In the EOCafe, “where the EO Community meet”, our subject for discussion had a more applications driven focus. This time it was dedicated to the use of EO information for the raw materials sector. “Raw materials” includes mining but also other means of extraction and even recycling as a means for production. Although, for the EO community, it could be obvious that EO data/information is useful for mining companies in several of its stages of operations, (from the exploration phase, environmental assessment & permits, to design, operations, mine closure and aftercare), for the mining sector there is still a long way to go for this relationship to succeed.


Margreet Van Marle, Consultant of Wildfires and Climate Resilience at Deltares, introduced the ESA funded project EO4RM project, which is a “best practice” project building upon the model which was successfully developed with the Oil and Gas sector some years ago. The best practice process identifies the demand through a list of challenges which the sector face. It then looks at what EO services can help overcome those challenges and subsequently the gaps and the barriers to uptake in the sector.


To put this into perspective, Reinier OOST, Product Lead at Sensar and Brendan Morris, Managing Director of LTMS (Lisheen Technical & Mining Services) gave examples as showcases. These showcased 15 EO products and their potential for the mining sector, including monitoring of tailings, subsidence monitoring of open pits and detection of environmental damage.


Even if EO technologies are not unknown to the mining industry, and especially the larger companies, there is still much room to increase their use, mainly through raising awareness of EO in the medium and small companies who have no knowledge or access to EO data according to Reinier. Once more, the main challenge EO technologies faces is awareness of EO and its capabilities along with the need of skills and expertise to be built within the mining companies. However, they are not the only ones. To go deeper, Margreet explained that even if an EO company with expertise provides high level products but does not understand the demands of the mining company, then the product will not fit the needs and meet the mining company needs. Vice versa, if the mining side lacks skills and knowledge, it will be challenging to make accurate requests, as its understanding in the EO technology such as processing, and interpretation of imagery could represent a barrier to procurement. According to Reiner, the image of EO in the mining sector is still science and research-based. Whilst this might have been true 10 or more years ago, the EO sector is now much more business orientated.


Reiner mentioned regulations as a driver. If norms were put in place under a regulatory framework at an EU level, this could enforce the predictability on mining management with the use of new technologies, amongst them EO, that is not there at the moment. In addition, the audience raised the topic of safety as an important topic in the mining industry, which should be put more attention worldwide as a legal obligation for the industry to invest in technologies to guarantee safety monitoring approaches.


Although international policy actions on safety are in force, these are under the umbrella of environmental protection, such as UNEP setting global environmental agenda including sustainable mining, the use of technologies for personal safety is still weak. For the record, the EU counts with a Directive[1] establishing minimum requirements for improving the safety and health protection of workers, however, it dates from 1992, which consequently EO technologies are not considered as a resource to enforce this legislation. It could be time to consider the use of EO in another piece of EU legislation to improve its enforcement.


Validation emerged as another barrier for the sector i.e. how can the products and services be shown to meet acceptable standards. Data is needed on a global basis to raise confidence in the services which are offered. Both some form of certification of the processes as well as validation of the satellite data will be necessary.


In conclusion, the main question is how these two sectors can develop a more fruitful relationship? The aforementioned oil and gas (O&G) sector created an informal advisory group with the EO sector called OGEO and which later became a sub-committee under the O&G umbrella association the IOGP. Can similar structures be envisaged under the mining and raw materials sector? Both Reiner and Brendan thought that this would be possible under either a European or International umbrella – which seems like a good recommendation, endorsed by the EOcafe participants, for the next steps.


Geoff Sawyer & Sandra Alvarado


For further reading:

Mineral Exploration from Space

https://www.esri.com/about/newsroom/arcwatch/mineral-exploration-in-the-hyperspectral-zone/


[1]See Directive 92/104/EEC https://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=CELEX:31992L0104:EN:HTML

Approximately 180 attendees gathered on the EARSC second EOcafe of 2021 to learn more on how Artificial Intelligence (AI) can help improve and interact with Earth Observation (EO) services. Both of our invited guests represent the community of AI developers and the community of EO service companies to give a wider perspective on the topic.

Nicolas Longepe - EO data Scientist in the European Space Agency’s Φ-lab (Phi-lab)- explained how the ESA  Φ-lab provides the platform for companies and individuals to become more familiar with EO services and especially to bring new technology to bear upon the sector. The recent focus has been on AI and new missions even sometimes combined. This has led to establishing the AI4EO project initiative. Nicolas also cited the In-cubed programme as of possible interest for those seeking to develop new activities/products together with ESA’s help.

Annekatrien Debien -Head of the Brussels office of SpaceTec Partners and lead of the AI4EO project- considers that bridging the two communities is not an easy task. In fact, the AI community is very diverse since AI is a transversal tool. Why? Due to the mix of industrial and research experts in the AI community. It is clear that satellite images are not just a picture from which you extract only one parameter, but a complex dataset that aims to tackle complex challenges that can actually profit from AI community knowledge.

All of the datasets taken from the satellites could get some insights on the parameters using AI. Thanks to AI, in general we are talking about prediction, detection, classification, big data analytics and super resolution emulation. Therefore, there is knowledge in both communities that can be complementary. However, one of the main challenges is to bridge the gap between the AI and the EO by fostering its use for example in the scientific community.

Dealing with EO problems, AI can be considered as a transversal and beneficial tool for EO contributing with all its techniques. For example, CNN (Computer Neural Network) which is adopted for segmentation (SAR) or GAN (Generating Adversal Network) for synthesizing images, mostly based on computer vision technics. Nevertheless, although a lot of different functions are already used there is still the need to explore them as only a small part of AI techniques are used. Linking the communities, finding partners and expertise remains the main challenge. To address this, Annakatrien currently the first phase is to build awareness in both communities to introduce both technologies. In addition, she explained the AI4EO challenge on air quality monitoring using Sentinel data promoted by ECMWF[1] is currently open and encourages the industry to submit its applications.[2]

Another issue perceived by the audience is the existing limitations on the robustness of the techniques and how both communities can benefit from their experiences to overcome such limitations. In addition, big data management should also need to be taken into consideration and the cloud solution, linked to the need to sustainability. This is illustrated by the use of Google and Amazon platforms and the place that the DIAS can play to address this demand. The audience also pointed out a limitation which is the lack of governmental research and data to reach a better understanding on how to get open tools, such as machine learning to explore the access to data, while academic and industry work are available.

