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The NEREUS Network: Bringing the Benefits of Space Uses to Regions and Citizens

(June 30th, By Bordelot and Ayazi) NEREUS ‐ The Network of European Regions Using Space Technologies ‐ is an initiative of 23 regions and 40 associate members with the common objective to spread the use and understanding of space technologies across Europe for the benefit of regions and their citizens.

As a voice of European Regions, NEREUS serves as an advocate for matters relating to the use of space technology and also as a direct channel to regional users (such as local authorities, Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), universities and research institutes and citizens). The emphasis of the network is on the use of space technologies for Earth observation and monitoring. NEREUS strives to demonstrate and explain the added value of Space technologies as a tool for problem-solving or meeting challenges at regional levels with a direct impact on the daily lives of citizens.

Copernicus (formerly GMES) is one of the priority fields of network cooperation, which led to the creation of an EO/(GMES) Copernicus Working Group that aims to identify and promote regional priorities within the European Copernicus initiative. Copernicus services provide territorial, oceanographic and atmospheric data for the environmental protection and security of Europe’s citizens. Consequently, Copernicus services have a fundamental economic and social impact at the regional level. Copernicus offers important information regarding the state of coasts, forests, land and atmosphere and provides vital support during civil emergencies and natural disasters.

Since its inception, NEREUS has devoted intense communication efforts to make the public increasingly aware of the benefits of space technologies. Interregional collaboration and interaction has stimulated a number of initiatives, making regional space activities more transparent. For example, in 2011, NEREUS launched its NEREUS Space Exhibition: a mobile and vivid poster presentation of 24 NEREUS regions, enriched with a video, and available in all eight native languages of the network. It showcases regional examples of space applications in different domains (security, civil emergency, agriculture, maritime, etc.). Additionally, in 2012, NEREUS started a productive collaboration with the European Space Agency (ESA). The first outcome of this collaboration is the production of a publication on 67 uses of Copernicus in Europe’s regions. The publication is meant to be a source of reference for policymakers to understand the social and economic benefits derived from Copernicus services in Europe.

Despite the various Copernicus services and products already available, their take‐up within Local and regional Authorities (LRAs) is still very slow. Against this background, NEREUS and ESA initiated a project titled “Improving GMES/Copernicus take‐up among Local and Regional Authorities via dedicated thematic Workshops.” It aims at launching a dialogue with LRAs, presenting examples of space services and products already available in certain application domains and promoting awareness and learning about possible needs or obstacles for the service deployment. The project is based on the organization of few workshops dedicated to specific topic areas of interest for the European LRAs. In order to identify the workshop topics that are of priority interest for LRAs, an online consultation has been launched

An overall analysis of the outcomes of the series of workshops will be carried out and a final report will be presented and discussed on the occasion of an upcoming event at the European Parliament in Brussels. More information on the project is available here.

In addition to the collaboration with ESA, NEREUS is also a dynamic platform for its members to facilitate their involvement in several EU‐funded activities and mobilize projects and initiatives, often aimed at developing jointly space applications or promoting space uses.

DORIS Net (Downstream Observatory organized by Regions active in Space – Network), was the first EU‐funded project mobilized on the NEREUS platform. Bringing together 13 NEREUS partners, it was nominated as flagship project of the network. The key outcome of the project, which ended in February 2013, is a network of Regional Contact Offices (RCOs) which serve as a meeting/information point among local authorities, providers and potential users of Copernicus services and other stakeholders. Despite the termination of EU‐funding, the RCO‐network still exists and strives to find new ways of funding to ensure its sustainability. Its mission is to increase the use of space technologies, help create business opportunities to demonstrate the broad array of existing Copernicus services at the regional level in Europe, and to boost the use of Copernicus applications. Since July 2011, seven RCOs have been established in NEREUS members regions and some other regions are currently exploring the opportunity to open a new RCO in their territory.

Finally, the dialogue with European institutions is also among the priorities of the network. NEREUS introduces the regional dimension in European space policymaking, and offers a unique platform for regions to share ideas, develop joint strategies, and speak as a sole body with European institutions. As an advocate for regional concerns, NEREUS contributes to the development of new policies and programs.

To quote few examples, with respect to the long and complex debate on the financing of the Copernicus program post -2014 or in the latest EC proposal for a Regulation on establishing a European Earth Observation Programme (Copernicus) ; NEREUS played an important role to highlight the regional perspective and extreme need for a broad use of Copernicus data and services across Europe.

In the second half of 2014, NEREUS will organize its annual General Assembly in Brussels. The 6th Assembly will be an occasion to sum up activities carried out and results achieved as well as to plan for upcoming actions and initiatives.

Source Earthzine