Blog
Intergenerational Wealth

I rarely blog about matters unconnected with EARSC and the EO sector but this one is an exception based on personal views.

I came across this chart recently. It comes from a report looking at intergenerational wealth produced by the UK Resolution Foundation which is chaired by David Willets - former Research Minister who was largely responsible for initiating the strong space investment in the UK (but this is the only connection with the space sector).

The chart shows the household expenditure across the generations. What stands out is the very large difference for the proportion of income spent on housing. Indeed, whereas for my generation (the baby boomers) at age 30 around 40% of us owned our own house, today (for the millennials) it is less than 20%. Overall home ownership has dropped from 72.5% to 63.4% over the last 10 years (source tradingeconomics.com). Other statistics show that, for the generation under 30 today by the time they are 40, they will spend 64 hours more per year in commuting than we did at the same age. That is nearly 2 working weeks just travelling to and from work and less time spent with their families.


The report concludes that facing significant deficits in health spending in the UK the traditional approach of asking the next generation to pay for the former just cannot work. Already, the millennials are less able to buy into home ownership, cannot afford to set aside enough for their own old-age and yet are facing the prospect of higher taxes to pay for my generation. This cannot work. The UK is not alone in this situation, it is faced by most developed countries to a greater or lesser degree.

I grew-up in a golden age without i-phones, computer games, cheap flights to weekend destinations and many other consumer goods, but whilst making life more agreeable they are not basic needs according to Maslow’s pyramid. We had home ownership, final benefit pension schemes and a free at source health-care system – and scientific progress means that we live much longer. My generation decided upon a social model which is not sustainable and which is leading to greater inequality between the have’s and have not’s.

It will be unpopular amongst the older generations and especially pensioners, but somehow and by some means we shall be forced to pay for this Ponzi scheme of expectations stemming from, us, the baby boomers.

I add just one further observation, that it is the pace of change which is causing the majority of problems. Given time we can adapt. Some individuals adapt faster than others (and can benefit from the confusion if their judgements are accurate), but as a whole, society needs time to accept change. If I look at the UK at the moment, the “ruling class” as represented by the current government are completely out of touch with the real situation facing the country. The lunatics are in control of the mad-house and Brexit is headed straight for the rocks. Where are the leaders who can get to grips with the coming crisis hoping that they are not like those in the Handmaid’s Tale[1].



[1] The Handmaids Tale is a book by Margaret Attwood, recently realised as a TV series currently entering its second season. It describes a dysfunctional future where women are objects and the ruling class are religious fanatics. All freedoms are lost except for the hypocritic ruling class.

EARSC & EuroChile

Last Friday, on behalf of EARSC, I signed a Memorandum of Understanding between EARSC and EuroChile Business Foundation. Mr. Vicente Caruz, President of Eurochile signed on their behalf and we are delighted to extend our international co-operation to Chile.

EuroChile is a venture set up by the EU and the government of Chile to promote business co-operation. Through the MoU we expect to be able to offer opportunities for business and technology transfer. Chile is considered as an important partner and is one of our priority countries within the IDEEO project. This has been re-enforced by the signature by the EC regarding access to Copernicus products and services.

We have so far been able to support activities in Chile on 2 occasions. Firstly, last year when we accompanied the EC together with a number of EARSC members to a 2 day workshop on Copernicus. Then secondly, earlier this year when we participated to the meetings organised around FIDAE 2018. Next steps will be to organise a focused workshop in Chile and to examine possibilities for an inward mission of Chilean companies to Europe.

EuroChile is also a Copernicus Relay and we shall support them in that venture with expertise and networking to try to maximise the impact which Copernicus can have on government services.

Many thanks to the Chilean Embassy in Brussels and His Excellency Raul Fernandez Daza for hosting this ceremony. We were really pleased to be with you and really look forward to increasing links between companies in Europe and Chile. A big thank you as well to the other actors from Chile, from DG Environment and the EU External Action Service for coming along and to making it such an enjoyable occasion.

