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Interview with Mr. Valère Moutarlier, head of the EC-GMES Bureau

In this issue of EOMAG, EARSC has the opportunity to feature an interview with Mr. Valère Moutarlier, head of the GMES Bureau at the European Commission.

First of all, thank you very much for taking some time from your busy agenda and giving us the occasion to talk about some aspects relevant for the European Earth Observation sector.
Role of the Bureau
The Bureau is a Commission internal structure that federates the needs and resources of the whole Commission, how effective are these links inside and outside the Commission? and what is the role of the Bureau in federating the needs of the stakeholders for the next three years?
Indeed, one important goal of the Bureau is to federate user needs, define the overall strategy for GMES and ensure coherence between objectives and resources of GMES. We are strongly committed to the idea that GMES is “user-driven” so primarily our role is to try and identify what user needs are, whether within the European Commission or in a broader sense.
GMES generates information in support of different EU policies. Therefore, it has been necessary to establish a focal point within the Commission. The structure of the Bureau within the Commission is unique. The Bureau is guided by an internal Steering Committee bringing together users such as the Directorates-General for Environment, Agriculture and Rural Development, Fisheries and Maritime Affairs, External Relations, Development, Humanitarian Aid Office, European Aid Cooperation Office, Energy and Transport, Justice Freedom and Security, Regional Policy, Taxation and Customs Union, Anti-fraud Office but also Directorates-General for Research, Information Society and the Joint Research Centre.
The GMES Bureau was officially set up on 1st June 2006. Relations are well structured within the Commission; we have a lot of interactions with many Directorates-General to understand and to take onboard the needs of EU policies for the fine-tuning and evolution of GMES services.
Which are the main tasks of the Bureau in developing the operational services? (clearly, the fast track services; land, marine, and emergency should be operational by 2008) but which other forthcoming interests will be a priority for the Bureau?
Through FP6 projects, there have been precursors for the first GMES services that will be demonstrated in 2008. In the meantime, implementation groups have been set up to assist the Commission define the scope and design of GMES operational services. It is important to understand that what we are preparing with the fast track services is only a first step. Later on these services will have to evolve to follow the market trend. Service evolution will be a function of evolving user needs. Customised solutions will be implemented through downstream services the development of which will also be initially supported.
In parallel, the Bureau needs to reflect on the overall architecture for GMES and to prepare proposals for governance. So when services are ready to become operational, the necessary financial and institutional framework should be available.
In my view, the implementation of GMES as an autonomous and operational European capability which provides strategic information services brings together a number of fundamental components: the user component; the service component including core and downstream services; and the observation infrastructure component including space-based and in-situ infrastructure.
As a user-driven initiative, GMES should be designed in such a way that there is a continuous user uptake through constant consultation with users and integration of their changing needs in an iterative process. Users can be grouped as either high-capacity users benefiting from GMES core services directly. Other users will benefit from downstream services enabled through the value-adding sector and the existence of core services.
Users will be served directly or indirectly through GMES core services which will be organised in a functional way to ensure that Earth elements (land, ocean, and atmosphere) are adequately observed ensuring operational environmental monitoring and addressing strategic security needs at European level.
Numerous downstream services should be developed boosting the value-adding sector and job creation. Downstream services are tailored for policies or specific applications at local, regional, and national levels, for public or private users. They may also cover specific needs of some users within the Commission.
Observation infrastructure, both space-based and in-situ (air-, sea-, land-based) should ensure seamless, state-of-art and operational data flow as the backbone for the implementation of information services. Observation infrastructure should be organised at European level in order to establish public and private operators which are controlled at European (for space-based) or national level (in-situ).
The mission of the GMES Bureau

The mission of the GMES Bureau is to assure the availability to end users of independent geospatial information services for European policy makers and citizens, provided on an operational basis and based on identified user´s needs, in order to stimulate both the market for innovative customised applications and a competitive Earth observation industry.