Prompted by many questions from those in the EOcafe, Nicolas recognized that there should be more training efforts to provide access to data and other capacity building activities to raise awareness on AI and other technologies which is also a subject of interest for the Φ-lab. On the same line, the attendees also expressed their wish to know more on AI data trainings and object identification in AI and EO resolution gap. Trust on algorithms was a possible answer by Nicolas to start to resolve this applicability between these technologies.

Despite these concerns and issues raised, it was pointed out that there are already applications using AI in the EO community using models or algorithms with several levels of maturity that could be taken into consideration for the future of EO and AI possible synergy.

Finally, several attendees took the opportunity to promote resources and future events:

  • Workshop under the EO4GEO project on 2nd March[3] (Daniela Iasillo).
  • AI toolbox available called AiTLAS[4] (Dragi Kocev – Bias Variance Labs)
  • A session on AI planned at IGARSS 2021 (Vasilis Kalogirou – EU SatCen).
  • Machine Learning Datasets Library[5]

To assist AI and EO communities on fostering partnerships please write to AI4EO via the website[6]. Any EARSC member wishing to get involved can also contact the secretariat who will be pleased to help where possible.

Sandra Cabrera Alvarado, Aaron Scorsa, Geoff Sawyer


[1] European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, [2] For applications submission visit: www.ai4eu.eu, [3] See www.eo4geo.eu , 

[4] See https://github.com/biasvariancelabs/aitlas/, [5] See https://www.paperswithcode.com/datasets, [6] For applications submission visit: www.ai4eu.eu

The first eocafe of the year 2021 provoked a great deal of interest with over 200 joining us in the virtual cafe to hear about the new European Union Agency for the Space Programme (EUSPA). It is fair to affirm that the (European) space community is eagerly awaiting the entrance of this new player and its influence in the future of the EU space programme activities, especially for Copernicus. Once the new European Space Legislation is adopted, the current European GNSS Agency (GSA) will be transformed into the EUSPA with its responsibilities extended beyond the current role of market development of EGNOS and Galileo:

  • Fostering commercial use of Copernicus,
  • Federating the user requirements for Govsatcom[1] and SST[2].
  • Maximising synergies in the field of space innovation.

Fiammetta Diani, who is the Head of Market Development Department of the European GNSS Agency outlined what will be the role and mission of the new EUSPA according to the EU regulation proposal. In the EU space programme’s governance scheme, EUSPA’s role will be an umbrella European agency complementing other actors’ tasks with respect to downstream applications, focusing on creating synergies between EGNOS, Galileo, Copernicus, GOVSTACOM, and SSA programmes through transversal activities.

The ex-GSA will no longer be an agency dedicated to the EU GNSS (Galileo and EGNOS) programmes, but an agency aiming to foster synergies amongst the EU space programmes promoting the downstream/applications market development and user uptake sectors.

For the EO services community, EUSPA will focus on the enhancement of Copernicus data exploitation aiming to increase new users, new businesses and raise the competitiveness of the companies. In other words, EUSPA will be a user oriented operational agency. To do so, Fiammetta explained, their strategy is to focus more on the ‘other users’ who are researchers and non-governmental users but with a main focus on the private users while creating synergies across European space assets. Consequently, the challenge ahead is to identify the similarities and differences of the EU GNSS and Copernicus users.

Fiammetta acknowledged that although the EO and Galileo value chains are different, to achieve this goal relies on the building of a good knowledge of the user and the market. For this purpose, GSA has based this knowledge in the Galileo experience through the issuing of (six) biennial market reports[3] focused on the technology and market segments research, identifying the user communities and needs in the field of navigation. Along with this, the Horizon2020 programme has served as a key tool to develop specific products for later commercializing them.

While undertaking this market monitoring GSA has identified convergent sectors where Copernicus and Galileo have common users and sectors where these lacks of presence. For example, the transport sector is a prominent market of Galileo where Copernicus is less present, on the other hand, in the environmental sector, Copernicus is leading and Galileo lacks presence. Yet, she points out the agricultural, maritime and forestry sectors synergies are more natural to be developed.

According to Justyna Redelkiewicz, Head of Sector LBS, Market & Technology with GSA, as part of the preparatory work of EUSPA, the Agency has already prepared a ‘consolidation market monitoring report’ considering how to address the relevant markets for GNSS and Copernicus in a coherent manner. This report is planned to be released in the first quarter of 2021. Justyna mentioned several Copernicus’ market reports were used in its formulation such as EARSC reports[4], and raised a call to the industry users for input. Furthermore, Justyna mentioned that this kind of effort is important to assist the EO industry by generating accessible information on market projections.

Although Galileo and Copernicus provide different services, similarities in its users have been identified according to Eduard Escalona Zorita, Market Development Innovation Officer with European GNSS Agency. Raising awareness, however, is desired for both the Galileo and Copernicus communities sending the message that both programmes can offer a complementary solution to users. Three categories of market have been identified:

  • Those sectors which are relevant for GNSS alone e.g aviation
  • Those sectors which are relevant for Copernicus alone e.g climate change
  • Those sectors which are important for both technologies; agriculture and urban have been cited as examples.

In this last category, synergies between the two technologies are more likely.

Finally, regarding other mechanisms, the new EUSPA encourages the industry to approach its application specialists to assist them in their business projects and also to be attentive to the incoming Horizon Europe calls to be launched this year. EUSPA acceleration programmes are also contemplated. An Entrepreneur Day will be announced very soon to assist for example in matchmaking and developing new EO ideas.

Whilst waiting for the EUSPA to take shape in its expanded role, it is clear that identifying  synergies is one of its main and most challenging objectives to fulfil in this incoming era of the EU space programme. Technology readiness and users’ skills remain paramount factors to consider in order  to succeed in these synergies development. EARSC has a number of projects [5] which can complement EUSPA actions and looks forward to working with EUSPA in such an integrated view of the Copernicus-Galileo future ecosystem where the user is placed in first place by focusing also on the users of the EO private sector.


Sandra Cabrera Alvarado, Aaron Scorsa, Geoff Sawyer


[1] https://www.gsa.europa.eu/govsatcom

[2] https://www.satcen.europa.eu/page/ssa

[3] More information about it may be found here: https://www.gsa.europa.eu/market/market-report and https://www.gsa.europa.eu/european-gnss/gnss-market/gnss-user-technology-report

[4] EARSC Taxonomy report

[5] Some EARSC projects information can be found:  FIRE fire-forum.eu  PARSEC Accelerator parsec-accelerator.eu e-shape  e-shape.eu

I think we are all breathing a sigh of relief that the difficult year 2020 is over and look forward to a better 2021. As the Covid pandemic broke last March, many companies found themselves faced with stringent lockdown measures and the need to rapidly reorganise their production as staff were forced to work from home. At EARSC, we believe that we adapted quite well despite early fears and were fortunate to have a number of long term contracts from ESA and the EC which gave us stability.