 

Jose Aravena, Geoff Sawyer, Viente Caruz, His Excellency Raul Fernandez Daza.

 

The EU budget post 2020

The EC has published its proposed budgets for the next Multi-Annual Financial Framework Perspective 2021 to 2028 which includes an allocation for “space” of €16b. This will provide continuity for the 2 EC flagships; Galileo and Copernicus.

The main interest from the EO services sector is towards the Copernicus programme and it is great to see that this is assured. Copernicus has become the world’s leading satellite Earth Observation programme and is playing a strong role to help develop the EO services sector in Europe. The EC is currently consulting on the shape of the Copernicus programme in the next MFF and EARSC will provide a formal response to this question following a consultation with the industry in late June.

Continuity of data supply and the confidence that this will be maintained in the future is fundamental for businesses to develop. Whilst the return upstream is strategic the economic value is generated downstream where the return on investment is high. EARSC welcomes the strong commitment being shown by the EC and calls upon the European Parliament and EU Council to endorse this budget proposal ensuring that a sufficient part is earmarked and dedicated to the development of Copernicus.

Owning and operating space assets is a necessary pre-requisite but has little value to the public if the data is not exploited. With the overall goal to serve public-sector and government needs this should be assured through the services which Copernicus can deliver. Since the 2014 Copernicus Regulation, a cornerstone of the programme has been to leverage the investment to help develop the downstream sector. Hence, we also call upon the decision makers to ensure an adequate portion of around 25% of the programme budget is dedicated to the services, to user uptake and to the development and exploitation of the data being generated.

Blog from FIDAE 2018

Last week I have spent a very stimulating 4 days at FIDAE. The International Air and Space Fair is the foremost aerospace, defence and security exhibition of Latin America, which has become one of the most important business platforms of the region due to its long and successful experience. The fair took place between 3-8 April 2018 in Santiago (Chile) and at the same time, also hosted the Latin American Remote Sensing week (LARS) with a parallel programme. The latter event was a discovery for me, as it was exactly at that pavilion where most of the EO value providers in the region were represented in the whole exhibition.

The event also had as main organisers the matchmaking platform Business Beyond Borders, an initiative funded by the European Commission and coordinated by EUROCHAMBERS, and Eurochile Business Foundation. Within the matchmaking event, European and Chilean companies have gathered addressing business opportunities in the sector, as well as initiatives of the European Union in Chile. For this latest part, we have the opportunity to meet again with our Eurochile friends with whom we have established an excellent collaboration in the past months. We are now discussing the details of an MoU and how to join forces in different European and Chilean projects. EuroChile has just been announced as a Copernicus Relay and we shall help them understand how the European space arena works in their preparation of the Copernicus Relay activities.

Many countries in Latin America are now developing space-related programmes, which will lead to new business relationships with the key players in the area, therefore, we thought it was important for EARSC to be present at this event and to showcase the association activities and present the capabilities of the European Earth Observation providers. I also took the opportunity to collect helpful information about the space industry in Chile as it is one of the target countries for the current study on internalisation produced by the IDEEO project.

Given that EU have recently signed a Copernicus agreement with Chilean Government, EARSC would like to leverage on it and will work with stakeholders in the region to initiate discussions on future collaborations. There are so many actors in Chile and big enthusiasm around Copernicus however I think they still search for the next step to take this National strategy forward since they need to find a good level of political support. There is a strong academic/university interest, but there are also industrial foundations such as EuroChile which could help rally the various interests and provide a lever for growth on the back of Copernicus as part of the Copernicus Relays. During these days I met around 25 stakeholders from private and public side, in fact I was very happy with the organization of BBB/EuroChile as they were the chairs who created such an excellent platform and environment to meet and chat with cooperation partners. Thank you Eurochambers for giving us the opportunity to participate in FIDAE!

