The GMES Africa conference in Lisbon has been the highlight of the end of 2007. Indeed this event was not only remarkably organized by the Portuguese presidency of the European Union and all those who contributed to its set up, but also it was also remarkable in its content. Based on the very interesting presentations and round tables where high level African and European executives were involved, it appeared clearly that GMES can do considerable good for a developing continent such as Africa and in return the involvement of Africa in the GMES process can add momentum and experience for the fertilisation of the GMES process elsewhere in the world and in Europe itself. Meteorology, Climatology, Water and other environmental issues in general have been of course at the forefront of discussions and prospects. But it is important to note that beyond the development of applications there lies the development of the economically important service sector. This is true for Europe and this will be true for Africa. The mutation from applications to services and the consideration of an industrial segment in Africa have been evoked. EARSC has in particular extended an invitation for African entities (institutions, industries) to link with our association and has proposed to create closer ties with the African SME sector to help foster its development.
As far as Europe is concerned several initiatives have been taken during the past few years by the EU, ESA and at national level to develop new space applications and ideally new operational services. In this context it is important to note that ESA is organizing in Brussels on January 15th 2008 the Integrated Applications Program day. This new initiative is a good opportunity to create synergies between our Earth Observation developments and developments in other sectors such as Navigation and Telecommunications. Our members should carefully contemplate these new opportunities since the service sector is the economic sector offering the highest prospects for growth.
Finally, one of the highlights of the coming year is the next Annual EARSC event which will take place in the Spring 2008 and focusing on the key question “Is GMES an Opportunity for the Service Industry?”. You are all invited to take note of this opportunity and to contact our Executive Secretary at your earliest convenience to explore participation options.
In the mean time, on behalf of the EARSC Directors, let me wish all of you a very happy and healthy year.