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EARSC interview with Christine Berg, Head of the GMES Bureau, DG Enterprise and Industry, European Commission

In this issue of EOMAG, EARSC had the opportunity to discuss with Ms. Berg some relevant questions about the European Earth Observation Programme (GMES).

What are the objectives of the GMES bureau in the short and long term? How do you work with other players in the European Commission given the relevance of EU information for many different policy fields? What are your relations with other stakeholders in the Member States?

2011 will be a challenging year for the GMES Bureau. First, we have to implement the European Earth monitoring programme and its initial operations which have been adopted by the Council and the European Parliament in 2010. This is one of the many stepping stones of GMES. The programme has a small budget, but an important governance scheme has been set up with it: this means that the bureau has to set up and run new committees like the GMES programme committee that brings together all EU Member states having mobilised funds for the initial operations phase of GMES. Together we have to agree on priorities and make sure that the GMES activities funded by the EU for the very first time outside the research domain dovetail well with what is continued in terms of GMES development projects funded by the EU and by the ESA members. We will also set up the users’ forum in order to validate user requirements for permanent GMES services. This will be an ongoing process as technology evolves as do user needs. But development cycles in relation to space infrastructure are long and therefore it is essential that the key users have a common understanding on what can be delivered by GMES. Second, we have to prepare the long term future for GMES by fitting the EU financial contribution into the EU´s budget for the years 2014-18 and beyond. We will have to design a programme, evaluate its impact, including on the downstream Earth Observation (EO) services market.

The fact that EO data can be used in many different areas is reflected in the GMES Bureau: our team consists of colleagues from different Commission departments (DGs) who work with experts from Member States and international organisations as well as European agencies. The Bureau’s work is guided by a steering committee in which most of the current and future “user departments” of the European Commission are represented. We meet regularly as a group or bilaterally to check evolving user needs and monitor the progress of GMES services development. For contacts with stakeholders outside the Commission we regularly organise meetings with the GMES Partners Board, the committee and of course the Users Forum who will start meeting in 2011. We also attend national user forums and are pleased to see that more and more of them are set up by our partners in the Member States.

How do you see the cooperation with the EO service industry evolving? What role can EARSC, the European service industry association play to support GMES and the work of the Bureau?

The EO market is an innovative market. Your industry has all the creativity and entrepreneurial spirit needed for developing services for citizens and companies most people could never dream of. The challenge for us is to understand the characteristics, requirements and potential size of the market so that we can better justify public investments in the basic EO infrastructure and design a data policy which stimulates the downstream service market whilst for instance responding to legitimate security concerns of public institutions. EARSC will therefore continue to play an important role in sharing their views with us as users and data providers. EARSC would also be helpful by up-dating us regularly on market developments such as new service providers having been started up and jobs created by relevant industry. Such information would help the European Commission to design other than space infrastructure related support instruments: the EU framework programme for competitiveness and innovation is a good example in this regard. It provides venture capital for innovative industries and helps young entrepreneurs to start up their businesses. The EO service industry should make its voice heard in the consultations for a successor programme.

In your opinion, what kind of downstream service industry would Europe benefit from? What are your expectations of EU developments for the citizen?

I think that Europe’s downstream Earth Observation (EO) businesses will size their own opportunities.
Europe’s businesses will have to make an impact on the challenges we (and the planet) are facing: we need to decarbonise our economy in order to mitigate climate change and if it is not to be stopped then we need to adapt to it; the world will need to feed an increasing population and in Europe we will have to cope with an ageing population. All this will open up new markets which in the one or other form can be assisted by EO services. The monitoring of the atmospheric composition, of the state of the seas and of land use, coping with all sorts of emergency situations as well as all sorts of services to enhance convenience in our daily live will drive the EO market. Like in the IT and telecommunications field the EO market will probably also witness convergence with the communication and navigation sectors. Which individual citizen would have thought of having the vast amount of smart services at his or her disposal one or two generations ago?

Why did you find the Head of GMES position attractive? Did you have any exposure to or past experience with the space or EO sector?

I was attracted by the cross-cutting use one can make of EO data and the complex nature of GMES. I have spent the past five years in the energy policy domain building up an energy market observatory. In this capacity I have come across geospatial information and remote sensing data. The energy industry is more and more dependent on information from geological surveys, the monitoring of sea state conditions around drilling rigs and oil platforms, the detection of oil spills, or wind and solar radiation forecasts. Scarce conventional resources and an increasingly important renewable energy sector together with a shared concern for the climate have raised my awareness for the importance of the EO business and for EO services which help public authorities to better define and implement policies. On top of that I hope that having a long a diverse experience in the European Commission combining regulatory policy development, negotiations and the design of support tools for enterprises will contribute to the further deployment of a programme with as many facettes as GMES.

Related links
EC website
Activities of the GMES services
CIP programme

Thank you for your time Ms. Berg…, and specially for sharing your thoughts and comments with the EOmag readers.

Eomag!24_Interview with Christine-Berg, Head GMES Bureau.pdf