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Earth Sciences
Jim Groot

Current position: CTO and co-founder of Green City Watch / Lecturer IIS (UvA)
Employer: Green City Watch / IIS (UvA)
Master’s programme: Earth Sciences – Geo-Ecological Dynamics

Avoiding the multinational route

'I did an internship at Antea Group as a Geographical Information Systems (GIS) modeller. I had to create a model that predicted soy crop suitability for big multinationals. Of course, it’s beautiful to work for these multinationals, but I also had the feeling that I was working for the devil in a way. These big companies have a lot of money, so a lot of things are possible, but there’s a lot of bureaucracy. In the world of research, you have a lot of freedom to do whatever you want. Coming to a company, you just have to do what brings in the money. That’s the thing I didn’t really like about it.' 

Bringing nature back to the cities

'During my studies, I was always interested in the latest satellites. These have mostly been used for the military, but I wanted to find ways to improve our way of living. Me and three other Earth Science Master’s students entered a competition initiated by Maxar (one of the largest commercial satellite imagery providers) and we won. We decided to build a company out of it: Green City Watch. The goal of the company is to bring nature back to people’s doorsteps and to renature cities using technology. I am currently busy with a project for the Municipality of Amsterdam, where we are measuring the percentage of greenery in the inner gardens within building blocks. These are important for the ecological footprint of the city. Our work also tackles climate change adaptation and the urban heat islands effect. If the summers continue to be this hot, it’s vital that we invest in more urban green space and green infrastructure so people can still enjoy their lives in the city.'

The freedom to choose your own career

'It’s very easy to get a job, but getting a job you like straight out of university is difficult. The best way to go is to focus on a specific skill you’re good at. Focusing on the remote sensing was a real game changer for me. Running a company and teaching at the same time can be challenging, but the biggest motivation in my career is freedom and doing what I think is important. If students want the freedom I have, my advice would be to set up your own company. I was surprised and amazed by how much money and help is out there for free. You’ve got the EU, all these incubators and the Climate-KIC community. The Science Park itself also has a very big start-up community: the Startup village. I see lots of grassroots movements around me that inspire me, so I have hope for the future, but I don’t think change will come from big governmental organisations. It has to come from the small entrepreneurs and the bottom-up approach. Do what you love. If you love it enough, I’m sure you will succeed.'