One strong message that came out was about awareness. Quite a few of the stakeholders attending the event wondered where they could get data from Copernicus, is that easy to download from the cloud, what type of processing could be done with it? how we could be more engaged? So what EC called “the network of Copernicus ambassadors: the Copernicus Relays” will have big opportunities for awareness campaigns; coordinating and promoting activities around the programme, its benefits, and opportunities for local residents and businesses. Reflecting on this afterwards with another expert, we discussed the value-adding community is the best target to be involved in those campaigns as they really know the final users.

At EARSC we fully support the Regional industry and the wider EO community to establish a national strategy and are ready to work with any other national organisation which wishes to put a strategic plan in place, as one way of helping the industrial sector to grow.

I also had the great pleasure to discuss with the EU Ambassador in Chile, Stella Zervoudaki. She was fascinated “to see the innovative EO businesses with global ambitions that have the potential to add value to established networks and markets” and fully supported our partnership with Eurochile.

So many side events happened, and it will be time to follow up with all these business cards collected, meanwhile and in brief… it has been very good to see this sort of meetings under such a big event and maybe as EARSC we shall try to attend more to these events specially supported by the Internationalization strategy we are developing.

Keep an eye on us! We are going Global !!!

Blog written by Mónica

EARSC going International

We recently attended the kick-off of our new project IDEEO along with all the other projects under the Clusters Go International programme of EASME. It was quite enlightening and very gratifying to see how advanced we are in EARSC compared to other project teams!!

We are in the first stage of a two-stage process. In the first stage, we are funded to develop a joint strategy along with our cluster partners; Pol Mer Bretagne (PMB) and Cluster Lucano di Bioeconomia (CLB). This gives us 3 business focuses; Earth observation, off-shore and agriculture but we shall seek to broaden this as we go along with links to other clusters. The first phase is to develop a joint strategy and the 2nd phase – which we shall bid for this time next year – implements that strategy.

At the kick-off meeting the broad modalities of the EASME programme were explained and each project gave a short overview of its activities. When we talked about the trade missions and international links which we have made already, the reaction was strongly positive and we found ourselves being held up as an example of best practice even as we start the project!!

It showed how difficult it is for national clusters to develop the international links which are at the heart of each strategy. However, for EARSC, as we are already a European-wide organisation (we have become identified as a business network rather than a cluster), we have international links which we have turned into MoU’s with Japan, India, Africa and Australia as well as close working with Chile.

The latter link has been greatly helped by the EC intention to sign a data agreement linked to Copernicus. Indeed, we find it useful to elaborate our strategy in close alignment with the EC actions. If a data sharing agreement is signed, this can open the door for industry to meet local partners and establish business links. This has happened most recently in India when we were able to have EARSC companies present during the exchanges.

Further missions are planned for later this year and we shall keep all our members informed of the opportunities and with the support of the EC, open up business to business meetings and links in each case. Last year we were in Chile and Bolivia as well as in Japan and the US.

In addition to the Australian mission (see previous blogpost EU-Australia Partnerships) and those identified above, this year we shall be in Egypt for the bi-annual AARSE conference and in Kyoto for the GEO plenary. Other missions may be identified on an ad-hoc basis.

For next year and beyond, we have an EARSC Internationalisation working group which serves to set the priorities for IDEEO and other mission priorities. Keep an eye on our web-site for news and if you wish to benefit and/influence our programme; you can always become a member of EARSC!!

EU-Australia Partnerships

Last week, I was extremely pleased to accompany our latest trade mission with 7 European companies to Australia. The goal was to enable meetings between potential partners to work together on EO geospatial services in the context of the Copernicus agreement signed between the EU and Australia. One further partnership was cemented during the week through an MoU between EARSC and CRCSI.

Both Geoscience Australia and CRC for Spatial Information  (CRCSI) coordinated 4 days of meetings and I feel really proud that EARSC was able to work with them  during the week. Only recently has EARSC developed the capacity to undertake this type of support activity which we continue to expand upon.  I believe there is enormous potential to develop some deep and lasting business partnerships. Graeme Kernich and especially Phil Delaney, both from CRCSI, did a fantastic job in setting up the programme.