Overall, as a sector, we were let-off relatively lightly – at least so far. Unlike retail or even worse entertainment sectors, companies in the EO services sector were mostly able to adapt to a regime of home working relatively smoothly. Most business is done through fixed duration contracts which meant that the initial impact was more on the staff than the business. Some companies even told us about increased business linked to customers seeking a better understanding of the Covid situation.

Now, 9 months on, we hope that the business situation is still relatively benign. A number of companies have expressed concern that their commercial business will dry up, but this will be very sector dependent if it happens. We hope to find out more through our next industry survey which has just been launched. Initially, we updated the analysis of the sector performance every 2 years but, we were asked by ESA if we could provide annual figures and, the survey results published last June were the first of the annual releases.

If you are running a company offering EO services and based in a European country, then it is likely you have a request mail from us to fill it in. If you, or a colleague, have not received the invitation please let us know as well shall be delighted to add you into our list. Currently, we have around 700 companies in our database each of which should have received the mail. This is already quite a steep increase from last year and it looks as though there have been many new companies formed or entering the sector.

This latter point is a trend that I have particularly noticed. I have come across quite a number of new companies which offer services unrelated to satellite data, but which have started to include satellite-derived products in their offers. This is great news and certainly represents a maturing of the sector. In recognition, we have tweaked our survey a little to distinguish these companies from those whose core business is offering services based on the analysis of EO data. Hopefully, we shall be able to extract that information from the survey results.

The survey is extremely important for the European institutional stakeholders. It is by far the most comprehensive survey carried out in the sector and provides valuable information for policy makers. It helps us as a trade association to formulate the views of the industry and to seek to maximise the opportunities for the sector. Our goal is always to seek to help you win new business and develop your company.

Our last survey, published in the summer, has been used by both ESA and the EC to help shape their new programmes; ESA through the ministerial and the EC for the new financial budget period 2021 to 2027. Further activities are planned under Copernicus, linked to GEO and to support SME’s to build their business in Europe.

This year, the survey is divided into two. The first part is classical and is directed at all companies with a maturity of 5 years or more. As well as the core questions on your employees, your revenues and the nature of the market in which you are working, we have also a number of questions linked to Copernicus, and your views on its development.

The second survey is being sent to all newer companies which are 5 years old or less. We wish to build a picture of how you have been formed and grown so, as well as the same core questions, there are others more directed at your origins and issues that you have faced to get going. The answers will help us shape future support activities like those we have been running under the PARSEC accelerator scheme. We have also been able to bring some new industrial partners into the e-shape project and have more schemes like these in prospect.

Please do take the time to respond and do not hesitate to contact us if you have not received an invitation to complete the survey or you have any questions.

We started eocafe shortly after the Covid19 pandemic arrived as a way for our community to meet each other virtually. It is fair to say that now there are many opportunities to join a virtual meeting, seminar or workshop every week and sometimes it is hard to choose which one to join.

Despite this, we continue with eocafe but now with a different goal, to bring subjects of interest to the community whilst leaving room for some informal networking in the margins of the meeting. Not as effective for networking as physical meetings but in some ways more effective as people do not have to spend time travelling and can join us from any time zone. For those who have not yet joined us, it is a very informal affair where I talk with guests with the rest of the cafe listening in and then joining the conversation as they wish.

Our most recent eocafe was about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s). It was just 5 years’ ago that they were introduced via the UN resolution on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable development which was signed in September 2015. In the eocafe last week (3rd December) we met with 3 experts working on the implementation of the SDG’s and particularly on the role that EO can play. It has long been clear that to monitor development on a global scale, EO is an essential tool.

Greg Scott who is the inter-regional advisor and a lead player in the UN GGIM (Global Geospatial Information Management) outlined the framework for the SDG’s and their Implementation. Greg reminded us that there are 17 Sustainable Development Goals, 169 targets and 232 indicators. The latter form a Global Indicator Framework (GIF) which will allow countries and the global community to measure, manage and monitor progress.

Greg also made the point that the indicators were largely based upon statistical data since EO is not well understood by statisticians, decision makers and diplomats. Although the development of the Global Indicator Framework has primarily been based on statistical data (has been proposed for the monitoring of the Goals and Targets of the 2030 Agenda), it is recognized that geospatial information (including EO) provides new and consistent data sources that can support and inform official statistics and consequently the indicators for the SDGs.

EO programmes have shown that they can contribute with such data, yet there is a lack of well-defined processes and methodology to integrate with the other necessary data sources. EO data offers global coverage, consistency of measurements, regular and repeatable observations, many different data types and is affordable. Data from open sources can increase the transparency, accuracy, reliability and key linkages.

Mark Paganini, technical officer with ESA gave a very useful overview of how the implementation is being managed and where the EO industry can be involved. Copernicus and its unique datasets are a key European contribution, but private, commercial data is also highly relevant. Companies should work with their national statistical offices which hold the lead on reporting against the targets, with the results being collected by the UN statistical division as well as some of the other UN bodies. The UN WGGI (working group on geospatial indicators) review the GIF and identify existing geospatial data gaps and methodological issues as well as assessing how EO can contribute.

That left a really good introduction to Kevin McCormack who is the lead statistician for SDG reporting in the Irish statistical office. Kevin also co-chairs the UN Inter-Agency group dealing with the SDG indicators. Kevin explained the system which has been set up in Ireland which has also recently become an excellent basis for establishing national Covid reporting. Kevin also gave an example of the SDG reporting for mountain greenery which is currently using NDVI measurements based on Sentinel-2 imagery but is limited by the number of cloudy days in Ireland! Even so, this is integrated into the measurements being made with a wish to do more.

Companies can find it hard to get heard since the UN and national structures are working on measuring against the targets – so one step removed from the EO contribution. All speakers recognised that a private-public partnership, in the sense of the two parties working together, is missing.

From this it was clear that more EO products should be made available in the National statistical offices. Greg is really encouraging companies and especially small ones to get more involved. The UN-GGIM will enable communications to make national offices aware and help them integrate into their national development plans whilst ESA is supporting EO integration into monitoring and reporting as well as promoting new services which could be relevant. The EARSC award for an innovative product of the year is also appreciated. [Greg and Mark have both been judges for this award – and their time has been much appreciated].

