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EARSC Offers more to its Members!

The last few weeks have been highly significant in the development of the EARSC. On 13th March, we moved into an office for the first time in our 27 year history!! It became a necessity due to the second major change – all in the same week – where we have recruited 2 new persons to work for EARSC so that we are now 5 in total. Emmanuel Pajot and Natassa Antoniou have joined us to drive our programmes on the Marketplace Alliance and a much stronger Market Development programme. We are very pleased to add their skills to those of Mónica, Ariane and myself and to deliver even more value for our members.

I am often asked about what EARSC offers for a company considering to become a member. The answer is that it depends on the company and what they are searching for as different companies get different benefits from being members of the Association.

Each company benefits from different parts of our programme to which they all have equal access.

In the first place, some companies join EARSC for the networking opportunities which we can offer. The chance to meet other companies and potential partners through various meetings and events. For small enterprises and start-ups this can be as valuable as it is for larger companies. It gives them opportunities to partner for proposals or to exchange information related to their products or their national bases.

Some companies place great value on the intelligence information which they have access to. On one level, we are often asked to promote news of events, tenders, surveys etc by both public stakeholders (EC and ESA), other associations or networks (Eurogi, Eurisy, Nereus) and projects whether we are part of them or not (linked to H2020, ESA, GEO, etc). On a deeper level, we provide a monthly report to all members which contains news of the Association but also much news about the sector. Members also have access to a collated Business Intelligence service which we call eoSCAN. It is part of the member’s portal which offers intelligence on the EO market.

One specific service which we hope to develop further is news on tenders and bid opportunities. As soon as we are notified or become aware of any such opportunities, we post this into the dedicated portal area. If as an organisation procuring EO products reading this you wish to spread news of any tender you release, then just let us know and we shall promote it to our members through the Portal.

Members also benefit from being part of the network which we promote. We are at many meetings and conferences where we present the Association and, with the EARSC brand identity getting wider recognition, members are recognised as being part of EARSC which can lead to opportunities in many different ways.

Which brings me to eoPAGES and our certification scheme. The former is a brokerage site where companies can promote the services which they offer. It enables customers for bespoke services find suppliers which can meet their needs. In the future, we shall be developing the eoMALL which will offer the same service for on-line services. Either can also help companies find partners for projects and you will find a database of African companies in Africa eoPages

The certification scheme provides an effective way for companies to achieve a recognised level of their management processes. It can be used to achieve ISO9001 certification or an EARSC certification if they do not wish to invest in full ISO.

Finally, as mentioned earlier, we have a growing activity devoted to market development. This covers both commercial sectors and exports. We already have some agreements with companies or Associations in Japan, Africa and Latin America and we shall extend this shortly. We plan to organise presence and stands at international workshops, conferences and trade shows as well as B2B events. Our next event is in 3 weeks’ time in Pretoria during the ISRSE2017 and we are looking at other possibilities later in the year. This activity we expect to grow significantly in the coming years.

Any European company offering EO services can be a full member of the Association whilst any other organisation can be an observer. Come and join us!

Geoff Sawyer
EARSC Secretary General

This editorial concerns the changing market and the way in which companies can react to it. But firstly, as we are using data coming from our industry survey a reminder to all EO services companies in Europe that the most recent survey has been launched and we really need your response. The survey is extremely important to inform the European decision makers and support their policy decisions which support the industry. If you have not already completed it, please do so and if you need any more information, contact the EARSC secretariat

Various market studies have been published which show a growing market for EO services and that support the conclusions which we draw from our own surveys. But this simple headline disguises the changes which are taking place in the structure of this market. Today, around 65% of the revenues of the companies in Europe come from public sector sources; governments. This is unsurprising given the public role and the background of the technology coming from military and defence interests.

But the expected growth is also expected to come from other types of customer even if the public sector will remain a very significant part of the market. Commercial and even consumer markets (B2B and B2C in the jargon) are growing and should continue to grow. A lot of this growth will be driven by more accessible products and services easily found and bought on-line. This contrasts with the market today which is largely for bespoke services where a product is made for a specific customer.

How important is this trend?
In our last industry survey (2015), we found a growth rate of around 10% in a market worth around €720m pa in Europe. The European market is commonly considered to be 1/3rd of the global market which means a total market of about €2.2b. This is in good correspondence with surveys published by Research and Markets and Euroconsult.

