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Emmanuel Pajot

EARSC Secretary General

Welcome to the first eoMAG of 2023!

In these last days of January, I wish you all a happy and healthy new year. The President of the European Commission, Ms von der Leyen defined 2023 as the European year of skills. Skills are a critical topic for companies, and the whole sector, to integrate new approaches to develop new capabilities. 2023 will also be the year of Security & Defense with potential dual use of assets, as mentioned several times at the Space Policy conference in Brussels this week. But let's not look too fast at the future and take time to appreciate the Earth Observation Downstream Industry's dynamism in the last quarter of 2022.

Launched one year ago, the Green Deal Working Group has been very active, producing numerous content and interacting with stakeholders to better promote EO's role in supporting future regulations. In September, the European Parliament accepted the amendments proposed by EARSC, and in December, the European Council voted on a new law to fight global deforestation and forest degradation. This law will require certification based on satellite imagery and GPS coordinates for commodities such as palm oil, cocoa, coffee, beef, and rubber to ensure their origin can be accurately determined.

In October, the European Commission launched a new scheme to enrich the Copernicus Contributing missions, the Dynamic Purchasing System (DPS). EARSC advocated for such an anchor tenant mechanism to benefit new EU data actors and service providers/users.   

The ESA Council at the Ministerial level (CM22) took place end of November with a budget increase of 17%. ESA will implement specific actions to strengthen Europe's commercial EO Sector, including a dedicated program to prepare the integration of future sentinel capabilities.

No doubt, 2023 will be intense for the Earth Observation Industry. It is crucial to provide an accurate picture of the state and health of our Industry to allow stakeholders to design proper support. The EARSC Industry survey is a key tool for this purpose. If you are a European private company, complete the survey and support its wide distribution!

Happy new year, and I hope to see you in person soon!

As we start the new decade, a number of topics are stimulating the discussions in the space community and in Brussels. One of the first events of each year is the space policy conference in Brussels; this years’ is the 12th. One word is dominating the sessions’: defence. I noted last year that this topic was rapidly rising up the European Union agenda. This year it is not just spoken but is also written into titles of sessions and the topics from many speakers. It is of course reflected in the new Commission organisation which for the very first time has a Directorate-General (equivalent to a ministry) with space in the title and with defence as well.

The new DG-DEFIS, for Defence Industry and Space, is just taking shape. The director-general is Timo Pesonen (Finnish) working under the Commissioner for the Internal Market, Thierry Breton. Changes to the organigramme have been announced and the set-up starts to take shape. The change has certainly led to a hiatus, to a period with a lot of uncertainty. This should all be dissipated as the new structure finds its feet.

The other major topic of the conference reflects a priority for the new Commission, the Green Deal. Space and Earth Observation will be a significant contributor to implementing the Green Deal and we shall devote a lot of effort to ensure that the contribution that EO services can make is recognised and integrated wherever needed. We are working on a new position paper looking at the next phase of Copernicus and I am sure this will feature quite strongly even if, at the moment, space does not feature strongly in the Green Deal documents.

Just before the Christmas, the ESA ministerial held in Seville, led to a record budget for ESA voted by its member states. The support for ESA investment into the Copernicus programme through the development of new Sentinel satellites was over-subscribed indicating very good support from Member States for Copernicus as well as the overall space programme. Hence it was a surprise when the EU council voted to reduce the budget for the space programme under the next Financial Framework.

For those less familiar with the set-up in Europe, the ESA budget will pay for the technology development of new satellites and sensors, whilst the EU budget pays for the operational spacecraft, part of the ground segment, data from the contributing missions and the services. Everyone has been taken by surprise by the unexpected decision to cut the EU budget by 20% but we shall follow the evolution very closely and intervene where we can put the arguments why this budget should be restored to its full level.

EARSC has also started the year well. The Board of Directors met on 22nd/23rd which included meetings with 3 important guests. Carlo Des Dorides who heads up the GSA (Global GNSS satellite systems Agency) which will become the EU Space Programmes Agency on 1st January 2021, spoke about how the agency will evolve to embrace some responsibility for the market develop for Copernicus and the positive relationship he sees with EARSC in the future. Josef Aschbacher, Director of Earth Observations at ESA spoke about his plans following the very successful ESA Ministerial, whilst Philippe Brunet, Principal advisor at DG International Development explained his new role and what it could mean.

