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GEO Interview

Can you tell us about the Group on Earth Observations (GEO)?

The Group on Earth Observations is an intergovernmental partnership working together to improve the availability, access and use of Earth observations (EO) for a sustainable planet.

GEO is made up of 105 member governments including the European Commission, and a global GEO community that brings hundreds of the world’s leading Earth observation organizations together including practitioners, policy makers and decision makers.

Our vision is a future where decisions and actions are informed by coordinated, comprehensive and sustained Earth observations.

We know that open data can help to drive better social, economic and environmental policies. That’s why GEO is focused on open EO data to help support three global policy frameworks, including the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and the Paris Climate Agreement.

Through the GEO Work Programme of over 70 unique and sustained activities, GEO supports decision makers with data and knowledge derived from Earth observations. We encourage broader participation from nations, with support from international organizations, the private sector, research and academia, and individuals to help scale up the impacts of the GEO community.

How does GEO work with and engage the commercial sector?

GEO welcomes engagement from the commercial sector in support of its mission and vision.

Commercial products and services based on Earth observations provide important public and private benefits, they foster scientific and technological innovation and spur economic development.

In turn, the GEO community provides an opportunity to connect with and learn from its expansive Earth observation expert and user communities, including thousands of practitioners, policy makers and decision makers worldwide.

Earlier this year, GEO announced a new GEO Associates Category as the way for commercial and non-governmental, not-for-profit and civil society organizations to join governments and international organizations as official collaborators of GEO.

Avenues of engagement include participation in and sponsorship of GEO events, contributions to the GEO Work Programme and providing open data or free software and services to the GEO community; paid software and services is a direct discussion between commercial sector organisations and GEO community members.

Commercial sector organisations may wish to work with the GEO community around the world and as such, there are regional GEO entities working on the global Earth observation topics, including AfriGEO, AmeriGEO, AOGEO and EuroGEO. 

At the upcoming GEO Week in Canberra, Australia, a new approach has been designed specifically for the commercial sector, called  the Industry Track. It is a key opportunity to engage the commercial sector to help drive the development of sustainable commercial Earth observation solutions and products to a number of Ministers at the GEO Week Ministerial Summit and the global GEO Community.

The inclusion of a dedicated Industry Track this year is recognition by the broader GEO community that not only can the commercial sector support the work of GEO, but that GEO needs to be more proactive in creating opportunities for the commercial sector to piggyback off the work of governments to create new products and services.

What can European EO companies learn from other EO companies in other regions of the world?

One of the many strengths of GEO is the co-creation of locally relevant solutions. Through the work of our four Regional GEO initiatives (AfriGEO, AmeriGEO, AOGEO and EuroGEO) the GEO community works to ensure that solutions and programmes are adapted to a diverse range of local and regional contexts.

Through engagement with the GEO Work Programme, European EO companies can help to develop and implement projects, leveraging the expertise of over 125 Participating Organizations, 105 GEO Members  and numerous research institutions and commercial sector contributors from around the globe.

For example, European companies are engaged in the work of the GEO Capacity Building in North Africa, Middle East, Balkans, Black Sea (GEO-CRADLE) programme.  Through the GEO-CRADLE Networking Platform, Earth observation communities can discover stakeholders of interest by location, thematic area and view their profile and data. Currently it hosts information for 29 countries with 268 online profiles featured.  This initiative is strongly motivated by the need to capitalise, sustain and scale up the results of communities that are working in the region.

In addition, GEO-CRADLE manages the Regional Data Hub (RDH) to provide access to region-related datasets, portals and services developed by a regional network of raw data providers, intermediate users/service providers, end-users from Industry, and Academic and Public Sector from the Region of Interest. The Regional Data Hub is the focal node in the region in the context of GEOSS and Copernicus implementation.

The next GEO Week will be in Canberra,  Australia from 4-9 November 2019. Why should European EO companies join this event?

GEO Week is one of the world’s largest gatherings of the global Earth observation community.

From 4-9 November 2019, Ministers from GEO’s 105 member governments, business leaders, heads of international organizations and leading experts will meet in Canberra, Australia for GEO Week 2019 and the GEO Ministerial Summit.

As mentioned, the upcoming GEO Week 2019 will include a dedicated Industry Track for the world’s leading tech, space and geospatial companies to come together with businesses that need Earth observation-enabled digital products. A series of events worth attending in its own right, the track will enable businesses to promote their capabilities, to network and create new partnerships, and to make deals and announcements.

Led by the Australian Space Agency, with support Australia’s national science and technology agency CSIRO, the Industry Track will include the GEO Week Exhibition, networking events, pitch sessions and the facilitation of bilateral meetings.

European EO companies are invited to share experiences and learn from others as we explore how investments in Earth observation can deliver major returns on investment to our economies and communities.

We’ll be discussing a wide range of issues, including the future of work, trade in digital services, privacy in a big data world, and the sharing economy. We’ll also be providing a platform to highlight European Earth observation capabilities and announce new actions and investments. This is an unparalleled chance to make new connections and partnerships with the global EO community.