Our second survey conducted last summer finds that around 5% of the market today is for on-line services but that this will increase to over 25% in the next 5 years. This is a healthy 30%pa growth rate which seems to be worth positioning for and which is the rationale behind our initiative to create a Marketplace Alliance for EO Services (MAEOS).

MAEOS can only be possible if it is built upon an efficient and effective access to the raw data and information which is needed to produce the EO services. Happily the European Commission has recognised this reality and are investing to establish a new Copernicus Service; that for Data and Information Access (DIAS).

ESA will procure the DIAS on behalf of the EC. Bidders must show not only how it will fulfil the basic requirements to make the Copernicus data and information available on a wide basis but also how it proposes to ensure that the solution is sustainable. This requires that a credible business plan is put together for the products and services which can be built upon each DIAS. Leading to the key question of how much business can be developed around DIAS? Each bidder will need to enable the creation of an ecosystem of service providing companies. MAEOS will make a strong contribution by providing a single environment for potential customers to find the services. Nevertheless, the question remains as to how big this market will be and how will it evolve?

To address this question, we are organising a workshop in Brussels on 25th January where speakers will give their view on issues driving these trends. More information can be found here.

Finally I wanted also to draw attention to the recent MoU we recently signed with the Japanese industry represented by Japan Space Systems. We are very pleased to have the opportunity to help develop closer links between the Japanese and European industries and look forward to developing concrete steps to achieve this.

Geoff Sawyer
EARSC Secretary General

The market for EO data and services is changing rapidly. New satellites are launched seemingly each week, new sources of data become available and new processing technologies are making it ever easier to access this growing mountain of data. In response, services are moving from being a project based market to being on-line and available on subscription; Information as a Service is the term being used.
EARSC is planning to put in place some new mechanisms which should help the industry adjust to this new market.
Supported by ESA, EARSC is studying the possible conditions for establishing a Marketplace Alliance for EO Services (MAEOS).

The study started in June and should be completed in early 2017. Two documents have been published; a strawman architecture a stakeholder analysis (link). The latter follows an extensive consultation to which we received 140 responses to the on-line questionnaire with 107 of the responses being complete and independent.

The results show strong support for setting up a closer co-operation and helped enormously to clarify the complex landscape in which we are working. As a result, we are committed to setting up the MAEOS – to be studied further but most likely as a new grouping under EARSC – and also an EOMall. The latter will provide companies with a new way to do business in on-line services.

MAEOS will promote the capability and support market analysis as well as building on EARSC activities to establish links with other communities. Companies joining the EOMall will gather additional benefits as well as the big advantage of working in closer co-operation with other suppliers.

The outcome was presented to the EARSC board on 4th October which endorsed the results and confirmed that the industry should move immediately towards establishing the Marketplace Alliance as well as the EOMall – which could be a completely separate legal entity to EARSC. The result is that every company will be able to join the close collaboration in the EOMall, work in a lighter co-operation under MAEOS or stay outside both and operate independently.

The MAEOS study will be completed early next year with a meeting in January to present the options to companies in order that they can start to take decisions on the level of co-operation each one wishes to engage in. In the meantime, the interim results, including those from the stakeholder consultation analysis, will be presented on 25th October in Frascati. For more information please go here

More information can be found on our blog

June brings the EARSC annual general meeting which is the opportunity to meet and talk with many members of the Association.

Our chairman stepped down and Chetan Pradhan of CGI was elected as the new chair. I wish to express my personal thanks to Han Wensink for all the support he has given to me and to the Association over the last 7 years and wish him all the best with his many new ventures. Han will remain as a director and has the goal to extend and increase participation of SME’s. Giovanni Sylos from Planetek was elected as the new vice-chairman and two new directors – Andre Jadot of Eurosense and Massimo Comparini of E-Geos – were elected to the board

One of the highlights, as for the last two years, was the presentation of this years’ award to the EARSC EO Company of the year. Deimos Imaging are the third winner of this now well-appreciated recognition for a European company which has made a significant contribution to the development of the business in the previous 12 months.

This year also saw a new award going for the European EO Product of the year. The challenge was for the most innovative new product integrating any source of open data. The winner was Jeobrowser for Rocket: The Earth in your Pocket. For more information on both winners please see our web-site

We have just published the 3rd and final case in the series looking at the economic value generated by EO products. After Winter Navigation in the Baltic and Forestry Management in Sweden, Pipeline Infrastructure Monitoring in the Netherlands again show significant value being generated by the use of satellite imagery.

