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Editorial Winter 2013

I wrote last time about our study into a free and open data policy (FODP) for the GMES Sentinel data. The final report, entitled GMES and Data : Geese and Golden Eggs is now available from the EARSC web-site. In it we take a look at the benefits such a policy could bring and also at what we can learn from other digital data domains where open data policy has been or is being applied.
This leads us to the strong and growing evidence that a free and open data policy (FODP) yields benefits to all parties; it leads to increased economic activity and hence employment and tax revenues by reducing entry barriers and encouraging entrepreneurship, it allows more business to be done in value adding by reducing input costs and it stimulates innovation in new products and services. It is very much a win-win policy.

Of course it is based on the premise that the underlying costs are already justified by public-sector needs. In the case of GMES / Copernicus the cost-benefit analyses that have been performed all show this to be the case. Both PwC and Booz & Co reports demonstrate a very positive return factor, at around 3.7 times the investment, on public tasks linked to environment and security – especially information linked to climate change. These do not consider the commercial benefits but a recent study (1) does and is forecasting the creation of 83,000 jobs by 2030 and a market in downstream services of around €1.8b.

But there are some consequences of an FODP and in particular where investment has been made in commercial systems. It is clear that there will be some substitution affecting existing data sales of commercial satellite operators; some customers will accept lower performance with free data than to pay for a higher performance. Those offering a performance closest to Sentinel 1 or 2 will be the most affected. But the goal is to stimulate the market so that all players in the EO geo-information services sector will benefit. If we are correct in the view that GMES / Copernicus will act as a market stimulus; raising awareness and bringing new, operational services to be offered, then the (hopefully) small loss in direct, data sales will be more than compensated by new opportunities.

Exploiting these opportunities will be the key and this is where there is work to be done. EARSC continues to build links with other industry sectors. Unfortunately we are only a micro-organisation so the number of fronts that we can work on is limited but the signs so far are good and progress is being made. This year for the first time we shall start looking at export openings and find where there is a possibility for the industry find new partners.
There are two other items that should be mentioned this quarter.
Firstly, we are organising a workshop for April looking at certification in the EO geo-information services industry (see the announcement in eomag). This initiative results from the links mentioned above and customers calling for a certification scheme to be established. Is the industry ready for this yet? It is a sign of maturity that the question is being asked but what do companies think? We shall be asking both suppliers and customers their views.
Secondly, we are about half way through our survey of the industry. We have been very pleased with the response so far and many thanks to those who have responded. However, there are still some 200 companies that have not opened the survey and I re-iterate how important it is that you should do so. Answering even a few of the questions will help us understand what part you play in the sector. If you can answer the full survey, then that will be really, really appreciated. If you are a company, in geo-information services and you have not received a mail asking you to complete a questionnaire then please do get in touch. The survey should be completed in March and results will be published around the middle of 2013. These will be vital to help us and decision makers understand what are the issues facing the industry and how to respond to them.

It remains to wish you a happy new year. I have been very gratified by some of the mails that I receive encouraging EARSC in the work we are doing. We are always seeking ways to help serve our members better. Do not hesitate to contact either myself or Monica if you wish to make suggestions or, if you are part of a company that is not yet a member, to come and join the Association!

Geoff Sawyer
EARSC Secretary General

(1) Assessing the Economic Value of GMES: Spacetec Partners for the European Commission.