We discussed the pace of change in the sector and that new satellites and sensors are being launched which can bring new services to support the SDG’s. Opportunities to speak to representatives of the sector through events like the eocafe are also appreciated by our guests. Others in the cafe also raised questions about the use of EO during Covid and whether the EU census could be an opportunity.

Finally, a key factor that was identified is trust. Statistical officers are used to really understanding the sources of their data and all its imperfections. With EO data they have no history and no experience to fall back on. As a result, they are often wishing to really understand the algorithms, the processes whereby the data they receive are being generated. Thus, there is a lack of trust which needs to be addressed. Maybe time to return to the topic of certification?

In conclusion, geospatial data is one of the key contributions which the private sector can make. Companies can offer data, geospatial information, platforms and curation of data as a valuable resource. The subject is very broad, and I imagine that we shall return to it in a future eocafe if not a longer, dedicated event.

 

Geoff Sawyer, Monica Miguel-Lago, Sandra Cabrera Alvarado.

In the latest twists in the Brexit saga, it was reported last week that the CAMS and C3S contracts with the European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting (ECMWF) may be moved outside of the UK as a result of Brexit. As this long saga moves towards the next key milestone on 31st December, more impacts of this act of national auto-mutilation are becoming apparent. What does it mean for the UK and Copernicus?

ECMWF is an international body so will not itself be directly affected by Brexit. Based in the UK since 1975, when it was established in Reading to be near the UK Meteorological Office in Bracknell (but now moved to Exeter), the ECMWF has recently opened a new facility in Bologna, Italy to host a new supercomputer capacity. But as of January 2021, the UK becomes a third-party country to the EU and, unless an agreement is struck beforehand, will no longer be a participatory to the EU Copernicus programme.

As part of Copernicus, a new research facility for weather and climate is due to be established with up to 250 staff. If the UK is not part of the Copernicus programme, nor a partner to the next EU R&D programme Horizon Europe, then this facility is very much under threat of being located outside the UK. In this respect it would follow the European Medicines Agency and the European Banking Authority and indeed the Galileo Security Facility by being moved from the UK to an EU Member State.

Early in the Brexit saga, when the implications became apparent for the Galileo programme, the UK announced it would develop its own satellite navigation system. This was particularly ironic given the UK position towards Galileo when it was being decided in the early years of the century. At that time, the UK argued that the US GPS was perfectly adequate, and that Europe did not need to construct its own system. However, when told that the UK could not longer be a part of Galileo after Brexit unless a new agreement was made, the May government went into a hissy fit and invested up to UKP100m in designing its own system with a final bill put at around UK5B.

This took another strange twist in the summer when the Johnson government announced that it had abandoned that idea and would now invest 500m in the Oneweb system which had entered chapter 11. Experts quickly pointed out that the configuration of the Oneweb constellation, the satellites, the frequencies, the orbits are not well-suited to hosting a GNSS payload. The UK industry has been split on the wisdom of this decision and, whilst some, like Pat Norris, have provided a more balanced argument, the suspicion remains that the UK, in order to save face over the Galileo withdrawal, is simply buying the wrong satellites.

Either way, the investment marks a very sharp change of policy by the UK government which has followed a far less interventionist role in the past. An excellent, forensic analysis of the Galileo and Oneweb saga is given by Alex Andreou in the Byline Times.

Which brings us back to the future of the ECMWF. The headquarters would in any case remain in Reading but whilst the UK would like to host the new Copernicus facility covering the CAMS and C3S contracts, many other countries are expected to bid to host them. According to the Guardian article, bids to host the new offices are expected from Austria, Estonia, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and very strong competition is expected with a lot of political factors to be balanced.

However, Brexit negotiations are still on-going, and it was announced yesterday, could continue up to the end of October. Longer than this would not allow time for the European Parliament to give its approval. So, it is still possible that the UK will be a third-country partner to Horizon Europe, Copernicus and even to Galileo. In which case, it would be more likely that the new facility would be built alongside ECMWF headquarters in Reading. Whilst this is the logical outcome, logic is in short supply within the UK government and other issues are dominating the talks right now. It could go either way, but, if the UK does isolate itself further from the key climate research activities of the EU, then it stands to lose out even more as the new EU weather and climate research facility moves elsewhere.

Women in Copernicus

Many will be following with deep anxiety the latest twist in the US after the untimely death of Ruth Bader Ginsberg. During her time as a supreme court judge, she has done more than anyone to promote people’s rights and especially those of women. If Trump is successful with his nomination of a new judge before the election, the direction of travel for these rights looks to be set back for a generation.

I write this following the most recent EARSC eocafe where the topic for discussion was “Women in Copernicus”. Nathalie Stefanne (geomatics specialist with the Wallonia public authority) is the mind behind a project to seek to give a stronger voice and visibility for the women working with Copernicus. The project, led by Marie Jagaille from GIS Bretel ( Ingénieur d'études "Applications Spatiales" et animation de projets ), aims to create a community of women (and men) to identify obstacles and opportunities for women and to provide inspiration for young girls setting out on their careers.

This is so important. As we noted during our discussion, young girls lack role models in the space sector. Whilst the EARSC secretariat is doing its best to counterbalance, if we look at the EARSC board of directors, we have 11 men and just 1 woman on the board. Is this really making best use of the skills available?

I think this is an important subject to bring the best people into positions to develop a world-class European technology and business base. In our annual survey of the European EO services sector, we find that the proportion of women in the sector is around 30% and is pretty stable at that level. We shall investigate in our next survey to see if this is changed but somehow, I doubt it. What can be done to change this?

For me, this does not mean that we should be setting targets or quotas. This does not help to develop excellence. It is a societal problem. Ruth Bader Ginsberg was clear that she was not in favour of positive discrimination when she said: “I ask no favour for my sex, all I ask of my brethren is that they take their feet off our necks”.

Our sector is not alone. Just this week, the economist published an article commenting on the appointment of a woman to be CEO of Citigroup (US banking group) bringing to 37 the number of female CEO’s at the head of the Fortune 500 companies. Also, as reported in the Guardian, the Gates Foundation has just published a report, analysing stories across six countries, saying that “Women’s voices have been “worryingly marginalised” in reporting of the coronavirus, partly due to the war-like framing of the pandemic. The Guardian article shows the extent to which men dominate the story from 100% in the UK and more than 80% in 4 of the other 5 countries.