In this case, ground deformation is being measured using SAR interferometry. This allows pipeline management companies to learn where there is a risk of gas connections breaking where they enter the house. Consequently, they can manage their network more efficiently and make better use of their investment in maintenance to reduce risk. The application is quite recent and has not yet been extended to the whole of the Netherlands. Once it will be, we estimate a total benefit of between €15m and €18m will be achieved.

The study has shown some extraordinary results; much higher value than I expected to find at the outset. Each of the cases has left some questions open and it is likely that the value is under-estimated. I hope to continue this work to look at further cases but also to revisit these 3 to squeeze even more out of them! We have also published a video on all 3 cases which we hope can help all those interested in the use of satellite imagery to help make the case for investment. You can find the video here

Satellites benefiting citizens from EARSC on Vimeo.

Another completed activity was to support our colleagues in the African Association for Remote Sensing to gather information on the industry across the African continent. Please find the report on our web-site. It is the first such inventory, which should be repeated next year, and in future years giving a view of African industry. The survey uses the same basic methodology as our survey of the European industry which should allow for some interesting comparisons in the future.

At least for those of us in northern Europe, summer has arrived and I am certainly looking forward to a break. We have had a very intensive period of activity which looks set to continue for the rest of the year. I am starting to look for someone to join our small team and help relieve some of the strain!

To all of you for whom summer is also starting, have a great break and come back refreshed for the 2nd half of the year.

Geoff Sawyer

This month, I wish to focus on our communications and the tools which EARSC uses to inform and exchange with our members as well as other stakeholders.
But before launching into that subject I want to just draw your attention to our latest position paper referred to elsewhere in this magazine which considers the idea to establish a Marketplace Alliance for EO Services in Europe. We consider that the pace of development in the industry is leaving many small companies vulnerable to developments elsewhere and outside their control. The European Copernicus programme has the potential to help drive development and growth but much work needs to be done to open up the data and information coming from this programme in which €7b has already been invested. The EC has started to recognise industrial messages on this topic and hence we propose to establish a new form of Alliance to help companies individually and collectively to address new customers and markets which we see opening as a result of Copernicus and various technology changes. We refer to this as MAEOS – Marketplace Alliance for EO Services – which you should hear more about over the next few months.

Now, to our communication tools where we should start with this e-magazine. EOmag, was first published in April 2005 and we are now at our 45th edition. Each quarter, it is sent to over 2,500 people and opened and read by over 1500 of them. It provides a digest of all the important news of the EO sector and particularly that coming from our members, an interview with a key stakeholder and a feature of one of our members. We are considering to extend it and this month you will find for the first time a second interview featuring an important European project; GEO-CRADLE – which is just starting. In future editions we shall consider promoting other projects but it is always a delicate balance to keep a magazine like EOmag, focused and short enough for people to open it each time whilst including all the relevant news and information.

We are considering further changes including the possibility to go to 6 issues a year from the current 4. Your opinion and feedback would be welcome and I’ll return to this later on. But, whilst “EOmag:“http://www.eomag.eu may be an important communication tool, it is not the only one; so let me introduce you to a few of our others.

First and foremost is our web-site. This provides a calendar of EO events as well as news on what is happening in the world of Earth Observation. We are not a news publisher so we try to keep quite focused in order to not overwhelm our readers. Of most importance is news coming from our members. The web-site is also seen as an entry point to our other 2 main tools and to provide links to some of the services which we provide to both members and non-members. When you get a moment, take 2 minutes just to take a quick look around and again any feedback you can give us will be great.

Complementing our web-site is the EO Portal which offers both members and non-members access to different types of information. As mentioned, from our web-site you can link directly to some of the areas in the Portal dedicated to specific topics; research activities, bid opportunities, events coming up. Members naturally are able to access more services than non-members 😉

A key part of the Portal is dedicated to the EO Wiki which is an open resource providing information on EO products and applications. It is open but a log-in is required if you wish to contribute. We should like to encourage you to add information to the EO Wiki which has so far been developed by a few contributors. Take a look and have a go!

We also publish a dedicated e-magazine for our contacts in the oil and gas industry. Like eomag, the OGEOzine is published quarterly with news on what is new and relevant for the O&G sector. Started at the request of the EO sub-committee of the IOGP (International Oil & Gas Producers Association), the 13th edition of the e-magazine has just been published. It has a much more limited but quite motivated readership primarily by key people in the O&G industry.