We started on Monday in Brisbane hosted by QUT with 30 Australian EO companies meeting with the 7 European companies who had made the trip. We learned that Queensland is very advanced in the use of EO to support state-wide decision making and I explained how Copernicus is set-up in Europe and what the potential partnership opportunities could be. There is a strong willingness to exploit the free and open data policy to promote business.

One of the key instruments is H2020 where a call later this year will enable European and Australian companies to work together. Whilst Australia is a partner to H2020, this specific call under the space activity is aimed to strengthen international ties and as such Australian companies will be able to receive funding just as any European company. Whilst this funding is limited, if we can demonstrate successful co-operations, the programme line could be extended in the future. Paul Nugent and I explained how H2020 works and how teams could be set-up to respond successfully.

On Tuesday we moved on to Canberra, the political capital of Australia, and a meeting with Geoscience Australia to hear about their work and especially on the Data cube approach which they have pioneered. Adam Lewis explained the background and the opportunity to work together. Personally, I see a lot of potential there for an interesting project and commercial opportunities.

We also heard about Geoscape which is an interesting initiative by PSMA. Geoscape seeks to provide the answer to the question “What is at an address?” PSMA was established some 20 years ago to commercialise government-owned digital map data; which is a business model under threat from the open data movement. PSMA has taken the initiative to stay ahead by supplying high-resolution geospatial data across Australia. The main source of content is coming from satellites and PSMA are steadily adding features into the Geoscape product. It is definitely an area to watch with potential for international co-operation.

We were joined in Canberra by Andreas Veispak from the EC and were really pleased to have his direct support. One of the main interests in Australia is the access to and exploitation of Copernicus data. At the time of the visit, Australia was one of only 2 countries to have signed an agreement with the EU to access the Sentinel data and collaboration between enterprises will be a major achievement.

With this in mind, EARSC and CRCSI signed a Memorandum of Understanding to work more closely together. We are extremely pleased to have such an able partner to work with in Australia and look forward to realising some of the potential. We were also extremely pleased that the EC Commissioner Bienkowska was able to be present and witness the signature placing a political recognition to the potential for co-operation.

The signing ceremony preceded a special panel which discussed how to develop greater co-operation. Commissioner Elzbieta Bienkowska made a short introduction which was followed by a lively debate between European actors (Andreas Veispak – EC, EARSC - myself) and Australian actors (Kate Lundy – former senator, Adam Lewis – Geosciences Australia, Graeme Kernich – CRCSI, David Williams – CSIRO). Australia is making a great effort to free up companies to commercialise the results of research. They have managed to develop a whole space programme and convince ministers to establish a space agency despite not having and upstream (space manufacturing) capabilities. Commercialisation will be the key to enabling partnerships with Europe.

On Thursday we moved on to our last destination in Sydney; hosted by CSIRO. Here the focus was more downstream and a panel of companies using geospatial data and information talked about their needs. There was a strong awareness in the insurance, agriculture, mining and natural resources sectors as well as the public need reflected by governments. It provided an excellent exchange between suppliers and consumers.

What do I take-away from the week? Companies wishing to work in Australia or with Australian partners can do so. The world is shrinking with digital technology but this does not replace face-to-face meetings and those who made the effort to travel will have an advantage when it comes to doing business. This will not be the only opportunity and we are serious about developing the MoU with CRCSI. One very useful outcome is linked to an internationalisation project we have funded under COSME. IDEEO will set out a strategy for EARSC and 2 other clusters on how to promote international business in a co-ordinated way and focused on specific downstream sectors. The mission allowed us (EARSC) to identify a number of partners with whom we can develop our strategy which will benefit the whole EO community and EARSC members in particular.

Different parts of the EO and geospatial value-chains will see and be able to address different opportunities for co-operation. We consider that it was a highly successful and highly significant mission which we are pleased to have been able to put together. We see return visits as well as missions to other countries over the next years as we develop our mission to help the industry identify new business opportunities.