I write this before the Chinese new year and so it leaves me open to wish everyone a Happy, healthy and successful 2020 and I hope to see many of you in various events throughout the year (you can follow on this blog and our website).

I am really pleased to let you know that we have just completed and published our latest survey into the state and health of the European EO industry. It is our 4th survey which, up to now, has been conducted every 2 years. It is really interesting to do; although a large effort and quite a challenge! Each time, the results are eagerly awaited and sought after. Published in 2019, the data refers to companies performance figures in 2018.

This time around we have adapted our methodology. We did this for two reasons:

  • Firstly, to focus on the European market, we have not sought or included data coming from Canadian companies. There is already an annual survey, conducted in Canada by the space agency, which provides data on the space sector and, although less detailed on the EO downstream sector, does allow some comparative figures to be extracted.
  • Secondly, to prepare ourselves for the possibility to introduce a 2nd survey which will overlap our base survey every other year. This will lead to the publication of a survey each year where, whilst we do not expect the core data to change dramatically, it could help identify trends more quickly. But, more importantly, a second survey will enable us to gather data on new factors and indicators in the market.

Consequently, for this most recent survey, we have undertaken direct research on the over 500 companies in our database. For each one, we have looked at the relevant, national database for public information. This has been complemented by additional information coming from a commercial, company database. One of the advantages of this approach has been to allow us to tidy up our database by recognising where companies no longer exist. It is not easy to find new companies, but it is even harder to know when a company disappears!! They might have been acquired, they may have gone bankrupt or maybe have just changed names. With direct research, this is possible and provides us with better information on the creation rate of companies.

So, what are the key findings?

Perhaps the most important is the growth rate in the sector. Looking at all the three main parameters, the growth rate is around, or even over, 10%. Hence the growth in the sector is sustained and confirmed. Looking at the 3 key parameters:

  • The number of companies in Europe is found to be 515. With our new methodology this is almost certainly an under-estimate, but we prefer this to adding an uncertain percentage to our base figures. We believe that the discrepancy is not high and is less than 5%. The growth rate in the number of companies is 6% but this ignores the companies which have disappeared. Taking these into account, the creation rate of companies is running at around 12% per annum. We shall be able to refine this figure when we next complete the survey.
  • The number of employees is just under 8,400. These persons are employed in companies which are doing business in EO services (data or value-added) and does not include those employed within other companies to service that companies business needs ie in-sourcing; for example, those in some companies in the oil and gas sector. The employment in “Internal Service Departments” is a topic which we should dearly like to investigate.
  • The total revenues in the sector, in 2018, was €1.24b. This has grown at 10.6% per annum, from a level of just over €1b, since the previous survey. These numbers exclude Canada and are adjusted to account for the impact of one large contract known as WorldDem.

In markets, we find a growth in the part of the market linked to security, which is presumably driven largely by defence-related work. Even more important is the share of the market which is driven by the public sector. The sector revenues coming from governmental sources has stayed relatively stable at 65% for all 4 of the surveys which we have conducted. This includes R&D funding of around 14% and revenues coming from government-as-a-customer of around 50% - 51% in 2018. That this share remains relatively stable, demonstrates the importance of EO services for the public decision makers.

But even this understates the impact on the market as a part of the 14% R&D spend is made to improve the services which the public sector can procure; for example, research to improve the core Copernicus Services. If we conclude that 1/3rd of the R&D investment is there to support the public mission (with 2/3rds dedicated to supporting an industry mission), then 56% of the sector revenues are being driven by government-as-a-customer and 9% for industrial sponsorship.

