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Interview with Daniel Vidal-Madjar "EO observation from space is an important component of our capacity to manage the Environment for a sustainable development"

In this issue of EOMAG, EARSC will have the opportunity to feature an interview with Mr. Daniel Vidal Madjar, Chief of the French Inter¬Ministerial Task Force on GMES.


Could you please briefly describe the current responsibilities as Chief of the French Inter-Ministerial Task Force on GMES?
I am in charge of the national coordination of the French participation to GMES. The coordination is placed under the responsibility of the French Ministry for Research. All topics relating to GMES are concerned: GMES Core Services, GMES space component, GMES partnerships with national bodies, mobilization of the downstream sectors.

Could you comment on the process to get national views coordinated under the European Institutions?
In principle it is organized through GAC, which represents the Member States (EU and ESA). But in reality, the Commission is talking directly with Institutions, especially those for which a European coordination exists (Meteorology or cartography for example). By doing so, the results can be biased. Indeed, most of the concerned institutions are not known from the Commission which has been asked to use the national representation through GAC. The ISOWG is the first answer to this demand. This type of process must be generalized quickly to consolidate the necessary GMES partnerships at all levels.


What is your idea for the governance scheme and the related business model to be adopted?
An overall GMES governance is necessary to ensure the coherence of the programme and that future investments, from EU and MP, will be used in an optimized manner. Furthermore, there is a lot of horizontal matters such as transparency, responsibility, security of information which must be treated centrally. The Central Governance will be also in charge to prioritize GMES evolutions in accordance with the GMES appropriations; at European and national levels (the GMES partnerships). At the level of the heart of GMES which are de core services, the objective is to help the development of an economic activities using information on the environment. It is therefore necessary to withdraw any restraints in the use of such information, notably by an adapted Core Services deliveries policy. The Commission is presently thinking to a free and open delivery to European stake holders, with exceptions such security on strategic matters. Such policy has a cost. The deliveries from the Core Services will have to be adapted to the available budgets: not all deliveries from GMES will be labelled GMES Service. Further more, it will be necessary to define general data and elaborated products procurement policy to help the Core Services to acquire the necessary data and products from bodies outside the GMES partnership. It is anticipated that the cost of downstream services, provided by SMEs, will be mainly based on the value added by these companies and will not contain any significant part of the up streams cost.

The sector is following the Lisbon agenda in terms of helping growth and jobs in Europe… but what do you think about benchmarking along some other industrial sectors?
It is certainly a good idea. It could help to understand how such markets are working. It is always necessary to build on others experiences.

What type of dialogue mechanism could take place with the service industry and national institutions? How could be integrated the cooperation of industry with other partners?
GMES is a user based programme. As such it is necessary to take care of the users demands for future evolution of the provided services. Consultation of all users may appear to be inefficient or even impossible; I am convinced that this dialogue must be based primarily with the service industry. Indeed, they are in strong interaction with the end users and they know perfectly what are their needs. Partnerships with research must be strengthening to ensure the service industry is still competitive by developing new services from GMES Core Services.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges the commercial earth observation industry is facing in the years to come? What kind of downstream service industry would Europe benefit from?
If by Earth Observation industry you mean the space industry, I guess that the biggest challenge is to change dramatically its business model to go from a state based industry to an industry driven by the market. The cost of the space infrastructures will have to adapt to the willingness and capacity to pay of the users. Europe will benefit from all industry related to services on the environment, but some sectors are more important than others: for example water resources, air quality are probably more important than many others.

Is the European Earth Observation on the right track?
It depends… But certainly Europe has been able to build something which is important with decisions on GMES related space programme and on the consolidation of the meteorological space observatories.

Data Policy establishment is a priority, how is that treated at the Inter Ministerial Task Force on GMES?
It is a difficult matter as it will certainly trigger significant changes in the business models on which are based European providers of data and products. All important national data and products providers are part of our national coordination. We have set up a national working group to mirror the ISOWG. The members are from all stakeholders, from national institutional bodies to NGO on the environment which are also contributing to the gathering of useful data.


How do you see the planning and the budgeting process in Earth Observation programmes?
Clearly now we must concentrate on the next budget cycle of the EU, eg beginning in 2014. At that moment a true and independent GMES will have to be financed. It is therefore important to work during the following months on the costs to provide GMES core services, including the necessity to maintain on the long run the provision of observation, from space or in situ, both at global and local scales. Trade off and prioritisations are not possible without a good knowledge on costs.

From your perspective, what are the minimum requirements to succeed with a downstream service?
Difficult to answer. We must work together in the following months and years to develop new types of Downstream services built on the Core Products which will be delivered by GMES. It is foreseen that this Core Information will enable the downstream companies to propose new and more efficient services to their clients.

How do you see the future steps for the GMES?
Next step will to set up an interim governance which will help in the building of a GMES programme to be operational at the horizon of 2014. It is also necessary to build on the FP 6 and 7 results to propose rapidly GMES core services on a preoperational basis. These services will be demonstrated on the occasion of the Lille GMES Forum. Hopefully, they will available to downstream sectors onward.


At the end of the interview, here is the opportunity for your final thoughts on latest GMES developments, what do you see as the task ahead for GMES, and in general which is your vision for the future?
I am very impressed by the speed GMES has developed in the past few years. Just 8 years after the Council demand to develop GMES services, we are able to produce core services. We have also be able to develop a satellite systems, the GMES space component, which comprises not only the ESA Sentinels programme but also the Eumetsat space observatory and a wealth of national missions. When Europe is acting together, it can realize much more than other have done.

How do you see Europe’s autonomy in space in the years to come?
When we say “autonomy” we must understand the capacity of Europe to provide to its users reliable information on environment and security. For achieving this goal, Europe must be able to cooperate with other nations on an equal footing. It is therefore necessary to consolidate our positions in space based observation. We must be sure that we have the control of the strategic elements, but this does not mean that we must do everything. International cooperation is necessary. GEO and other existing initiatives such as what is done for meteorology from space through WMO for example must be used extensively to ensure Europe will be able to access to all necessary data, from space or in situ.

What are your expectations of EO development in the future for the citizen? And which important benefits will be provided in the near future?

EO observation from space is an important component of our capacity to manage the Environment for a sustainable development. In the near future I do expect that EO from space will become progressively a true market based activity. I am sure that the GMES Core Services will greatly help.

Thank you for your time, and for sharing your thoughts and comments with the EOmag readers