The oil and gas sector also gets a dedicated area of our EO Portal. Known as EO4OG, it features a comprehensive analysis of the information needs of the sector for which EO data can provide a solution. This really is a quality resource; built on the back of an ESA project to provide a complete catalogue of products for the O&G sector, it contains 224 challenges, 94 products sheets and 19 case studies. A team is now going one step further to build a data broker which focuses on these challenges. We see the approach taken here as being a model for engagement with other sectors.

EO4OG receives over 2500 page views each month and this seems to be growing. This is also driving visits to the EO Wiki which is now getting nearly 8000 page views per month. We shall be trying to add content and variety and to keep these numbers growing. It should provide an excellent platform for delivering industry messages.

EARSC is also present on social media. LinkedIn and Twitter being the two main channels which we use.

Feedback? We should love to hear more from you. Please follow us and comment on Twitter. There is also a dedicated EO Forum in the “EO Portal:“http://earsc-portal.eu/ but we have not yet found the trick to making this dynamic. We recognise that there are many tools out there but for topics of dedicated interest we would love to see some exchange taking place. So maybe you could comment there? Maybe you can tell us what would help you address some concerns? We shall respond to any comments and actively promote messages where it can be important for the industry. In the end, we are only successful if you are successful!

Finally a quick word about EOpages. This is a key tool which enables potential clients to find providers of EO products. It will be a key part of the marketplace in the future where it is dedicated to consultancy and bespoke EO products which form over 90% of the VA market today. It will strongly complement the on-line services platform which we wish to encourage and enable and which we shall be studying over the next few months. It promises to be an exciting year!

Geoff Sawyer
EARSC Secretary General

In the last edition of eomag, I mentioned briefly a report we had just published looking at the economic benefit of satellite data. It was the first case we published in a series about “Satellites Benefitting Citizens”. In it we looked at the enormous return to the Finnish and Swedish economies coming from the use of satellite imagery by the icebreakers. We are about to publish the report on the second case which looks at the use of imagery to support Forest Management in Sweden – which also shows a strong benefit.

We are interested to take a new look at the benefits which satellite technology can bring to governments, businesses and ultimately the citizens; for this analysis we have developed a new methodology. Previous work has always taken a top-down approach; looking at the macro-economic effects. Studies would look at major economic sectors and trends so as to assess how much use could be made of satellite imagery to support them. The consultant would then assign a percentage for each sector and calculate the total benefit.

We wanted to work bottom-up and take a deep look at how the satellite data is used and how this drives a value-chain. In our first case of Winter Navigation in the Baltic , we start with the icebreakers which are using imagery to help ships through the ice, to serve ports and factories and communities which would otherwise by cut-off due to the ice.

Not many people know that Finland is an island! Yes, it is land-connected with Norway, Sweden and Russia but as around 90% of imports and exports are carried by sea, it has one of the main characteristics of an island. It is also the only country where all of its major ports are ice-bound in winter. So navigating through ice is of strategic importance to Finland.

Since 1973, the country has adopted the policy to keep 25 of its major ports open throughout the year. This means using icebreakers which hence play a key role in keeping the economy of the country turning since, without them, many of the ports and the factories and communities which depend on shipping would stop working for several months of the year.

The icebreakers use SAR imagery because it shows the ice conditions and gives the ship’s captain a wide area view of the whole of the Baltic which then means a better course can be plotted than if they only know the ice conditions for a few km around the ship. This was the case before the SAR imagery became available when each icebreaker would have a helicopter on board which flew the captain around to survey the ice. Of course the helicopter could not fly at all when conditions were bad; just when the information is most needed!

Hence the SAR imagery, replaced the use of helicopters (saving money) and allowed the icebreakers to chart better courses (saving fuel) and helped the ships (save time and fuel). The ship arrival in the port is known more accurately (saving the ports money) and with greater reliability (saving the factories money) and ensures that the local communities are served (meaning that citizens work and are supplied with goods). Right from the ships entering Finnish waters through to the individual citizen, there is a tangible benefit.