So how to change things? Change needs to start early when girls are setting out their choices and deciding their careers. We men need to do better as well. For the eocafe, we had 54 participants of which 4 were men, and only one (Stephane Ourevitch) was from outside the EARSC secretariat! This is not good enough and is a strong indicator part of the problem; men do not see it as a problem. But that means a lot of latent talent and potential talent is not being used. If we want our sector to do better, we can start by encouraging more girls to join our industry and to make sure that they are given equal opportunity to develop within the industry.

WIC plans to launch a survey directed at the men in our sector. I hope that we can count on better male participation than last week.

A Lack of User Awareness

I am convinced that one of the biggest hindrances to the uptake of geo-information comes from barriers within organisations. Often, we hear it described as “lack of user awareness” – which it is – but it goes deeper than that and requires considerable effort, time and patience to solve. Overcome these barriers, and the potential for the uptake of EO services becomes enormous. But how to tackle this problem is less obvious.

In our work looking at understanding and measuring the value coming from the use of EO - which goes under the name of SeBS (Sentinel Benefit Studies) - we work with key users in many different and varied organisations. For anyone who is unaware, we take a value chain approach meaning we start with a single product or service which is being used by a primary user and then analyse the impact this is having on the activities of the primary user, on the consequences for their customers/stakeholders and on the citizens of the country concerned. But having the right primary user is fundamental and tricky.

In so many cases, something goes wrong. The primary user, working with an EO service supplier, has built up knowledge and experience of how the EO service can fit into the organization’s processes. This is critical to understanding how the organization is benefiting. But what happens when the organization changes?

In around half the cases we have worked on, during the time it takes for the analysis (usually around 6 months), either the person has changed job, or the organization structure has changed meaning that our champion user has a new boss. Each time, we have to educate a new person who has none of the background or the persons themselves must educate their new hierarchy. In about one third of the cases, this leads to a blockage where the new hierarchy does not see the benefit of the analysis. The support of the hierarchy has become one of the key factors to confirm before we take on a case. Even so, it often goes wrong.

This shows clearly the problem; the use of EO is not embedded in the organization but in a few people within it. People change and the support changes. It appears that it requires a quite complex combination of skills, determination, and character to bring new technology – especially one which is not known through consumer applications – into current use in a company. It is even more difficult in public bodies which are very traditional in outlook.

I mention consumer applications and I could probably also include business applications of IT, since these are widely known if not fully understood. So, if a new IT expert advocates the use of Zoom, or even Teams, for teleconferencing, then the manager who decides is either familiar with it from home use or it is Microsoft and no-one gets fired for choosing Microsoft.

But when we come to geo-information, whilst managers may be familiar with maps, they are not familiar with maps showing lots of coloured dots designating where the ground is moving (InSAR) or of shaded areas in fields. Hence, the champion advocating for the introduction of the new technology has a much harder job, selling the solution to their internal management. Only if the benefit can be demonstrated quickly and positively can our champion convince their hierarchy that it is a useful tool for the organisation to adopt. Even then, internal politics between different departments can hinder the spread of new ideas.

This situation has been very much to the fore in some recent cases which we have analysed. One solution is to improve communication, as I wrote about recently. Another is to provide more resources to help our champion garner internal support. The SeBS case studies we believe do help in this respect by providing a story and clear evidence of the value. I should welcome any further ideas and suggestions on what more EARSC can do to help in this respect.

Business Models

I have been writing these last few weeks about promoting the value in Earth Observation data, with the focus being on communicating the benefits to society at large and decision-makers. Underpinning this is another theme which I have talked about in the past which is about Capturing the Value. If you look at the value chain for communications satellites, the hardware represents about 1% with 99% of the revenue coming from downstream activities (services). The revenues for GNSS or location-based services are perhaps 10% upstream 90% downstream, whilst Earth Observation is more like 50:50.

But the value is there. In our studies into the value of Sentinels, the economic benefits being generated by the data coming from Sentinel satellites is way higher than I expected at the outset. From the 10 cases we have analysed so far, we can see benefits of perhaps €200m or more. Recent cases are showing €10m+ for each case which are based on one country. Extrapolating across Europe quickly leads to €100m+ for one application and there are literally hundreds of applications. Whilst the benefit is high, the revenue is still quite low. How do we capture more of this benefit for the sector?

This week, Joe Morrison wrote a very insightful blog The Commercial Satellite Imagery Business Model is Broken which gained traction on Twitter. Joe writes about the selling of data and the elephant in the room which is the DoD. Since the DoD are THE major customer, they are essentially setting the selling conditions. He regrets the policies adopted by major operators which makes it difficult for users like himself to get hold of data. He calls for 20% of the data to be available pro-bono for public-good use. A number of posters pointed out that the major operators already do this, but Joe’s core point that the business model for Earth Observation services is not working is largely correct. However, I don’t think it is as simple as saying the satellite operators are not setting the right conditions to sell to a mass market.

To my mind there are three forces operating here and a number of underlying issues:

  1. The cost of the satellite infrastructure is high. Even if newcomers with smallsats and CubeSats are pushing costs down, it is still a heavy investment and will remain so – especially for high-performance imagery and for constellations.
  2. There is a need for sustained data. For years, we have been launching one-off satellites (Landsat, ERS, Envisat etc) with no real continuity. Without continuity, customers are reluctant to incorporate geo-information into their business processes. With many more satellites in orbit, this has changed so that customers can be reassured that data will be available if they commit to using it. Copernicus and the Sentinels are doing this as are the commercial operators. However, assuring the data means more satellites which means more
  3. The lack of a sustained market. As is noted by Joe, we have been going at this for nearly 50 years now, so it is not a question of time! But it is a question of capacity and confidence that needs can be met over a period of time. Once a customer commits to using and EO product or service, they will quickly stop if they are let down by their supplier.

We see in many of the SeBS cases that much of the benefit is potential – ie it is still to be realised, which is largely because the early adopters have not yet been followed by the mass users. This is where the change is needed. We are trying to push things, through our SeBS analyses, demonstrating how the benefits are driven right along a value-chain.

So, these three forces are all interlinked. A capacity to deliver sustained data requires a very high investment which drives the costs up and makes customers hesitate to commit to a new service. The defence business is a great anchor customer, but the large benefits will come from all the host of other applications once the capacity is proven, To gain the confidence of paying customers requires more than evangelism on the part of a few enthusiasts. To generate sufficient revenue flows to justify sustained investment in upstream, observing capacity will take time. A number of enthusiastic private investors and venture funds have come into the business, but they will need to be very patient to see a return. As Joe rightly states:

“It’s a multi-decadal bet if you really believe in the power of satellite imagery to transform the commercial industries you talk about all the time.”