These findings are extremely important, as I emphasised in a meeting with the Luxembourg parliament last week. Governments are being asked to invest €5.8b in the next phase of Copernicus from 2021 to 2028. Only around 20% of this will go on the services. But this is an investment of around €800m per annum which is supporting the generation of those services necessary for the government mission. It is a heavy investment in space assets; but is fully justified by the government role. Alongside this, by procuring services from the industry, the government investment can be made to yield double the results by enabling companies to do business in a market sector growing at 10% per annum; further justifying the public budget. We consider that a further programme of work should be considered (maybe by ESA Member States?), as was indeed the case during the preparations for GMES, to help prepare the services which shall be made possible from the new Copernicus missions.

There are a number of important findings from the industry survey, but few are as important as the numbers underpinning the message above. To find out more, download the full survey here.

We have just finished 2 quite exhausting but very rewarding weeks covering 2 major conferences and a host of other events. I wrote on my blog about our 30th birthday celebrations. These took place on the 21st of June during our annual cocktail where we presented 4 awards for the winners of the product of the year (EARS for their Agriculture Index Insurance), partnership of the year (Orbital EO Solutions, Sea Pulse, Valencia University and GoHub), the start up of the year (Maptailor) and of course the company of the year (Planet Labs Germany). The last are the 6th winner of the award and the base starts to get crowded with all the winner’s plaques! Congratulations to all.

The cocktail was one of the highlights of our ExpandEO event lasting two days. Another highlight was the round table during the small company forum. We had the founders of three companies talking about their experiences in starting up and passing lessons on to all the new entrepreneurs around the table. Founders of companies formed in the 1980’s (Rupert Hayden of GAF), 1990’s (Giovanni Sylos Labini of Planetek) and 2000’s (Will Marshall of Planet Labs) gave interesting and contrasting narratives. We regretted only having one hour as the discussion could easily have gone on for twice as long.

The final highlight I wish to expose was the 2nd day conference which we called “A Day with EO”. It was a special event with 15 speakers during the day talking about how the organisations which they represented are using EO products and services. The story of a day with EO told how the ever-curious Little Prince, having moved from his old home on asteroid B612 to the Earth, learned how EO was helping improve his daily life and that of citizens around the world. You can find the illustrated story on our web-site.

The second major workshop took place in Frascati over 3 days. Hosted by ESRIN, it was organised by ESA, USGS, NOAA, EC, Fourbridges and EARSC on the subject of how to improve the measurement of the Value of EO. Around 60 experts from around the world and covering several important disciplines gathered to exchange views on how to develop clearer, stronger and credible messages for policy makers and citizens about the value of the investments being made in EO technologies. A series of round tables discussed the stakeholders’ needs, the experiences from other domains and then the value coming in 5 different areas; socio-economic, environmental, regulatory, innovation and entrepreneurship and scientific advances. A large number of cases were exposed from many speakers and covering many countries and several continents.

From EARSC perspective, it gave us an opportunity to highlight achievements from the SeBS project where the 10 case studies now completed were used to illustrate benefits in each of those 5 areas. It gave us the opportunity to compare and contrast the methodology which we use with that of others and also to identify a number of areas where improvements can be made. We anticipate that the GeoValue community, which formed the heart of those attending can be extended to improve these benefits analyses and to provide better evidence for policy makers.

The scope of the activity was explored. At previous workshops, the focus has been on SeBS like cases including different approaches from the different players. In this workshop we also started to look at other types of analyses mostly linked to or stimulated by the 5 themes. So as an example, the innovation and entrepreneurship theme had led to a dedicated analysis by EARSC into start-ups but also stimulated comments from Canada, Australia and South Africa about the industrial landscape. So it is possible that more knowledge can be exchanged on survey methodologies which could be extremely helpful to enable comparisons at the global level.

A side-event is planned for the GEO plenary in Canberra, to report on the findings of the workshop, to discuss evolution of the common effort and to encourage others to join GeoValue which is now also a part of the GEO work-programme. We shall be pleased if you can join us.

Editiorial by Geoff Sawyer - Secretary General of EARSC

I am really pleased and proud to say that EARSC was awarded bronze place as the European Association of the year in the category for under 30 employees. This achievement is made even greater when we consider that we were entered in the category of “Association with less than 10 employees”, but mysteriously, the category was changed during the evaluations and we were beaten by two Associations with around 20 employees each. So really we are the golden European Association of the year (with under 10 employees)!