In our report, we calculate this total benefit to be up to €120m per annum, which is a good return on the few hundred €k that the imagery costs It will get even better next year as Sentinel 1 data will replace or complement that coming from Radarsat. Finland and Sweden have agreed to work very closely together and hence the analysis considered the benefits to both countries which split very roughly 2/3rds to Finland and 1/3rd to Sweden.

The second case report will be published in the next week or two. This again shows significant return on investment where Spot imagery and in the future Sentinel 2, has been used to produce clear-cut maps of the forestry in Sweden. The clear-cut maps, as the name suggests, show where forest has been harvested at the end of its 80 year growth cycle. The imagery and clear-cut maps underpin the light legislation in Sweden so cutting costs for the forest and timber industry whilst enabling best practices for the management of the forests.

It is applied mainly to the forest belonging to the 300,000 private owners in Sweden which is about 50% of the forest land. By encouraging owners to replant cleared land without delay and to thin the new growing saplings and undergrowth in the 1st 10 years, the final harvest volume increases in volume and in value to the benefit of the owner, the forest and timber companies and the country. Overall, we calculate that the imagery generates a value of between €16m and €21m per annum for an investment of less than €0.5m.

We are now working on our third case – which should be available before the next eomag! I look forward to bringing you news on that at that time. It is a very different application to the first two cases and our preliminary work is again showing significant benefit. We shall be very happy to take this approach further and analyse further cases even if the economic value is much less. Please contact us if you know of any instances which we could look at.

In the meantime, this is looking likely to be an extremely significant year for the industry with a lot of change in perspective. We’ll continue to promote this and bring news and comment on what happens. You can follow us on twitter which also points to our other news services, or directly from our web-site. A happy new year to everyone.

by Geoff Sawyer
EARSC Secretary General

I am very pleased to let you know that we have just published two reports; both of which are available on our web-site. The first is our latest survey of the EO services industry and the second is the first of some case studies we are doing which bring a new approach to assessing the value created by the use of EO data.
The 2015 industry survey takes a comprehensive look at the state of the EO services industry in Europe and Canada.
The results are very detailed and provide a very effective basis on which we can monitor the sector for trends and consequently develop our messages to policy makers concerning their decisions which impact on the industry. It is based on 2014 figures and follows the first one which we made 2 years ago (2013 survey based on 2012 figures).

The survey covers the full chain of activities in the sector from the operators of satellites, through data resellers, value-added service providers and GI companies. It looks at employment and revenue figures and their evolution and it also covers a number of strategic issues and the way that the companies in Europe and Canada are adapting to the changing competitive environment. The survey is carried out in two parts with a core set of questions on-line and a second set of more strategic ones which are covered through phone conversations. We have received 152 responses to the core and 60 for the full survey; all companies completing the full survey have already completed the core part.

Probably the strongest message is that the sector is growing strongly.
All the basic measures of employment, revenues and the number of companies are growing at between 8-10% per annum. This has been relatively steady since the first survey was conducted in 2006 (not by EARSC) although there are some signs that in recent years the rate may have slowed down slightly.

Between 2008 and 2011, we found that growth was boosted by the creation of several new satellite operators with new satellites being launched during that time. From the recent survey, the growth in data sales has slowed but the value-added services part of the sector seems to have increased so that it now generates some 50% of the total sector revenues compared to 40% in 2012.

But the two figures which everyone looks for are jobs and revenues. We find that the total revenue in 2014 was €911m (€786m in 2012) and direct employment was 6811 (5928). The number of companies has grown from 389 in 2012 to 451 in 2014, with, as would be expected, most of this driven by the creation of new micro and small enterprises.

Since Copernicus is such an important programme for Europe, the survey this time had more questions linked to it than was the case in 2012. This shows the increasing interest in the programme and the ambitions of the industry to be able to exploit the public investment to develop new business. The survey was constructed to enable us to track the impact of Copernicus in future years and of course the timing of this last survey meant that any real impact coming from Copernicus is still to be seen.

The report available on our web-site is packed with charts and figures and there will shortly be an even longer report with even more data contained in it. We are also asked to carry out further analysis on specific matters using the data which we have collected and we are happy to do this. We are currently deepening our understanding of the Dutch sector and hope to be able to support studies into other countries in Europe.

As a further step, we shall start to look at some regions outside Europe and will be happy to explore this further with local organisations (if any is interested please get in contact). If we can develop consistent and comparable data sets for the industry around the world then we can all get a better view of how our sector is evolving.

