EARSC supports a free and open data policy because we believe it will be the best way to help the European EO services industry develop. Winning business is a key challenge for any company and often takes a considerable amount of effort. Indeed, in our survey of the industry (of which more later) one question we asked is directly linked to this and it will be interesting to see the responses. Hence, one of the roles for a trade association is to try to create new opportunities for companies to pursue. This is especially true for an association such as EARSC where growth is expected in an immature sector as compared to mature industries where the focus will be more on regulatory matters.
One way in which we can help to create opportunities is by promoting the sector generally; by raising awareness of what companies can offer. For the geospatial services industry, which can be considered as B2B ie largely serving corporate or institutional customers, this demands very targeted actions. EARSC works closely with other organisations such as Nereus and Eurisy that are active in this respect and of course we work very closely with ESA. This largely involves holding meetings dedicated to either a specific type of product (thematic orientation) or type of customer (market orientation) and we are always happy to support such a meeting and give member companies the opportunity to promote themselves as well as for EARSC to promote the industry.
We are also working to develop links with other industry sectors. In particular we are working very closely with the oil and gas sector through their main industry association the OGP (Oil and Gas Producers Association). This has involved 3 dedicated workshops and the establishment of the OGEO Portal to encourage direct communication between the two communities. The Portal is currently being upgraded and a new version will be launched in May.
As a result of this dialogue we are organising a workshop next week (15th April) on the subject of certification. This is a complex and even slightly contentious subject as opinions on the need for action do vary. However, as services are becoming operational, we are seeing customers starting to ask for a standard approach to procurement so that rather than a number of different certification standards, or even variants on a single one, they can see one consistent approach. This could be through an industry guideline that is applied to ISO 9001 which in itself would reduce the cost of becoming certified and annual cost of renewal. At present, each auditing against ISO9001 depends on the organisation carrying out the audit and each will interpret the general requirements of ISO9001 into the specific aspects of the EO services industries. Hence a common guiding document may provide a standard and consistent approach that reduces costs. It is important, in this respect, that companies which already have ISO 9001 certification will benefit as well as those who do not and that the benefits clearly outweigh the costs. If it makes doing business easier then everyone gains.
Up to now, EARSC has focused on getting closer to commercial sectors. Now we are starting to look at what we could do to help companies do more in overseas markets. This will be the focus of discussion at this years’ Annual Meeting in June when we shall have several speakers talking about export opportunities. Later this year we look to organise a first ever EARSC export mission.
Finally, I’ll just add a word about the industry survey. We have more or less completed the survey; we are just waiting for 1 or 2 responses which are on the way, and we are starting to download and analyse the results. We have had over 150 companies respond and good data from over 120 companies which represents around one third of the companies contacted. We thank all of you for the time spent on completing the core survey and for the time on the phone for the full survey. For the latter, over 50 companies have answered all the questions we have put to them. Many, many thanks for your support and we anticipate that results will be available before the summer. I’ll report on them in a future editorial.
EARSC Secretary General