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Knowledge and innovation hub for the Copernicus Academy

Copernicus – a game-changer in academia-business relationships

The Space sector in Europe has been boosted by the Copernicus programme, bringing ample socio-economic and environmental benefits to public sector, businesses and citizens. To foster a globally competitive European space sector and ensure European autonomy in accessing and using space in a safe and secure environment, it is necessary to stimulate the integration of space into European economy and society.

Authors: Stefan Lang, Department of Geoinformatics – Z_GIS & Peter Zeil, Spatial Services GmbH

The unique investment of the European Member States into the development and operation of Copernicus provides the data resources for innovative solutions to crucial challenges faced by our societies. For innovation to be realized, a constant stream of inventions (from research) needs to be validated as robust and relevant through the adoption by diverse user communities. For the maximisation of the impact of Copernicus, sustainable user uptake activities are required, strongly supported by the Copernicus Academy and Copernicus Relays networks.

The DT-SPACE-07-BIZ-2018 funded action CopHub.AC (www.cophub-ac.eu) creates a knowledge and innovation hub, demonstrating several technical and procedural pillars (Gateway, Research Briefs, Knowledge Landscape, CitizenApp, etc.) to foster and link ongoing R&D activities in Copernicus-relevant academic fields, and to sustain the innovation process from academia to businesses on the highest possible scientific and technical level. Our clear commitment is a full thematic and geographic coverage for a Europe-wide boost in demand-driven uptake of space technology and geospatial information at its most effective rate. Our vision is to establish a Copernicus hub to consolidate and sustain the Copernicus Academy as a knowledge and innovation network. In order to strengthen the R&D dimension, the expertise and tools available at the network level need to be used at the service of research and innovation with the aim to boost their innovation potential.. To this end, twelve partners from academia (PLUS, UMA, KU Leuven, KU MRI., UNIBAS, CUT), businesses (SpaSe, Evenflow, rasdaman) and associations (EARSC, GISIG, Climate-KIC), ensure a highly complementary expertise across application domains and sectors.

Copernicus Academy – an emerging network

When its vision was laid out in 2012, the founders of the (then) GMES Academy could hardly foresee its impact a few years later. With some 150 members from the public and private sector, including from outside Europe, the Copernicus Academy has been growing into an invaluable pool of experts, application know-how, emerging from pooling the various types of expertise, trans-national, trans-domain, trans-sectoral.

The envisaged space hub will grow and support the Academy by dedicated activities such as mapping and monitoring activities, and liaising between its members in regard to initiatives of interest for the network, such as events and educational opportunities (summer schools, post-graduate scholarships, etc.). In particular we aim at:

- Maintaining. sharing, and developing novel communication tools to ensure update about latest events, info sessions, Copernicus lectures, new members, new training tools availability, best practices, academic curricula, funding opportunities;

- Interacting with the Copernicus Entrusted Entities, Copernicus partners and local actors, as tomorrow’s entrepreneurs are today’s students; distributing publications and reference lectures for training on Copernicus data and information use, under a public license; strengthening the synergies and cooperation by sharing knowledge building, best practices and Copernicus-related research and applications; helping developed innovations to hit the market as quickly as possible; establishing dedicated vocational training and thesis scholarships in cooperative arrangements between universities and/or public institutions supporting career training and private business actors, in close collaboration with the educational sector-skills alliance activities;

- Building up a knowledge culture and a strategic think-thank around the benefits of the Copernicus programme and its potential for both public services needs and societal challenges; Taking advantage of the synergic actions identified and communicated by the Copernicus Support Office and by the members themselves in order to established best practices such as clustering EU funding for tailored interdisciplinary education programmes between different faculties (engineering, geography and economics) and/or more than one university with the inherent cooperation and participation of industry, associations, incubators, financial institutions and public actors; inter-university exchanges of human resources;

- Developing a synergic relation with the Copernicus Relays Network and other key networks through the coordination of the Commission, in particular with the ESA Education Office, the ESA Space Solutions, the Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs) and other relevant actors; thereby contributing to the development of the ecosystem that the Commission is building around Copernicus and space data overall with a focus on the match with the market needs and the economic dimension (spin-offs development, etc.).

