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Editorial Winter 2011/2012

In November, I was invited to Warsaw to participate to a workshop (1) on the use of satellite applications by non-space SME’s. It was an interesting, well-attended meeting focused on satellite applications as a driver for business innovation in small and medium enterprises coming from sectors other than “space” i.e. transport, retail, agriculture, construction, manufacturing etc. It had the goal to inform SME’s of the potential opportunities and provide feedback to the decision-takers and policy makers on the support SME’s need to pursue them. I was there to represent and present the capabilities of the EO services sector. SME’s in Europe represent the vast-majority of businesses and provide two-thirds of Europe’s jobs. They have a crucial role to play in the European economy particularly in the times of a crisis. …

Hence, for some time now, SME’s have been recognised by policy makers as deserving of special support and I think now and for EARSC this is particularly true. For two reasons: the role of SME’s in generating employment growth is increasingly being recognised and the structure and dynamics of our sector where SME’s dominate.

The Kauffman institute recently published a paper (2) showing how new companies are responsible for most net job creation. The analysis, based on extensive data available in the US, looks at the age of companies (years of existence) relative to the net new jobs created between 1992 and 2005. It shows that, in the United States, on average 3million net, new jobs were created by companies in their first year of life against 350,000 net, new jobs for all other companies (ie more than 1 year old out to those centuries old). Of course there is in reality a large turnover of jobs and what it is showing is that older companies are shedding as many jobs as they are creating. Nevertheless, the importance of new-start-ups is striking and this finding is very significant for policy towards SME’s.

And of course, most companies in the EO sector are SME’s (ie less than 250 employees). From the last survey carried out in 2008, 90% of the companies have less than 60 employees. Indeed we see a very dynamic sector which is changing rapidly, with new companies entering all the time. It reflects a healthy situation where new start-ups are readily created to grow or to be acquired if successful. We very much hope to update these figures with a detailed survey during the course of 2012.

The Warsaw conference concluded that SME’s represent an important end-user community for satellite applications. However, lacking resources, they are often not aware of the potential coming from satellite applications and more is needed to raise awareness. Three concrete strategies were discussed in the round table:

  • to encourage and facilitate the sharing of experience and the exchange of best practice,
  • to highlight the business case through success stories, and
  • to improve the dialogue between the end-user SME’s and the service providers.

The Warsaw workshop concluded on the importance of policy shaping to help SME’s. Frank Baumeister who is head of sector policies at the European Association of Craft, Small and Medium Enterprises, spoke about the importance of “understanding each other” and “speaking the same language”; a view repeated by Colin Hicks, President of Eurisy. This is a recurring theme; to raise awareness and to improve dialogue and is one key element of our strategy to develop links between different communities for example with the oil and gas community -OGEO. Here the goal is to help the EO services industries and the oil and gas companies to communicate better. I will return to this in a moment.

We have also recognised the importance of speaking the same language as we have started to open up the new marketplace tool – eopages ( The issue has been to adopt a common language so that potential customers seeking services are not bamboozled by a vast array of names for the same service offering from different suppliers. We are in the process of preparing a taxonomy which is being reviewed by the EARSC working group on Industry Best Practice. This will form the basis both for eopages and for the industry survey and we hope will make a valuable contribution to clarifying the EO services market.

For the EO services companies, note that Eopages is now being populated – if you wish to have your company listed then contact Monica – and is being promoted regularly. We shall do even more once the market and services structures are consolidated according to the taxonomy. For potential customers, take a look and bookmark the site. We hope it can be useful now; we believe it will be very useful in the near future.

The OGEO Portal is also coming alive. After the very successful 2nd Oil and Gas workshop held in Frascati in early December it is being progressively opened to more companies from both communities. As indicated earlier, the goal is to help improve understanding between the EO services sector and the Oil and Gas sector. If you want to know more then go to The workshop had close to 250 people registered with around 180 attending. It brought together EO service providers and oil and gas experts as well as geologists – as it was organised within the annual Geological Remote Sensing Group meeting. Much of the richness of the meeting came from this unique combination of people able to exchange; a facility that was openly appreciated and welcomed by many attendees.

It is now just one year since I took over as Secretary General of EARSC. It has been an exciting year for me both professionally and personally. I have had no regrets at leaving the big company environment for an independent life. I am extremely pleased to be in a position to help the EO services sector develop. It is a critical time for GMES (how many times can we say that? I recall a similar story for Galileo nearly 10 years ago!). We shall continue to focus on new ideas and trying to create new opportunities for EARSC members. I am always pleased to meet with companies from the sector whether members or potential members 😉 and it only remains to wish everyone a happy and successful new year for 2012.

Geoff Sawyer
EARSC Secretary General

(1) Growth and Competitiveness using Satellite Applications – practical approaches for non-space SME’s ; Eurisy in partnership with Unicorn

(2) The Importance of Start-ups in Job Creation and Job Destruction, Tim Kane, Kauffman Foundation July2010

Eomag_Editorial, Issue28_Winter-2011-2012.pdf