How do we fix this broken market? Patience and a lot of communications. In Europe, we are seeing a good number of new players coming into the value-added services markets. The data itself is becoming a commodity due to the number of competing satellite operators and the phenomenon that Joe identifies of fixing on defence customers as the motherlode. In fact, we do not see just defence in that position as governments represent 50% of the market as I have reported many times before – and I do not see this changing.

Many of the new downstream players are basing their services on the free and open data coming from the Sentinels under the Copernicus programme. With free data, it is easier to experiment without incurring high costs – as Joe points out. It is easy to get hold of through portals like the Sentinel hub. The commercial operators are also making data available free for these purposes and commercial data can also be obtained through dedicated portals for example:. https://geocento.com/

EO is not a B2C market, although I do think this can grow, so convincing the public of its value must be based on a public-good argument. Climate change could be the driver, but it could equally be global political instability post-Covid. Whichever, it is, it will take some years to develop. Investors will need to be patient I fear.

.... and thanks to Joe for kicking off a good discussion!

Further Raising Awareness.

In my last blog, I raised the question of how we can ensure that our most senior decision-makers are aware of the value that EO can deliver? This theme has been picked up elsewhere and led to an interesting exchange on twitter, triggered by a blog post and tweet from Andrew Lavender of Pixalytics. Andrew had also been looking at the EU budget and wondering why Galileo was favoured over Copernicus?

Of course, as Hannes Dekeyser pointed out, there is a strategic dependence associated with Galileo that is not the same for Copernicus. Indeed, the whole Galileo programme was predicated on non-dependence – but this was at a time when there was no real global alternative to GPS. Glonass was incomplete Beidou was not even thought of. Interestingly, at that time, the UK government was opposed to the EU initiative on the basis of “GPS exists why do we need a second system?” This contrasts with the recent ambition to create the UK’s own Galileo once security signal from the EU one is to be denied them. The subsequent investment in Oneweb could be the subject of several more blog posts!

But we are interested in Copernicus and why this does not seem to leave the same impression with policy makers as Galileo. I content that this is because the general public are less aware of the benefits which satellite observations can bring. Just as the notorious US senator is quoted as saying “why do we need to invest in more weather satellites when I get thee weather every night on my television”, so the impacts of Copernicus are much more felt by businesses and by other government departments than by those taking spending decisions. Governments rely so much on focus groups to gather public opinion, and the general public is unaware. Whilst they have satnav in their cars and in their phones, there are very few EO applications which touch the citizens. Hence they remain unaware of the benefits and the public decision makers reflect their views.

Again, going back to Galileo. In the early days, when the debate over the programme was raging (this is 2001/2002), it was easy to engage a taxi driver in a discussion. What is this Galileo I keep hearing about on the radio? It is a European GPS. Oh well then it is a good idea. But, asked if they know of GMES (or Copernicus), there is no similar answer.

The conclusion is that we need to do much more to raise awareness of the impact EO and Copernicus has on everyone’s lives. Climate change gives us a good angle but our SeBS studies provide plenty more ammunition. I like Steven Krekels proposal concerning natural capital accounting. With so m much more awareness around environmental impact arising from the Covid pandemic, it is a good time to be raising awareness of the essential role played by satellites. The new CO2 monitoring mission will help grab attention but we cannot wait and need to promote the impact our technology has on everyday lives. It is true as Bert Rijk says that we have been going at this for 50 years, but this has been 50 years of science. Only now is the technology becoming mature to make a strong impact. Again, many of our SeBS cases show this very well. See the recent one on Norway where the benefit of the use of InSAR to help manage roads, rockslides and many other problems faced by Norwegian society is so clear – yet is only just starting to be appreciated. This is the same in many other countries and for many other issues of national interest.

I am sure we can develop a strong campaign. It is a personal target to contribute to this debate and to help develop both content and communications to deliver the messages. We are encouraging a community of interest called GeoValue with this particular goal and I look forward to working on this with yourselves and others on behalf of the sector.




Raising awareness of Value

The recent announcement of cuts in the EU budget for the space programme discussed in my last blog, came at a critical time and indicates the pressure which EU leaders were under at the time. I expressed our disappointment at seeing a significant cut in the budget for Copernicus that amounted to nearly 20% from initial proposals (€6b down to €4.8b). It is likely that one of the new Sentinel missions will need to be cancelled or postponed.

But, as leaders cut the space budget, are they aware of the benefits which the investment brings? Overall, the impression is that leaders and governments in general are not aware and treat the space budget as a strategic investment securing a place on the geopolitical stage ie Europe’s place in the world. Historically, the investment in the civilian space effort has been considered as a part of the R&D activities.

But the EARSC survey into the EO services industry shows that over 50% of the public sector spend is as a user of EO satellite data. This number has been consistent since we started the survey back in 2012 – and has even grown slightly over that period. This demonstrates that the use of the EO data by public sector decision makers is operational and supports public sector efforts.

But these users are not those investing in the space programme. They are in charge of other policies and public programmes and so they do not see the link between what they do and the investments made in space and in Copernicus. If they do see it, they see the size of the space programme as being too significant for them to support by themselves. I recall this very clearly in the very early days of GMES when we were trying to get DG Environment (DG-XI at the time) to support the proposal. DG Environment had to be told, and reassured, that they were not being asked to pay – but their support as a key user was necessary to move the proposals along.

These roles are many and varied ranging from understanding and combatting climate change, to supporting regulation, the building of roads, the move towards digital farming, the supply of essential goods through ice-bound waters etc etc. All these examples can be found within our work on demonstrating the value in EO through the programme we call SeBS (Sentinel Benefits Studies).

Indeed, the SeBS cases show that enormous value is being delivered which underpin and more than justify the investment by each European country in the Sentinels and Copernicus.

So, how do we ensure that our most senior decision makers are aware of this value?

More effort is necessary to communicate and more effort is needed to construct the case. In SeBS, we believe we have developed a robust methodology which can be used by anyone. We are working with other international partners under the umbrella of GeoValue to share our knowledge, to learn from others and investigate how to extend the methodology further. With ESA, under SeBS activities, we develop stories of how the cases work. Each case demonstrates value on its own but in combination we are able to obtain a truly rich perspective on how EO is delivering value to decision makers whether they are in the public or private sectors.

