this. Hackathons are one of the ways we both contribute and benefit from an open innovation environment. Space4Good have joined hackathons from several angles, as organizers, collaborating partners, as well as participants.

Our journey in hackathons first began through participation. Back in 2018 we joined the ActInSpace Hackathon organised by European Space Agency Business Incubation Center, NL and Leiden entrepreneurship center PLNT with the idea of using smartphones as versatile display tools for protests. We won third place for our solution. Another is the Odyssey Hackathon - the world’s biggest AI and blockchain hackathon. We joined two editions with several wins thus far:

  • Odyssey Hack 2019, Scaling Wildlife Challenge, 2nd prize winners

  • Odyssey Hack 2020 (Momentum), Sovereign Nature, 1st prize winners together with our team lead at CEVEN.protect

  • Odyssey Hack 2020 (Momentum), Nature 2.0., all winners

Image 1: Space4Good at the Odyssey Hackathon 2019. Photo credit: Odyssey.

One such win in 2019 subsequently introduced us to our current joint venture partners, Dr Willie Smits and Arsari Enviro Industri in developing an integrated agroforestry monitoring and management platform, Re-Forest-ER. A dream opportunity to develop an essential nature-based solution! To date, we have nurtured this relationship and gone on to develop the platform and its applications. As such, hackathons are not the only way of engaging in open innovation. Space4Good has now made this process a company pillar that is present not only in our internal dynamics but also as we set up such modes of interaction in our collaborations with partners.

Expanding upon this, Space4Good has been a partner and co-founder in the Mothership Missions. The Mothership Missions is an Open Innovation Program built in collaboration with WorldStartup and AI Lab targeted at students, entrepreneurs, for-profit companies and NGOs committed to saving and improving life on earth. In an 8-week prototyping format, participants contribute to a specific vulnerable landscape in question by building a working prototype and a supporting business model. Three editions were organized: The Big Blue, Energy Poverty and Living Environment Quality. This concept expanded Space4Good from participant to an co-organizer of hackathons - further establishing our belief and trust in the open innovation process for impact.

Image 2: Series of Mothership Missions 1 to 3.

As mentioned above, Space4Good joined the Hackathon for Good this year in several roles:

  1. as Technical mentors: coaching teams to improve their coding questions with the use of remote sensing techniques and geo-data.

  2. as Workshop providers: where we offered a Space4Good igniter course to get participants' baseline level of what GIS and satellites are all about.

  3. as Jury from the Mothership sub-track prize: judging a set of teams and their propositions to a set of sub-questions where satellite data and AI can support vulnerable landscapes.

Image 3: Hackathon for Good Studio Broadcast 2021. Photo credit: Holland Park Media.

It was a blast! The hackathon was a hybrid approach of remote hacking with a live glossy broadcast via a studio set-up in The Hague Tech. Supported teams brought to the table several solutions integrating diverse concepts and offering exciting prototypes to various challenge tracks. More notably for Space4Good and our Mothership Missions team were the winners from the Mothership sub-track, the Salinity Trackers AI. They will be recipients of a signature Space4Good workshop on Land Use Classification using geographic information systems (GIS) and remote sensing technologies. The workshop is scheduled for the start of the new year and we look forward to facilitating the continued work of the team!

With that, we wish to close 2021 with a thank you to our community for innovating with us for impact and we look forward to what we can openly innovate together in years to come.

Would you like more information on our workshops and open innovation or are you interested in collaborating with Space4Good? Visit our website or contact us via

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