The second report looks at the economic value being created by a single EO product. It is a detailed, bottom-up assessment that complements the more normal top-down approach. In this first case, we look at the use of SAR imagery to support the ice-breaking services in Finland and in Sweden. We bring a new methodology with the focus “Satellites benefiting Citizens”.

In the report, Winter Navigation in the Baltic, we demonstrate that there is a minimum of €24m and up to €116m of benefit to the Finnish and Swedish economies.

You will need to read the report to understand why there is such a large range!

Geoff Sawyer
EARSC Secretary General

EARSC EO Industry Survey Report
Case Report – Winter navigation in the Baltic

The summer has arrived in Europe and everyone is taking off for their summer holidays. Before they leave EARSC has its annual general assembly which was quite a busy event this year. Last year was our 25th anniversary and we held a party on the evening before which proved so popular that we repeated it this year and which now feels like an annual event! Amazing how fast traditions can take hold. It was enjoyed by all and we were delighted to welcome Mme Iskra Mihaylova as our distinguished guest. Mme Mihaylova is a MEP from Bulgaria and Chair of the Regional Committee (REGIO) in the Parliament. Given the importance of regions in the Copernicus programme we shall certainly be seeking her opinion on future activities.

Another tradition after 2 years (!) is the EARSC Company of the year award. Also introduced as a part of our 25th anniversary celebrations, and presented on the occasion of the pre-agm cocktail, it seems to have caught the imagination of companies and Geoville, the first winners were sufficiently pleased last year to sponsor our event this year! The second winner of this now prestigious award is GAF. GAF is one of the longest-lived companies in the sector and this achievement was recognised by EARSC members in delivering the award to them this year. Congratulations to GAF.

Then we took the opportunity of the AGM to launch our certification scheme. This has been under trial last year with 4 companies testing the scheme documents either with their existing auditors or, in the case of companies not having a certification in place, with our own expert Peter Hollidge. Peter is masterminding the scheme which is now operational and open for companies to use. Further details can be found on our web-site

The scheme allows companies to achieve management certification to defined requirements without necessarily the need for full ISO9001 compliance. We offer it to help companies provide confidence to their customers and to ease their procurement process. It is suitable for all sizes of companies. We are also now looking to extend the scheme to cover product certification and we shall report on that early next year.

After the AGM we held a workshop focused on Copernicus Services. We were very pleased to welcome representatives from each of the 7 European Entrusted Entities (EEE’s) which are the organisations entrusted by the EC with the delegated authority to procure and supply the Copernicus Services. We consider that if the full benefits of investments in Copernicus are to be realised, it is essential to bring the EEE’s together with industry and to develop a much closer understanding on how to work together. The workshop was considered a great success as a first step in this process which will continue over the next few months. Our first goal is to generate a roadmap to ensure progressive industry involvement and increasing possibilities for commercial exploitation

As if all that was not enough (we held an AGM as well!), we also had a workshop to look at the first results coming from our 2015 industry survey. The survey took place from January to April and the results are just being analysed. The workshop provided a first opportunity to share some of the findings and to gather ideas on how to make the process easier and even more effective in the future. The results will be published in September and I shall no doubt write about them in the Autumn eomag.

So, happy holidays for all those reading this who have not yet left. I shall be busy wading through figures on industry statistics as well as wading through the sea (hopefully). I wish everyone a good summer break and to more success in the coming months.

Oh, and one last thing, we published an annual report for the very first time this year. You can read about our activities over the last few months and understand what the Association is doing! Please download a copy from our web-site and if you are interested in what we are doing, do not hesitate to contact us and even consider joining the Association

by Geoff Sawyer

I noticed that ESA has recently published an interesting call for commercial partners in space exploration. Calling new partners for exploring the moon and Mars. The announcement was for a call for ideas to assess how companies could join forces with ESA in novel partnerships. I welcome this approach by ESA and look forward to developing similar ideas for the EO services domain. This will mean taking some difficult decisions but together we can all benefit.
In this respect, we recently participated with Eurospace to co-organise a workshop addressing priorities in future calls for the space part of the H2020 programme. For those unaware, H2020 is the research programme of the European Union replacing the Framework programme as it was previously known. Calls are issued approximately once per year under different thematic priorities which define the research activities which shall be undertaken.