We also put effort into communicating the benefits, but it is clear that more is needed. We need to reach the most senior decision makers with this key message. Our work will come under more scrutiny, but we are happy to help others and to learn ourselves if we can improve our methodology further. Mostly, we seek help from our members and partners to spread the word and to inform us if there are new cases or specific topics which can hit home. Let’s work together to

The Next EU Budget

The meeting of the EU Council has proven a marathon affair extending into the 5th day of meetings – including 4 full nights. The agreement reached (see the council conclusions), despite the denial of the term by Mark Rutte the Netherlands prime minister, is certainly historic. For the first time, EU nations have agreed to pool debt to help out those most affected by the Covid-19 crisis. That was never going to be easy.

The new budget of €1.8t includes the famous €750b dedicated to Next Generation EU (NGEU) and comprises a mix of grants and loans – for which negotiation over the balance and conditions attached caused the 4 sleepless nights. A small amount of this budget is attached to climate related activities in the Just Transition fund of €10b.

The second part of the budget of €1,074t is the MFF for 2021 to 2027. This includes all the traditional EC funded activities including Horizon Europe and the Space programme. Here, in some key areas of much interest to the EO services community, the news is not so positive.

The much-awaited EU space budget – the first time that a specific budget has been allocated to a programme of space activities – has been cut as a result of the negotiations. Originally sized at €16.1b by the EC proposals, and resized to €14,8b before the summit, the proposal which emerges is for a budget of €13,202m of which €8,000m is for Galileo and €4,810m is for Copernicus.

"........will continue to support funding to large scale projects in the new European Space programme as well as to the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor project (ITER): i.The financial envelope for the implementation of ITER for the period 2021-2027 will be a maximum of EUR 5 000 million. ii.The financial envelope for the implementation of the Space programme for the period 2021-2027 will be a maximum of EUR 13 202 million, of which EUR 8 000 million will be dedicated to Galileo and EUR 4 810 million to Copernicus."

Another area to be cut is the budget for Horizon Europe; from an initial proposal of €100b only €75.9b will be allocated. Some of this cut is not a surprise given the absence of the UK and we wait to see how UK wishes to associate to the European research programme, but it still represents a severe cut and another major disappointment.

Another disappointment given the Covid crisis is the cut in budget for health. The EP had been proposing a €9b fund for common procurement of PPE, vaccine research and other measures. But EU leaders did not wish to cede these competencies and have cut the budget to €1.7b. It could be considered a small step forward but given the news of the EU response to an Italian request for help early in the crisis, more might have been realistically expected. Maybe some other budgets hide measures which will emerge in time.

For space and EO, it is a disappointment that the core budget for Copernicus should be cut so drastically. Here also, maybe other budgets will be relevant especially environment, agriculture and climate change, and the Council has maintained the emphasis on fighting climate change.

"Reflecting the importance of tackling climate change in line with the Union's commitments to implement the Paris Agreement and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, programmes and instruments should contribute to mainstream climate actions and to the achievement of an overall target of at least 30% of the total amount of Union budget and NGEU expenditures supporting climate objectives. EU expenditure should be consistent with Paris Agreement objectives and the "do no harm" principle of the European Green Deal. An effective methodology for monitoring climate-spending and its performance, including reporting and relevant measures in case of insufficient progress, should ensure that the next MFF as a whole contributes to the implementation of the Paris Agreement."

It will be more important than ever to show, concretely, the value that our industry brings to Europe and the enormous benefits which may be secured through the use of EO-based information and services. We should rightly emerge not as “a space industry” but as part of the information sector working with satellite data.

The dust now needs to settle. The EP will have its’ say next but given the fragility of the agreement and the difficulty of reaching it, further change seems unlikely. Despite the disappointments, the deal is extremely important for Europe and without it, the EU would have been under even stronger pressures and possible leading to even larger disruptions to which even Brexit might have seemed soft by comparison.

EARSC AGM

Our Annual Meeting took place last week on 18th June. My colleague Delphine MIRAMONT has written a short overview of the proceedings. It is our plan to establish a new blog over the summer where my (Geoff's blog) will move and sit alongside other blogs including a policy blog which will allow Delphine to write about relevant happenings in Brussels. Until that blogpage is ready, we'll introduce her blogs into my blog here. If you want any more information, do not hesitate to leave a comment here for her to reply to.


Policy blog by Delphine MIRAMONT

AGM – 18th June 2020

On the 18th of June 2020, EARSC organised its annual conference, gathering Earth Observation industry members and key European stakeholders, namely Mr Massimiliano Salini (representing the European Parliament), Mr Josef Aschbacher (European Space Agency), Ms Paraskevi Papantoniou (European Commission, DG DEFIS), Mr Kai-Uwe Schrogl (German presidency of the European Council) and Mr Chetan Pradhan (Chairman of EARSC).

The on-line event was very successful giving a comprehensive overview of the future of the European Space programme. Against the background of the Covid crisis, the guest speakers expressed their views and concerns regarding the governance and the budget of the European Space programme.

  • Industrial competitiveness and the EU Space programme: a holistic approach

Mr Salini, who was appointed rapporteur of the EU Space programme in 2018 by the ITRE Committee strongly believes that industrial competitiveness is key to a Europeanand digital strategy. Mr Aschbacher shared this holistic approach and regretted that the budget for the space programme would not cover all the proposed missions. Both speakers pleaded for a strong push for an industrial strategy at the European level, in which the EU space programme is a key element. As for the European Commission, Ms Papantoniou stressed the role of the member states in the governance of the post Covid-19 context and the importance of programmes such as Horizon 2020 to provide a strategic autonomy for Europe and boost innovation and resilience. She added that the priority is to federate more the European players to foster entrepreneurship.

  • Impact of Covid-19

Of course, the consequences of the Covid 19 crisis on the industry was one of the main topics discussed during our workshop. EARSC recently conducted a survey to measure the consequences of the pandemic crisis on the industry and the first results show a negative impact on the business in the mid and long term. In that regard, Mr Salini mentioned a letter[1] that he wrote to Thierry Breton, asking for a recovery plan for the space industry. explained that the coronavirus pandemic makes it more crucial for the European Union to commit to the €16b funding level which had been proposed in the context of the MFF compared to €14.9b in the revised plan. A letter[2] from EARSC to Commissioner Breton also highlighted the necessity of sustained funding to support the recovery of companies. At the ESA level, Mr Aschbacher also talked about the different support measures taken to help the industry (advances payments, faster processes…).

  • Copernicus programme

Mr Aschbacher reinforced the position of the Copernicus programme and strongly asserted that the Copernicus data and services will be helpful for the Green Deal and the digital strategy. He also mentioned the necessity for the industry to be prepared for the next phase of the programme. This statement is aligned with EARSC last position paper concerning the evolution of the Copernicus programme and the need to prepare in a timely manner for the Copernicus new services.



