Introducing Taylor Geospatial Engine And The Innovation Bridge Program

Mar 25, 2024

Feb 28th TGE held a workshop to start the first Innovation Bridge project. Dr Hannah Kerner, Dr Lexie Wang and others participate in discussions.

Feb 28th TGE held a workshop to start the first Innovation Bridge project. Dr Hannah Kerner, Dr Lexie Wang and others participate in discussions.

The Taylor Geospatial Engine is a non-profit, established in June 2023, with founding philanthropic funds from Andrew C. Taylor. Taylor Geospatial Engine (TGE) is a sister organization to the Taylor Geospatial Institute (TGI), which fuels research and collaboration around innovative geospatial approaches at eight Midwest research organizations. TGI focuses on core geospatial science and applying it to sustainable agriculture, public health and national security. TGE’s mission is to identify ways to find commercial applications for early stage, academic geospatial R&D. TGE has developed the Innovation Bridge Program to smooth the path between R&D and commercialization through:
  • Alignment on best practices, industry standards, market demand & shared expertise to identify opportunities to apply geospatial innovation to commercial problems
  • Collaborative development to address broad gaps in the geospatial industry
  • Creating feedback loops and talent pipelines that connect research to industry
  • Advancing technology roadmaps within the research community and industry

THE NEED FOR THE INNOVATION BRIDGE FOR GEOSPATIAL TECHNOLOGIES

In other domains, there are established organizations and maturity stages for innovations created in a research setting to be turned into commercial success. Through extensive engagement with stakeholders within academia, industry, and government, we have found that there is no obvious pipeline for geospatial technologies to enter commercial markets.

 One example of another domain having these established pipelines is the biotech sector’s discovery of new drugs. A researcher can focus on the frontiers of biology and chemistry, and if they have a breakthrough there’s a clear set of steps needed to turn that into a commercial drug: initial R&D, preclinical testing, clinical trials, regulatory approval, and commercialization. An ecosystem of organizations contributes at various points in the process, from testing to manufacturing to marketing and selling.  There is a bridge to go from an idea to a commercially successful product.

With geospatial innovation, those bridges need to be built. There are certainly ways for compelling geospatial research to have a commercial impact, but it generally requires a visionary who is able to form a company and lead the commercialization, usually building an entirely new product that requires building a new customer base. It is much harder, with longer timelines and investment expenses, to create a new geospatial algorithm or technique and turn it into a commercial success.

THE INNOVATION BRIDGE PROCESS

TGE will run Innovation Bridge initiatives focused on geospatial technology gaps identified by our own geospatial industry experience, our continued research, our team of Industry Fellows and global partners. Each specific project will create a space for industry, government, NGOs and academia to collaborate more deeply and consistently to advance the state-of-the-art in tangible and measurable ways. TGE is awarding seed grants to researchers to tune their R&D capabilities toward concrete industry problems and create containers for continued collaboration.  At the end of a project, we will have made strides on a broad industry issue that allows both industry and academia to advance to next order problems. During an Innovation Bridge program, R&D capabilities will be validated by collaborating with experts in the research area, technology will be matured in the direction of impact, partnerships will be identified, and notable contributions to the field will be documented. The sum of these advances via the Innovation Bridge will create opportunities for commercialization by paving the way for a more diverse ecosystem of users, applications, and companies to enter the market. 

WE’VE ALREADY STARTED

TGE kicked off the first Innovation Bridge program the last week of February with a two-day workshop in partnership with TGE Industry Fellows Chris Holmes and Jed Sundwall . We gathered leading academic teams from three research institutions, research scientists from three governmental organizations, and technologists from over a dozen companies – all who specialize in the application of AI and Computer Vision to earth observation imagery. 
Researchers from Washington University, TetraTech, Bayer, Danforth Plant Science Center and Microsoft AI for Good discuss approaches with other participants in the Innovation Bridge project.

Researchers from Washington University, TetraTech, Bayer, Danforth Plant Science Center and Microsoft AI for Good discuss approaches with other participants in the Innovation Bridge project.

More detailed insight into this workshop will come in our next blog post! We know the commercial markets will benefit from innovation around using AI to identify insights found in EO as captured perfectly by Aravind Ravichandran who writes deeply about the earth observation sector of the geospatial market:

“Earth observation is a sector that is built by tens of thousands of people and used by hundreds of millions of people.  Unless we make it easy for the former to build, explore and innovate with EO data based on validated inputs from the latter, the market will not grow.Aravind Ravichandran, Founder TerraWatch Space Advisory & Insights

We are thrilled at the team that has come together to collaborate on our first program. We’ll soon share more details, which should help make some of these abstract thoughts more clear. Bringing the right people from diverse backgrounds to work together on some audacious goals will make steps in the right direction and help in maturing the market.  Ultimately, this will contribute to the geospatial ecosystem by easing access to critical information about our planet to be consistently used in decision-making, and make clear the power of geospatial information to help solve some of the toughest challenges.