The Copernicus Academy hub will stimulate the uptake and evolution of information services derived from space and in-situ data. At the forefront of invention is solid research funnelled by relevant academic programs. This is the crossroad where long-term skills development efforts and orientation during primary and secondary education meet. Ascertaining the best possible synergy, the activities will be embedded in larger educational and strategic programmes and aligned with the Erasmus+ skills development project EO4GEO (www.eo4geo.eu, “empowering space data users”) for the space-geo-information sector. Also, synergies are drawn with the new Erasmus+ Joint European Degree Copernicus Master in Digital Earth (https://cde.sbg.ac.at/).

Copernicus has a global dimension and supports the international cooperation strategy of the European Union. Meanwhile, a growing number of Academy partners represent Latin-American and Africa (see figure 1). Arrangements for cooperation are concluded with countries outside of Europe to enlarge the use and improvement of Copernicus data and information. The cooperation programme GMES & Africa between the African Union (AU) and the European Union has the objective to establish satellite-based information services for the African continent provided by African institutions – strongly supported by Copernicus. CopHub.AC will also prepare the ground for international cooperation in support of the European space sector in the global context, extending the capacity beyond European borders and, by doing so, also advancing the Global Earth Observation Systems of Systems (GEOSS).


Figure 1: Current state of Copernicus Academy members (focus on Europe, light blue symbols represents specific EO expertise, light green indicates specific GI expertise, red shows an educational focus, white represents sites with no specific area of expertise indicated so far)

Measures to sustain the Academy within the Copernicus ecosystem

The Copernicus Academy ecosystem has been growing steadily over the last few years. To make its impact for the evolution of the Copernicus services and their uptake felt, the distributed research capacities needs to be well orchestrated and documented. CopHub.AC intends to demonstrate new technical and procedural measures to increase this impact (see figure 2). The actors in the Copernicus ecosystem can best perform if they recognize the shared value at the intersection of individual or institutional and network-wide performance. The members’ wealth of capacities and knowledge need to be exploited (a) to facilitate the search for capacity and expertise by location/thematic area/key types of activities, (b) to recognize/explore synergies, and © to open the Academy for the general public – civil society, authorities, industry and research organisations which are not members of the Academy. The CopHub.AC’s Gateway – the searchable inventory of the Academy – facilitates sharing knowledge, education experiences, and best practices between the members. The CopHub.AC’s Research Briefs (2.0) provide the highlights of Copernicus-related research outputs including research context (research centre, location), application field, methodology used, key results and the innovative impact to enable the fast-track to innovation. Links will be established to the emerging EO/GI Body of Knowledge (as an development within EO4GEO) with respect to concepts and methods being used and the evolving EARSC thematic taxonomy in terms of the applications and (potential) users / usages. The thematic working groups within the hub have a moderating function, to monitor thematic fields and to advise. We also intend working groups on transversal topics (tertiary education material, primary and secondary education material) and new emerging themes (e.g. health, energy).

To illustrate the distributed capacities within the Academy, CopHub.AC develops a Knowledge Landscape for navigation and effective access to the wealth of inventive research undertaken by the members. Built on the contribution through the gateway and research briefs, not only the collaboration within the ecosystem is animated and strengthened, but – adhering to the very function of an ‘academy’ – the interactive landscape also opens the door for non-scientists to be informed about the benefits of space-derived information. The CopHub4Citizen App makes the knowledge landscape and the research capacitites accessible for the interested public. We intend to ‘translate’ the research briefs into youth- or publicly understandable terms.


Figure 2: Measures taken by CopHub.AC to strengthen and sustain the Copernicus Academy

Finally, the two networks within the Copernicus ecosystem, the Academy and the Relays network, need to be well integrated and their activities synchronized. Therefore, two hub projects, CopHub.AC and its partner project CoRDiNet, have established close communication channels and coordinate their activities via a joint action plan. The measures described above will strengthen start-up/spin-off developments by supporting initiatives such as incubators and accelerators programmes by ESA and the Commission. Together with the Relays network, SMEs and young entrepreneurs will be animated, facilitated and supported to take part in competitions, such as the Copernicus Masters.
20+ years after the Baveno Manifesto (1998), Copernicus – Europe’s eyes on Earth – provides operational information services developed and constantly evolved by the effort of European researchers. This huge investment in terms of resources and brains deserves to be made known – not only to the research community but equally though to society at large. The need for education and skills development of the young generation for uptake of space data and their use to the benefit of the society, to make the space sector the strategically important tool, as foreseen by the Juncker Plan, including a deeper and fairer internal market with a strengthened industrial base for jobs, growth and investment in space and all industries building on satellite services.