Copernicus for Agriculture

(ESA)

Last Monday, along with about 250 others, I attended the EC organised Copernicus for Agriculture workshop. It was a very good meeting with a lot of information exchanged on how Copernicus and Sentinel data is being used mainly to support agriculture policy.

It was billed as an industry workshop and at the entrance it was announced as “Copernicus / private sector”. Industry was strongly represented in the audience and the on-line survey conducted by the organisers suggested that around 45% of the attendees were from the private sector.

When it came to the speakers, the picture was rather different. Of the 28 who were on stage to present and/or to moderate sessions, only 3 came from the private sector. These were two established companies and one very new start-up less than 1 month old.

Ana Haas from Geoville gave a good overview of the services which can be provided by companies especially focused on serving international customers and particularly the International Financial Institutions. Heide Bakke from Vista talked about the products which they are offering in Germany. Vista has recently become 51% owned by BayWa a german commodities company which sees an opportunity to develop digital information services for the agriculture community. It would have also been interesting to have heard their perspective! Finally, Leon Hendricks from Bioscope talked about how data can be gathered and used for agriculture. Bioscope stems from several ESA projects and is targeted on serving potato farmers in Europe.

But the other 25 speakers where all from the public-sector and very much confirmed the picture we have. There is a great deal of research going on into the use of Copernicus to support CAP and national agriculture (and environmental) policies but very few real operational examples today. In the private sector it is rather the same when looking at public policy but very different in the area of precision farming. Here we know of many initiatives – Bioscope is a new one – which are focused on providing services to farmers. We shall publish a report touching on this in the next few days. This dynamism was not visible in last Monday’s workshop which was a shame. EARSC has some opportunities later this year to organise meetings which can consider the commercial market for agriculture services and we shall try to give a platform to these many start-ups which are emerging.

For future Copernicus focused workshops, EARSC would be pleased to help set-up and organise the agenda. Unfortunately, despite this being the case for earlier such workshops, it seems that the EC prefer to do this themselves and not draw upon the industry expertise. This feels like a lost opportunity for everyone.

Disruption in Space

I have spent the last week at the Geospatial World Forum (GWF) in Hyderabad. During that time I met many new people and had many illuminating conversations. There was a fantastic gala dinner with inter-continental music (Indian Jazz) and of course a lot of delicious Indian dishes. Overall, a demanding but rewarding trip.

The highlight of the week for us was the signing of an MoU between EARSC and the Association of Geospatial Industries for India (AGI). We are extremely pleased and proud to have the opportunity to work more closely with AGI and the companies which are their members. It represents a great achievement in our internationalisation strategy where we seek to help our members find new partners to develop business together. The agreement which was brokered by our good friend Sanjay Kumar, was signed by each secretary general of the respective associations. We were joined by members from both associations who witnessed the occasion.

It is just the first step and our next goal will be to set up one or two specific projects to work on. The agreement offers many possibilities building upon the EU Copernicus programme and that for EU-India for Action 2020.

Whilst in Hyderabad, I participated to the GeoBuiz summit which is the pre-event to the GWF. Here business leaders came together to discuss the geo inspired 4th industrial revolution (GEO4IR). In our panel we addressed the changes taking place in the space sector which are certainly no less significant than those taking place elsewhere. Satellites and space-based observations have a crucial role to play in the evolution of the geospatial business and the shift to on-line services will transform many business models.

I carried this theme also into the AI and IoT summit. Firstly, I observed that the promotional video exposed farm vehicles, homes, cities, cars and many other sensor platforms but not satellites! There are now thousands of satellites generating data and offering connectivity both for other sensors but also between them; satellites are definitely a part of the Internet of Things. Laser links, new sensors, on-board processing are all changing the way satellites work and communicate together. Oneweb will have 900 platforms in low earth orbit. Meanwhile, on the ground, new digital technology based on big data, cloud processing, machine learning and blockchain offer new services.