[1] Letter to the Commissioner Thierry Breton, Bruxelles, Massimiliano Salini MEP, Carlos Zorrinho MEP, Christophe Grudler MEP, Andrea Caroppo MEP, Damian Boeselager MEP, Evžen Tošenovský MEP,

Manuel Bompard MEP, 30/04/2020,

[2] Letter to the Commissioner Thierry Breton, EARSC, Bruxelles, 09/04/2020.







New US Remote Sensing Act

Recently, I read with interest that the US Department of Commerce has published proposals for revision to the export limitations for EO satellites and data supplied by US companies. The original restrictions were part of the Landsat Remote Sensing Policy act published way back in 1992. This was revised in 2006 in part reflecting the Commercial Remote Sensing act of 2003. Now the DoC wishes to remove many of the constraints which have been barriers for US companies in the global market.

The market has changed significantly since the last review (to put it mildly!). In 2006, public systems still dominated completely the EO satellite ecosystem. Since then, the launch of many systems by private companies has transformed the market so that data which a few years ago would only be available to military users, can now be accessed relatively easily. In consequence, the DoC is responding to pressure from the US industry to remove the barriers and enable them to compete more effectively in the market outside the US.

The emphasis has moved from direct control over who can have what data based on national security considerations to ensuring that the US has the capacity through an industry competing in the world market. This brings it much more in line with European policy which has relied for many years on its industry maintaining its competitiveness through export business. The revenue for EU space companies have been around 50% commercial and 50% governmental for many years whereas for the US the figure is closer to 20:80 for a much larger business underpinned by DoD budgets.

Now the US seek to move more towards the Europen model. As the DoC sees it:

Through the National Space Council, this Administration recognizes that long-term U.S. national security and foreign policy interests are best served by ensuring that U.S. industry continues to lead the rapidly maturing and highly competitive private space-based remote sensing market. Towards that end, the Administration seeks to establish a regulatory approach that ensures the United States remains the “flag of choice” for operators of private remote sensing space systems.

The regulation shifts the process away from a control based on security factors to one which more reflects international competition. If a specific type of data is available from other sources (US or non-US) then the company seeking to sell its data will automatically be able to do so. The system is more transparent and much more flexible.

In consequence, European companies, which are currently leaders in the market, will face increasing competition from US players. The more favourable and more easily accessed sources of financing in the US, will also act to encourage non-USA companies to incorporate in the US.

What should Europe do?

The regulatory environment in Europe is very different to the US. Defence is a national competence and European nations have their own approaches to control. This has led to some restrictions for very high-resolution systems but nothing like the same barriers as have existed in the US. As a result, European companies have had a much easier ride when exporting either satellite systems or data.

Just as the US is removing controls, Europe does not need to impose them as was being considered by the EC a few years ago. Rather, other steps will be necessary to enable the European industry to maintain its edge. For, whilst the new measures will help US companies to sell data and services elsewhere, it does nothing to open up the US market to non-US suppliers. Here there is still work to be done.

In our recent position paper, we (EARSC) set out a number of measures which we hope the European Union will be able to implement. I wrote recently about innovation and how small measures can bring large rewards by linking industrial policy to other policy measures. I was explicitly referring to Copernicus where public needs can be met by private suppliers and in doing so, can open up business opportunities for European suppliers. The public sector can encourage companies to invest in innovative products and services by setting out its service needs and leaving the private sector to compete. The policy tool of anchor tenancy is a powerful one which can be even further developed by using pre-competitive procurement to stimulate innovative solutions. Overall, we seek to closely align industrial policy with other policies.

Our proposals were sent to Commissioner Breton - who is in charge of the DG Defence Industry and Space (DEFIS) - along with a letter setting out our supplementary views on the impact of the Covid crisis. Both can be found in the website library and we await with great interest to see how the Commissioner will respond to our suggestions.

I was asked yesterday if I thought that the public sector is doing enough to promote innovation (in industry)? I was participating in a workshop (on-line of course) looking at the results of a survey into SME’s in the GI sector. The survey had been conducted by the JRC and the on-line workshop replaced the physical one which had been planned for early April.

It was very enjoyable and left me regretting that we had not been able to meet and certainly have some really interesting discussions. The time available to exchange on-line and the singular nature of the exchanges means that topics are not developed as far as they might otherwise be. This was very much the case here where I really wanted to challenge some of the views and enter into more discussion. Others would almost certainly also have wished to challenge me!

The initial response to the question I posed above was that this is not the role of the government. Rather, the public sector is an important customer for geospatial services, and it is for the company to develop innovative solutions which then become a source of competitive advantage. Now of course, to an extent, this is true. An operational public department, maybe part of a local authority, has a limited budget and is only (rightly) concerned with results. But for me, this is a bit too simple.

In our (EARSC) survey of the industry, we find that the public sector generates around 65% of the revenues of the EO services sector. The JRC SME survey finds roughly the same for geospatial services. But this disguises an important and key fact. Some 50% of the revenue is coming from the public sector as a customer whilst 15% is coming from R&D or industrial policy activities. In other words, nearly 80% of the spend by the public sector is for services which they need for their public mission. We can go further because some of the R&D expenditure is to improve the services which they are themselves buying. So, of the 65% of sector revenues, around 85% is needed by the public sector.

The key point here is to distinguish between the role of the public sector as a customer and that as a sponsor. Indeed, the public sector confuse these roles themselves as may be seen in the organisation of the European Commission itself! Copernicus is a space programme coming under the DG for Defence Industry and Space. How much better and clearer if it came under a DG with responsibility for geospatial information – together with a geospatial agency to deal with operational aspects.

Returning to the question. As a customer, the public sector may not be directly concerned with stimulating innovation which is more directly linked with research ie Research and Innovation. But why not link the policies to get the maximum benefit from the public investments? In this way, customers in the public sector can stimulate innovation in industry (and academia) to help create a more competent industry with the capacity to compete in the global market. A mechanism does exist for this, but we should seek others as well. The existing mechanism is called pre-competitive procurement which is a policy which originates in the US, has been used in Europe but not enough in my opinion.

So, in answer to the question, yes, I think the public sector should and can do more to drive innovation in industry and by doing so improve the services which they make use of at the same time as helping the industry develop its own competence to compete in world markets. At this time of recovery from the Covid crisis, this can be an excellent tool to help rebuild industry.