The research priorities and hence the calls are determined by the European Commission but with a very strong input provided by the Member States through the programme committee. Additionally, the EC is often given expert advice by the Expert Advisory board comprising individuals selected for their background knowledge and expertise. Essentially, decisions are in the hands of the Member States; nowhere is there room for a formal view coming from the industry.

This has long been an issue for EARSC (and for Eurospace) since it means that the projects which are ultimately selected are not necessarily connected with commercial goals. In the earlier Framework programme the situation was worse because the instruments (ie the rules by which participants receive funding) were unfavourable towards private sector players. H2020 is better but it will take some years to see if this is reflected through more exploitable products and services.

Hence this meeting, addressed towards the EC, was the industry approach to getting its views heard. EARSC vice-chairman Chetan Pradhan presented our views (presentation) and made several telling points including the need for stronger industrial participation in projects, the need to improve success rates as even very strong proposals receiving marks of greater than 93% are being rejected and most importantly that a strategy is needed to ensure that actions are coherent and the effort is not widely dispersed.

I saw another reflection on this last point in a recent article by Luc de Keyser of Stratfor ;“Rolling a boulder up Mount Everest”. This is a subscriber only service so I cannot link you to the article but it discusses the proliferation of research and the laws of large numbers. Luc starts by reminding us how policy makers are often unaware of their impacts. He recalls the legend of the inventor of chess who was offered a reward by his king and asked simply for grains of rice on each of the 64 squares starting with 1 and doubling for each additional square (so reaching 2^64 on the last one). The king was happy to accept this apparently modest request not being aware that, in total it would lead to a pile the size of a mountain and representing 1000 times the annual global rice production!

He goes on to talk about mathematical progressions in research such as varying elements which make up the design of a revolving door or a modern commercial aircraft and links this to the notion that each research project leads to more questions than answers and so, whilst the total knowledge increases, the total of unknowns increases even faster. Imagine an expanding balloon where each puff represents a new research result but the surface of unknowns expands geometrically in consequence. He uses as an example the human genome project where in the late 90’s there was enormous investment going into the competition to unravel its components with the great promise to understand the link between certain genes and diseases. But it was just the start and the consequences are large.

Scientists have now acknowledged that even though we know the human genetic code, we don’t really comprehend how it works. There are plenty of bits and pieces of the puzzle that have become clear, but we are only now beginning to realize the immense amount of work ahead of us in our quest for a deeper understanding of the complex interactions between the DNA components and cellular layers that make up a living being. Again, this represents the problem of big numbers: Scientists would need to explore the thousands of different proteins that can be spliced and reassembled into many different combinations, as well as the myriad factors that can affect genetic expression, including the conditions of the womb, stress at birth and the development of individual microbiomes on the skin and in the gastrointestinal tract. Combine these variants with the alternatives that arise in experimentation and the testing of new therapies, and we reach an astronomical number of options that are too unwieldy to test one by one.

What this is telling us is that some more focused efforts are necessary to deliver better returns against the large investments being made. Again I prefer to quote the words from the article:

An explanation for each human disease and disorder exists somewhere within this vast array of data. We now know more about some diseases with simpler processes such as Huntington’s chorea. A silver bullet cure for common chronic illnesses such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and most cancers remains elusive. At the time of the Human Genome Project’s inception, enough information was known to anticipate the staggering number of possibilities that scientists would encounter and to adopt more modest and realistic goals accordingly. Had policymakers done so, perhaps they would have devised an approach that was more productive than a high-profile race between public and private institutions. Given all that we don’t know and likely will not know for some time, it is discouraging to see that, today, occasional articles triumphantly announce the discovery of the gene for obesity or Alzheimer’s, knowing that a cure is likely further from our reach than we realize. 

Taking decisions is difficult and whilst the winners are satisfied, those which lose by the decision are not. Hence public money is usually spent in ways which keep as many people happy as possible. But we see the consequences of this in the quotes above and it brings me back to one of our central requests to European policy makers that we need a strategy (a roadmap) to inform on future investment decisions. Furthermore, if we are to put commercial success as a goal by generating economic benefits and jobs, then the private sector must have a formal and recognised voice in the process. This will require a new type of partnership; not necessarily new for the EU but new for our sector. It must bring together the EO services sector (of course) with the policy makers and should include the other players in the geospatial services sector including representatives of communities dealing with big data (IT infrastructure), data sources (UAS, in-situ, space) and tools (GIS, Cloud etc). Collectively, this group can then develop a strategic research roadmap to bring focus to the actions and reduce waste and duplication.