This achievement was based upon the change in business model of EARSC and the way we are able to offer more and better services to members as a result of winning a number of key projects. I mentioned 2 of these key projects in my last editorial in January which support the delivery of a new service from EARSC called “Research to Business”. These are now awarded and so I can tell you that they are eShape and PARSEC and both are aimed at supporting very young or formative companies to develop their business ideas.

The project eShape was previously called EuroGEOSS Showcases and has the goal to develop the European contribution to GEOSS. It is a large project with 55 partners and good luck to the co-ordinator (Armines) who have the heavy task to keep us all in line! The EARSC role as a work-package leader is focused on the market side and to help promote the 27 pilot showcases to European and International policy makers and to commercial business sectors. With our good partner Evenflow, we shall also put together a sustainability booster to give guidance to the pilots meeting needs for market, legal, financial or technical information and resources to develop the business concept.

We have also secured some funds to keep in reserve to “on-board” new pilots during the project. This is part of the planning to make the venture sustainable and to avoid starting the project with the 27 pilots and ending 4 years later with the same 27 pilots. At annual intervals, new proposals will be reviewed and a number will be selected to be brought into the project under the sustainability booster. It will be a challenge to manage and we look forward to getting going in early May.

We shall be co-ordinating the project PARSEC which hopefully will be more manageable with only 10 partners. Here the goal is even more direct and €2.5m - 50% of the budget - will be awarded to business ideas coming through a 2 stage filter. In the first round, 100 researchers or entrepreneurs will each receive €10k to take their idea further. The 100 will be selected by peer voting ie all the applicants (up to 300) will all vote on each others’ ideas with the top 100 going through to the second stage.

In the second round, the 100 winners will be supported with legal, technical and market advice and encouraged to team up with others with complementary capabilities. They will compete for 15 awards of €100k to develop their business idea. Further support measures will be available in the form of data and technical resources and it would be fantastic if all 15 businesses were to make it successfully to market.

These two projects are foundations of the programme which I refer to as “research to business”. We plan to guide the (young?) entrepreneurs along the path to success drawing upon the EO services ecosystem comprising the community managed by EARSC. I shall be happy to answer any questions about how to access either of these programmes and more news will follow as we start to organise webinars and workshops to promote these great opportunities.

2018 has been another year of strong progress for the Association. In 2018 we have grown from 5 persons to 8 and are now looking for 2 more to join us. I emphasise that this has not been our goal – it is absolutely not our goal to grow; our goal is to do more for our members. To do this we pursue a mixed business model relying about 20% on membership fees and 80% on projects.

All the projects are aimed at supporting companies in the sector – our membership – and we shall not take on work which does not reflect this aim.
The volume of project work is increasing but so is our membership and for the moment we maintain this 20:80 ratio business model. It is very important that we maintain our membership-based model and this is a fundamental philosophy of EARSC now and in the future. It also means that we shall not compete with our members for work. The activity of an Association is quite distinct from those of the companies active in the sector. We aim to provide excellence to those companies providing geospatial services which form the Association and so far, I consider that we have been successful in that goal.

We are very excited about what we can do as a result of two new projects. But before talking about them, I want to turn to 2 other EARSC existing projects. The first is our biennial industry survey which was launched for the 4th time just before the end of last year. It is extremely important that we are able to gather statistics on the industry. The figures are much awaited by the policy makers who decide the activities and budgets for our sector. This year will be studied for the impact of the Copernicus programme on the sector. We see many new companies being formed and now we need to put some numbers behind the growth. If you are employed by a company then please take the few minutes it will take to complete at the least first part of the survey.
Then I am pleased to announce that eoMALL has gone live. The beta version was released a few days ago. This is another important project to create a marketplace for the EO services industry. Along with eoPages, eoMALL will be promoted as THE place to go to find the service to meet your needs. Please visit the site; provide us with some feedback and watch as more services and features are introduced through 2019.
Then, in the last 3 weeks of 2018, we have had news of 2 highly important wins of EC H2020 grants. One we are leading and in the second one, we are a leading partner in the team.