The Bureau´s functions are to channel user demands, identify sustainable funding for the service´s needs and communicate the innovative and strategic added value of GMES.

As an internal organization of the European Commission, open to seconded staff from Member States and other EU Institutions, the Bureau has been created with a limited lifetime, as its primary focus lies in delivering the first GMES services by 2008. It will also pave the way towards the establishment of a permanent governance structure for GMES.
How could an effective dialogue be established between the Bureau and the EO Industry?
The development of value added information services reaching the European citizen is considered to be the ultimate goal of GMES.
GMES is now part of the Enterprise and Industry DG. This is a sign that nowadays industry and especially small and medium enterprises are key partners for dialogue and business on the overall development of GMES. GMES has something to bring to competitiveness by creating opportunities for development of new business.
This is how the Bureau understands the future of GMES in the downstream services. It is in this overall context that a fruitful dialogue with the EO industry should be maintained.
Core and downstream services? Which is the strategy for talking for different users on these lines?
GMES is a complex initiative. It is clear that we try to distinguish between the core and the downstream services; which are of different nature. Core services are multipurpose services to address needs at European level. This has some consequences on the way we want to organise and to support these services. Sustainability of core services is very important for the business model. This is the basis for the development of the downstream sector.
The Bureau is in contact with different partners in defining the scope, organisation and functionality of the services. We very clearly see that we have numerous partners: other EU institutions and bodies, Member States and intergovernmental organisations such as ESA and EUMETSAT, national agencies, but also all industry including value-adding industry.
We develop relations and discussions with industry on the vision and strategy to support to value-adding chain integrating different steps from the infrastructure to the service level. But we also try to push very hard to enhance activities for the value added companies at the level of the downstream services.
How should the issue of integrating EO value adding capabilities into the user community be evolving?
To the extent that value added companies are users of GMES services, they should of course be included among the users and be able to contribute to the definition of the services. However, in most cases these companies are developers or providers of downstream services to end users. In this context, the main links with the Commission will be through the research framework programme, which may be mobilised to stimulate the development of these downstream services.
It is clear that we should encourage the implementation of service capacities in the value-adding industry sector. This capacity should contribute to both core and downstream services. However, we should also analyse with industry realistic business models: we cannot promote service capacities which cannot be sustainable in the long term. In order to impulse and accompany the implementation of new capacities within industry, funding mechanisms could be helpful (e.g. R&D for developing methodological toolboxes). However, they should not induce inappropriate business models.
How is FP7 organised? Which are activities are foreseen? How does it support the development of GMES?
For the first time space is a self-standing theme in the Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development of the European Community. The objective of the space theme is to support a European Space Policy focusing on applications such as GMES (Global Monitoring for Environment and Security), with benefits for citizens, but also other space foundation areas (e.g. science, technology, launchers, exploration) for the competitiveness of the European space industry. This will contribute to fulfil the overall objectives of the European Space Policy, complementing efforts of Member States and of other key players, including the European Space Agency.
FP7 is dedicating more than 1.4 billion € in 7 years to space and 85% of it, about 1.2 billion €, to GMES related activities. GMES related funding is instrumental to feed the massive R&D needs for the preparation of pre-operational services, the development of satellites and procurement of data (both spaceborne and “in-situ”).
The first call for proposals has been published on 22nd December 2006 and is available in the Official Journal of the European Union and on the Cordis web-site ( The call will be open until 19 June 2007 and includes the following topics:
-Development of upgraded capabilities to existing Fast Track Services and related (pre)-operational services (land, marine, emergency response)
-Developing pre-operational service capabilities in new application fields (atmosphere, security)
-Strengthening of Space foundations (science, technology, transportation)
In addition, a specific coordination and support action to facilitate the provision of spaceborne remote sensing data for GMES (thereby enabling easy access for relevant research projects to data) will be granted to the European Space Agency.
Evaluation of proposals will take place after summer and first contracts are expected to be signed beginning of 2008.
How will the EC funding for GMES cover the initial research and also guarantee long term sustainability of services and data provision?