by Geoff Sawyer
EARSC Secretary General

Last year, 2014, was a very exciting year for Earth Observation companies. We saw some massive changes in the market including the arrival of Skybox 1 & 2 data, the entry of Google via the purchase of Skybox Imaging, Worldview 3 being launched, the authorisation for the sale of satellite imagery with resolutions down to 25cm and the launch of several other initiatives aimed at putting more commercial imagery on the market.
In Europe, Astrium launched SPOT 7, Deimos II was launched, Blackbridge and E-geos announced next generation systems and the first Copernicus satellite – Sentinel 1 – was launched. The last of these, marking the start of the operational phase of Copernicus, promises further change as large volumes of data become freely available and available for free. 2015 should see the launch of Sentinels 2 & 3 further increasing the free data available.

When I was a young engineer in the 1980’s responsible for the design of the Europe’s first radar to be launched on the European ERS-1 we used to think ESA was the market for satellites. At the time, the space agencies were essentially the only customers and so naturally everything was focused around their needs. These were in turn largely determined by science and research. This attitude exists even today even if it has been largely changed by an appreciation of addressing a commercial market.

The telecommunications market was the first to emerge and indeed was already starting to do so with commercial companies buying satellites and selling communication services. In EO some early efforts were being made to sell imagery and companies were being set up to do so; but we were a long way from the point where a private company would build and launch a satellite on its own resources. Indeed, even today a fully commercial business model is quite rare.

So understanding the market is a fundamental requirement for commercial companies trying to do business. Similarly for policy makers, it is fundamental to understand the impacts of their actions; their policy decisions. The former requires a detailed survey of the market, the latter requires a detailed survey of the industry.

Two years ago, we conducted our industry survey 2013 which provided a more detailed picture of the EO services industry than we had before. Since then, many things have changed as described earlier and we have just launched our 2015 survey which will update the industry view and develop it further. In particular, we wish to be in a position to understand the impact of Copernicus on the industry and on the market and so this is a focus of our survey this time. We have already launched what we call the core survey to over 500 companies in Europe and Canada to gather specific data on their business. This will shortly be followed up with phone interviews for what we call the “full survey” which will explore some of the softer factors and strategic issues through a conversation.

But this time, we have decided to go further again.

According to the Impact Assessment published by the European Commission in 2013, Copernicus will create 9,000 direct jobs in the downstream sector. The EARSC survey will show the impact on the private sector but Copernicus is primarily a public programme with its first objective to provide public policy makers with information. Consequently, we are extending our survey to look at the benefits which Copernicus will bring to the public sector in terms of access to information, effectiveness and of course employment. In the next few weeks we shall launch a second survey questionnaire which will be sent to public bodies in Europe with questions on their involvement in Copernicus and the benefits they have seen or anticipate.

But, this is a global industry and European policy is that Sentinel data will be available on a free and open basis, not limited to European companies. Hence the 4th part of our survey will address companies world-wide to try to understand how much they benefit from access to these data. This is quite a challenge, not least because of language! The survey is in English as we think that most companies operating in the domain of EO services, as in the scientific field, will frequently use English. But a questionnaire in English can be quite complex and we are trying to restrict it to essentials as far we can consistent with gathering a good picture of the industry and how it is evolving.

We are happy to have some international partners to help us with this global survey including the GEO secretariat in Geneva, which will help distribute the link through their networks and maybe help gather some of the responses. It is too early to acknowledge everyone but I’ll write again on that once the results are complete.

Our goal is to have results available in mid-2015 and to publish a report which will be freely available. We have the support of ESA to conduct the survey and if any reader wishes to learn more, they can contact either EARSC or ESA-ESRIN to do so.

If you are someone from the private sector or from a public body in Europe reading this we very much count on you to complete the relevant part of the survey. Your contribution will be kept absolutely confidential to EARSC and only aggregated, anonymous results will be public. If you do not receive a request to participate and you think you should be included, do not hesitate to contact us

It is going to be quite a challenge to gather and analyse all the data we anticipate receiving but it is fundamental to understanding the sector and the impact of the policy makers actions towards it. It is one of our major projects; but not the only one and I’ll cover more of those in a future eomag editorial. In the meantime, I wish all eomag readers a successful a above all healthy 2015.

Geoff Sawyer
EARSC Secretary General