Both are now subject to grant negotiation so I shall not say more about them for now. One comes under the umbrella of Innovation Support where the EC are encouraging cross-sectorial innovation. We believe that we have a very exciting and innovative concept that should help over 100 companies directly to make better use of EO and especially Copernicus data.

The second will increase our market outreach activity where we look to promote the sector and its capabilities. Both are quite large and should enable us to make a strong impact.

Overall, I refer to these 2 activities as fulfilling a theme of “from research to business” with the goal to help as many of the pilots as possible to become business ventures. The two projects are very complementary and should re-enforce each other as well as our major initiative called eoMALL (which will go live very shortly). Both projects should start in the 2nd quarter and you will hear more about them in due course.

We all know the buzz of excitement at the kick-off meeting of a new project and maybe the feeling of satisfaction as it ends and we celebrate a successful outcome. H2020 research projects are no exception, except that the end may also provoke feelings of regret that the team with which we have worked so hard over a period of months or years will disband.

So many research projects seem to end this way, maybe with excellent results but with no plan or prospect for those results to be exploited by business. I have no idea of the statistics, but I am sure that the exploitation rate of the results of projects is rather low. I am hearing more and more examples where project teams, including users, regret being unable to continue as the project ends and a gap is foreseen before new funds may allow continued work. It is a problem with users who have become accustomed to having free access to services which then disappear.

For industry it is very frustrating to face heavy competition for funds at the outset knowing that the chances of success are maybe weak whilst research groups from universities and institutes are far more successful. And this in the knowledge that it is highly unlikely that the results will enable new products or services to be brought to market.

At EARSC we are trying to set up a process to help business to bring the results of research to commercial realisation; from research to business. This will comprise of expert support to researchers and innovators from whatever background, to access the best support for the stage of maturity which they have reached. We introduce the concept of an Exploitation Readiness Level (ERL) which reflects this level of maturity.

We seek to ensure access to expert advice on markets, on legal issues, on technical issues or on finance. Many sources of support for each of these exist and so we plan to link to as many as possible and to connect innovators to experts who are able to support them with the advice that they need. Are they missing a key technology? We have a large database of companies which may be able to help? Do they need a market assessment for the product or service which they are working on? We have the expertise to undertake this assessment and/or the resources to engage with an expert in the domain.

Depending on their situation, they may seek project funds, they may need loans, they may need equity finance. Again, we can connect with many potential sources and are aware of different funding agencies and programmes which may be suitable for the innovator. The ERL will be the guide for the type and degree of resource which is required.
In short, we seek to make our expertise and that of our network available for those seeking to bring new ideas to market.

Now we also wish to deploy this paradigm in projects so that rather than being static, they will develop and evolve during their lifetime. We may not need to be part of a project ourselves, but we should be able to introduce new ideas coming from partnerships which will allow the project to also benefit from the approach. A favourite project style at the moment is to have a number of pilot projects which are supported by a project team. This is great; but the project starts with x pilots and ends with x pilots or maybe less. What if we can help introduce new pilots to the project so that it is developing? It is in effect growing as it progresses. This helps the project to develop ideas which have a better chance of generating new commercial products and services.

We hope to start work on this next year. Ironically, since we also need funding, it depends on the success of a proposal. But as there was only one proposal with a very strong team behind it we are quite optimistic. Once we start, we shall of course communicate further on our progress and I really hope that we can be successful to support many new businesses, or old business with new ideas, to develop their commercial success. From Research to Business.

Last month, I attended the 20th anniversary of the Baveno meeting which established the GMES programme which has now become Copernicus. The Baveno Manifesto was a landmark document put together by representatives of Europe’s space agencies under the guidance of the European Commission.

EARSC was there represented by our then chairman Claes Goren Borg. It was great meeting up with so many friends (I shall not say old friends!) who were also there in 1998 and especially comparing notes on our respective perspectives of what happened 20 years ago. For more details on this moment of history see my latest blogpost.