The traditional EO services businesses based on consultancy business models (one product-one client), risk to become replaced by those offering one service to many clients. How will this shake up the value chain will be interesting to see. Will the VA companies establish their own niche? Will they get absorbed in the upstream sector? Will the large digital players become dominant or will we see even further integration with more traditional sector-leading companies increase their span of operations with their existing customers.

It is clear that the next few years will be extremely exciting; a view expressed throughout the GeoBuiz summit! For the many new start-ups and existing value-added companies there will be some fantastic opportunities. The move towards services is getting stronger and it is clear that many are now positioning to take advantage of this trend.

Last Friday I was in Rome at the invitation of the Italian Space Agency ASI. Along with colleagues from the other European Associations Eurospace and SME4Space, I participated to a workshop hosted by ASI to exchange views on the next EU MFF (Multi-Annual Financial Framework). Our equivalent Associations in Italy (ASAS, AIPAS and AIAD) were also present.

It is the first time that I have known such a meeting which seeks to build links between the national and European associations; quite possibly because there are not many national associations in our sector. In the aeronautics sector, ASD (of which Eurospace is part) is run by the national associations (together with some of the larger companies) so alignment is much more natural. For EARSC, we generally rely on companies to make the bridge between national and European policy actions.

The discussion centred on two main topics; Copernicus and the space technology JTI being studied and possibly set up by Eurospace. Our interest is of course on the former of these and I basically presented our views from the position paper published earlier this year. These are focused around sustainable access to data, organising and stimulating demand and creating an environment where EO service companies can flourish. All of these lines require some clarification on the roles of the public and private actors and improving the governance so that the industry views can be heard.

In order to achieve sustainable access to data, we address the question of private participation in Copernicus and the possibility of anchor tenancy schemes. This was also the subject of the meeting organised by DG GROW – also held last week. We have recommended different formula should be tried depending on the market for the data type leading to different PPP arrangements. There were some concerns expressed that most PPP schemes shut out the SME’s and a recommendation that a number of schemes of various sizes should be considered to try to overcome this problem.

Further, it is easier to understand a PPP where the private sector can invest in infrastructure as is the case for a satellite system. It is less obvious when we move downstream where the asset is more about IPR. So the notion of multiple PPP’s and of different sizes could be a way to help structure the industry without stifling the innovation which is apparent. As one speaker said the key question will be who is taking the decisions on the actions developed under the PPP.

We have all seen over the last 2 years how the EO services sector has been changing. New commercial satellite systems, cloud storage and processing, big data technologies and machine learning or artificial intelligence are all having a huge impact on the business models of EO service providers. Despite these changes, even today 90-95% of the business is for what we call bespoke services ie one product for one customer.

This will certainly change and our survey earlier this year showed that the companies in the market consider that in 5 years, on-line services will make up 25% of their business. This would represent a growth rate of 30-40% which is certainly of interest and shows why new players are coming into the market.

In Europe, the Copernicus programme also continues to have a heavy influence on the market and EARSC is working with the European Commission to enhance the possibilities for companies to benefit from the world’s most significant operational satellite programme. We organise workshops and increasingly trade missions to other countries interested to become closer linked to Copernicus.

Now, as we approach the 3rd decade of the 21st century, the EU starts to prepare its next budget (2021-2027) including what should be the next steps for Copernicus. We prepared a position paper in the summer (download it here) setting out industry views and the EC is organising a consultation meeting with the industry on 12th December in Brussels. This is open to all companies engaged in the EO sector (upstream and downstream) and I encourage all with an interest in how Copernicus enters the next decade to attend. This is an important workshop to listen to the industry and if their views are not expressed then it will be too late to raise concerns later.

The arrangements for the provision of data, the data policy, the set-up of the Copernicus services, the evolution of these services and most importantly the role of industry in all these aspects will help shape the EO industry of the future. It is not too late to register. Contact us if you wish to have further details.