GMES is service- driven which means European services funded by European money with European added value. FP7 is seen as the “intermediate phase” between FP6 projects and operational services which will arrive later around 2012. The intermediate phase will shape the project due to service precursor (working on the validation) of the service for leaving the research world and entering into the operational part.
Through FP7, there will also be Community contribution in support of coordinated data access and of the development of space infrastructure. These two actions are expected to support data provision to services and sustainability of infrastructure which is a pre-requisite for the continuity of observations and data.
How many funding steps are envisaged? How is the Bureau screening the funding opportunities? And what about the political commitments?
The political commitment is critical and challenging to achieve, but of course this is part of all the beauty of this exercise. To move from research to operational services is not an easy task. Our current approach on how to address financing aspects is as follows.
First we have to identify an initial amount of operational budget. For 2014, the service will be tuned and heavily involved in the validation phase and the challenge will be to find the funding opportunities after 2014 to really speed the operational services.
Second we also have to tackle the issue of funding opportunities for downstream services. Downstream services will not be continuously supported by public funding for elements which have become operational. This is very important because we do not want to induce a wrong business model.
We have a business model for the core services which foresees support by public operational funds with a phasing out of R&D funds. It does not mean that sustainable funding will be private for downstream services; but rather that funding opportunities of specific user communities will have to be found in order to sustain the operational services.
Finally, it should be noted that projects which are not ready for market uptake may benefit from innovation funding beyond the research programmes.
Which could be the role of the EO value added industry?
The role of the industry is to make its best to take into account the requirements of the programme. For the core services we have defined the guidelines of how we see the organisation of the whole project to prepare the operationalisation of the downstream services and of course the funding as a kind of capacity to structure some of those active communities.
All the stakeholders perfectly understand the role of each other; the role of the Commission is to structure and identify what is critical for the sustainability of the project. Industry is prepared to organise the service to be operational. I am positively impressed by the capacity of industry to innovate and to propose solutions that will meet the programme requirements.
How do you see the interaction with EO VA companies?
Industry is a key player for any stage of the value added chain; from the infrastructure integrators to the downstream services providers. All along the chain, I see a big role for the industry as key player and the Bureau has a commitment to an intensive dialogue with industry at each stage of the GMES process.
The GMES Bureau aims at launching downstream activities and fostering entrepreneurship and innovation. The Commission will consult and enter, in one way or another, in a dialogue with the different stakeholders. This is in line with my commitment to fully involve our industrial partners and define the different steps of our programmes. Indeed, being hosted in DG ENTR, the Bureau can rely on well-established dialogue channels with innovative companies, especially SMEs.
The development of value added information services reaching the European citizen is seen by the Commission as the ultimate goal of GMES. Value-adding industry should be a major player in the tailoring of information for specific purpose, at both “downscaling” level (i.e. national, regional, local) and international level. Community funding for developing a European GMES service capacity in the value-adding industry also represents a significant impulse for improving the competitiveness of European industry at international level, and to open new markets for these companies.
What is the most challenging task for GMES?
I think the most challenging task is to shape GMES to meet expectations of all stakeholders making sure that we build on existing capabilities and that we serve the user. Public support will not have the resource to develop a wide spectrum of services and that is why we really need to work on the “user driven model” and on what kind of “business model” will allow GMES a further development, sustainable in itself.
With this perspective in mind, the main challenges for the Commission in order to meet our political commitment to establish an autonomous and operational capability is three-fold: to successfully validate the first operational services; to endorse a common programmatic vision for GMES and to propose a financial and institutional framework that enables this common vision to be operational and sustainable.
And allow me if I may to conclude that the main challenge for the value-adding industry will probably be to accompany this demanding political task and evolve hand-in-hand to get closer to the user and thus increase its markets.
Mr. Valère Moutarlier, head of the GMES Bureau Office has explained the actual role of the “GMES Bureau to nurture a spirit of pan-Commission and pan-european teamwork and exchange federating user needs