The Baveno celebrations preceded our annual meeting which, as always, is held in Brussels in June. We are very pleased to welcome 4 new directors who were elected to the board of EARSC; Agnieszka Lukaszyzck (Planet), Pierre-Alain Bosc (Airbus), Marc Tondriaux (Terrannis) and Maciej Kryzanowski (Cloudferro). Florin Serban (Terrasigna) and Didier Azoulay (Geo4i) were the 2 unlucky candidates who lost-out but we really appreciate their interest to stand and hope that they may consider to stand again for future election (which takes place every 12 months).

The evening before the AGM is always (for the last 4 years!) the occasion for members, policy makers and other stakeholders to mingle and meet at the EARSC cocktail. It is also where the winners of the EARSC awards are announced. This year the winner of the company of the year was Sinergise and the winner of the product of the year was Dust Frequency Maps produced by Silex Clouds. We should also like to acknowledge and thank our sponsors for this event; Planet (gold sponsor), Planetek, Spacetec Partners and Terrasigna (all silver sponsors).

The AGM was preceded by a workshop where we explored the DIAS which were launched the previous week in Baveno. 4 of the 5 team leaders – Airbus (Sobloo), ATOS (Mundo), Creotech (CreoDIAS) and Serco (Onda) – presented their DIAS capabilities and invited companies to test and use their services. We also provided an update on eoMALL which is making good progress even if a little slower than I should like. Three software development companies were given 3 months to present us their ideas through eoMALL prototypes. This has led us to select one winner which as I write is being contracted to develop the full version. We plan to go live at the end of August.

After the AGM, we held a strategic workshop where we asked the industry to discuss their views on where the sector is heading and how they would like to see the Copernicus programme evolve to help them meet this future. We introduced a format where for 6 sessions, a keynote speaker presented some ideas which was followed by a moderated debate around a framing question. The audience were asked to respond to questions in real time through an app; these responses were shown live on the screen as they voted.

The format worked very well and we shall use it again in the future. The outcome was excellent and a report on the “proceedings” will be published over the summer. It will also lead us to develop a position paper in response to the EC’s newly published proposal for an EU Space Programme. I congratulate the EC on a very well formulated document which covers Galileo, Copernicus and GovSatCom as well as reflecting aspirations in space surveillance and space exploration. We mostly agree with the ideas expressed so our position paper could be quite short! However, we shall also use it to present extended views on the evolution of the Copernicus Programme which will lengthen it.

Finally, I would just like to report that in May, we were very pleased to finalise and sign an agreement with EuroChile. This is the 4th formal agreement which we have signed to strengthen our internationalisation efforts. This has become a very important part of the work we are doing and which we hope to expand further once we are back to full complement. Which leads me to a final, final word as the 21st June was the day when a key person working for EARSC (they are all key!) gave birth to her first daughter. So, in 2038 she will be 20 years old and I am sure that if Natassa has anything to do with it, Artemis will be a true space girl maybe celebrating at the 40th anniversary of the Baveno Manifesto. Who knows?

Already this year, we have signed two international agreements – with AGI in India and CRCSI in Australia. I reported on the first in my last editorial in January. The second was concluded during a trade mission to Australia we organised with CRCSI at the beginning of March. The mission was timed to coincide with the visit of Commissioner Elzbieta Bienkowska who is responsible for DG GROW and the Copernicus programme. The mission involved 7 European companies, and over 60 Australian companies attended the three workshops in Brisbane, Canberra and Sydney. In Canberra, I joined a panel discussion held in the presence of Commissioner Bienkowska regarding co-operation between Europe and Australia in the field of EO services including Copernicus. More information on the mission can be found here

These two agreements are both evidence of our determination to develop international links and to provide support to member companies looking to develop international business. As part of an EASME project called IDEEO, we are currently working with 2 cluster partners, Pole Mer Bretagne in France and Cluster Lucano di Bioeconomia in Italy to define a strategy which combines EO services with other sectors ie agriculture and off-shore energy. As well as the fact finding visit to Australia, we have also just visited Chile (for a second time) and other visits are planned including to Egypt later this year to join the bi-annual AARSE conference. More information on IDEEO can be found here.

