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Editorial Winter 2013/2014

This year we shall celebrate the 25th anniversary of the founding of EARSC. We plan to have a celebration in Brussels in the summer and we hope to see many of you there. So it seems like a time for reflection on where the industry has come in that time and how far EARSC has changed.

In 1989, Landsat had already been operating for 17 years having launched Landsat 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5! SeaSat had been launched (in 1978 and failed 90 days later) and the first European satellite SPOT 1 had been launched just 3 years earlier. Japan had launched MOS-1 just 2 years earlier and there were several Russian satellites orbiting. At that time, I was a young engineer working as the lead radar system designer for the SAR shortly to be launched on ERS-1. It was an exciting time full of technological challenges and new developments. We were learning a lot about how to build space-borne radar.
I recall also the first images we received from the ERS-1 SAR and the time we spent analysing them and trying to understand the rich information they contained. For, at that time, each new satellite was bringing new data and new challenges to the interpretation of the imagery.

Fast forward until today and it is also an exciting time, but rather than addressing the technological challenges of constructing the instruments or understanding the data, the main focus is about how to commercialise the developments. We have moved from a domain driven by technology and research to one that is operational with the need to discover and address new markets; which brings me to EARSC!

I was not there when EARSC was first formed although I do know one or two people who were; notably Bruce Smith and Emile Maes. These two visionaries saw the need for an organisation at European level to help take the industry forward. I became involved about 15 months later and for the first 15 years there was only the effort that the directors themselves gave to the Association; apart from a short period in 1992 when there was an attempt to employ a first secretary general. This ended in disaster as the dramatic increase in fees led very quickly to a situation that, when I became chairman in 1994, I was faced with an Association with 9 directors and 9 members!

For a few years EARSC continued by organising a few high-profile meetings but EARSC only really started to evolve in 2004 with the appointment of an executive secretary – Monica Miguel Lago. This was the first step in transforming EARSC from a club as it then really was, into a true, representative organisation.

The directors of EARSC started planning to appoint a secretary general in 2006/7 but this took more time than expected to find and appoint a secretary general. Congratulations should go to Monica and to then chairman Paul Kamoun who were together fundamental to EARSC development during this time up to the point when I was appointed as SecGen in January 2011.

Today, EARSC continues to develop and we are asking ourselves what more EARSC can do to help its members increase their business. Although the nature of the challenge has changed, the EO services market is still a difficult one. As mentioned in previous editorials, the combination of public and private interests is perhaps unique in this domain. EARSC as the organisation representing the European industry is evolving to meet these new challenges. It is our goal to help the industry develop and we seek to represent the industry in its entirety. Our approach to this is centred around communities of interest and this lies and will remain at the core of our strategy.

One community which we plan to start developing is around research. The EC has just launched its Horizon 2020 programme which is the new Framework Programme. To help our members we have set up a Research Portal where companies and individuals can go to seek partners. It is not yet the final, polished thing, but it is open and we would welcome feedback. It is intended as a sort of virtual coffee bar where people can chat and exchange ideas. There is a library of information and EARSC members can even book a meeting room where they can go and talk about specific ideas for projects with partners.

With thanks to our current chairman Han Wensink and all past chairmen; as well as the many industry champions who have given their time to sit on the board of EARSC during its 25 years of existence, it only remains to wish everyone a happy, healthy and successful 2014.

Geoff Sawyer
EARSC Secretary General