In this time, we have also found 3 new colleagues! Marion Bouvet has replaced Ariane Dubost who after having her baby last year has decided to relocate back to France. I really do wish her all the best and thank her for her excellent work whilst with EARSC. Then Chris Oligschlager has joined us in a role as junior analyst. Our analytical work is increasing associated with various projects and this will be an important role and activity for us in the future. Finally, we have found a new senior project manager who will be joining us in June.

All this means that, whilst one year ago we were just 3 people working out of my dining room, EARSC will shortly be 7 people working out of an office. Some transition for a small trade association!

But it does mean that we can do more for the industry and our members? The industry is going through a significant change to the environment in which companies are operating and we are constantly monitoring to determine what we can do to help to adapt. We move forward with eoMALL which will become live in June as well as developing the international aspects of our work.

We have also just published our latest report into the benefits generated through the use of Copernicus Sentinel data. The focus is on agriculture in Denmark and it is fascinating to see how rapidly this part of the sector is growing. We selected a single product, Fieldsense, in Denmark but there are many others which we could have chosen for the study. Nevertheless, it shows the enormous potential for savings in the agriculture sector through the use of EO data and the variety of companies entering the business and their different business models will also be the subject of future studies which we hope to do. You can find the case report here.

Our next event is in Sofia on 17th April along with a workshop organised under the Bulgarian presidency of the EU on 18th and 19th. If you are there, be sure to look us up!

by Geoff Sawyer

I recently attended the Geospatial World Forum (GWF) in Hyderabad. During that time I met many new people and had many illuminating conversations. The highlight of the week for us was the signing of an MoU between EARSC and the Association of Geospatial Industries for India (AGI). We are extremely pleased and proud to have the opportunity to work more closely with AGI and the companies which are their members. It represents a great achievement in our internationalisation strategy where we seek to help our members find new partners to develop business together. The agreement which was brokered by our good friend Sanjay Kumar, was signed by each secretary general of the respective associations. We were joined by members from both associations who witnessed the occasion.

Whilst in Hyderabad, I participated to the GeoBuiz summit which is the pre-event to the GWF. Here business leaders came together to discuss the geo-inspired 4th industrial revolution (GEO4IR). In our panel we addressed the changes taking place in the space sector which are certainly no less significant than those taking place elsewhere. Satellites and space-based observations have a crucial role to play in the evolution of the geospatial business and the shift to on-line services will transform many business models.

I carried this theme also into the AI and IoT summit. Firstly, I observed that the promotional video showed images of farm vehicles, homes, cities, cars and many other sensor platforms but not satellites! There are now thousands of satellites generating data and offering connectivity both for other sensors but also between them; satellites are definitely an integral part of the Internet of Things. Laser links, new sensors, on-board processing are all changing the way satellites work and communicate together. Meanwhile, on the ground, new digital technology based on big data, cloud processing, machine learning and blockchain offer new services.

The traditional EO services businesses based on consultancy business models (one product-one client), risk to become replaced by those offering one service to many clients. How will this shake up the value chain will be interesting to see. Will the VA companies establish their own niche? Will they get absorbed in the upstream sector? Will the large digital players become dominant or will we see even further integration with more traditional sector-leading companies increase their span of operations with their existing customers.

It is clear that the next few years will be extremely exciting; a view expressed throughout the GeoBuiz summit! For the many new start-ups and existing value-added companies there will be some fantastic opportunities. The move towards services is getting stronger and it is clear that many are now positioning to take advantage of this trend.

In this context, EARSC is seeking to support the sector meet this revolution. We have created a Marketplace Alliance for EO Services (MAEOS) comprising many of the EARSC members (currently 100 companies throughout Europe). This group will participate to the key project eoMALL which will create a web platform to promote earth observation on-line services. We are moving ahead with this and have just passed another milestone where contracts have been placed with 3 companies to develop a prototype platform. After 3 months, one of the companies will be selected to continue with the main development activity and their prototype will become the beta release of the eoMALL. I shall be able to report on this in the next eomag.

Geoff Sawyer
EARSC Secretary General