A Week in Washington

I am just back from the GEO Plenary in Washington. We had a really good week; several things stand out 😉

Firstly, we were able to take a delegation of 7 companies to participate. Generally, the feedback from those who were there was good and the whole event was noticeably better than in previous years; especially the side events which were much better organised and well-attended. Thank you to the GEO Secretariat for making this possible.

Secondly, we participated to the meeting between the GEO ExComm and the commercial sector. Massimo Comparini (eGEOS and EARSC director) represented EARSC in the meeting alongside Airbus, DigitalGlobe, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Harris, ESRI, Acclimatise and LocateIT. It was a good discussion and opens the way towards further and better co-operation between companies and GEO. I think EARSC can play a key role especially towards ensuring access to SME’s which can otherwise find it difficult.

Thirdly, Monica presented our work on maturity indicators and on SDG’s in 2 separate meetings. There was a lot of interest in both and now we look to see how we can sustain the work in partnership with GEO.

Fourthly, we (EARSC) were the co-organiser along with NOAA, USGS and ESA of a 2 day workshop on “Demonstrating the Value of Earth Observations”. This was very well-attended and very well-appreciated. It brought together key experts from around the world to discuss different methods of assessing the value whether by economic means or by story-telling. Over the 2 days some 60 analysts discussed their approaches with a lot of insights emerging. A proceedings will be published and the group will continue with a meeting envisaged in Europe in around 12 to 18 months time. In the meantime we shall examine how links to GEO can be enhanced especially with regard to communications and outreach.

Fifthly, there were numerous informal meetings and discussions on many topics and many new contacts were made. The week becomes increasingly important as a networking opportunity as well as the chance to discuss specific topics with experts from around the world. Next year will be in Tokyo; we shall be there.

With the launch last Friday of the latest Sentinel, the range of data and services available from Copernicus increases further. Sentinel 5P will provide data on atmospheric chemistry and promises new products on air quality in the near future.

Copernicus is a wonderful success story for Europe. It is the foremost, operational satellite system in the world and through the 6 Copernicus Services is providing not just satellite data but information services to meet the needs of European policy makers.

Thoughts are now turning to the next generation of satellites and how Copernicus can evolve. EARSC has provided views on behalf of the industry based around 3 core elements; providing sustained access to data, developing demand especially in the public sector, and unleashing the potential of the downstream sector by creating an environment where private investment can be mobilised. Our position paper on the subject can be found on our web-site. Recently, a presentation was made to the EU Council space working party on the views of the EO services industry.

But increasingly we hear how the value-added industry is going to disappear as machine learning and automatic algorithms create new interpretations of satellite imagery. Indeed, we foresaw this trend 2 years ago and reacted through two key steps. Firstly, to ask for improved access to the existing data and information which should be combined with other data sources to broaden the scope. Secondly, we set out our vision for a Marketplace for EO services and called for support to set it up. The first was manifest with the Copernicus DIAS (Data and Information Access Service) and the second through our own initiative; eoMALL. The DIAS tender has been decided and negotiations are nearing completion with the selected winners. For eoMALL, the tender has also closed and evaluations proceeding. Both platforms are intended to become operational in the first quarter of 2018.

But the pace of change seems to be getting even faster and new trends need to be considered. Firstly, I do not believe the value-added sector will disappear. I do agree that more and more of the services will become automatic and hence open new markets to operators. I think that we shall see a shift towards vertical markets where specific services are targeted. Recently, BayWa, an agriculture supplies company took a 51% stake in Vista, a German VA company specialising in agriculture services using EO. We may see more of this type of venture, or we may see more consolidation amongst the VA companies - as recently where CLS has bought out SIRS another french service provider specialised in land products. Alternatively, the new satellite operators may push downstream to secure services based on their own data. This would lead to integrated offers and could result in another wave of industry mergers.

Either move could be good news for VA companies which continue to be the gateway to the end user market. The rich diversity of skills and competences developed over nearly 30 years of research should become even more effective as the amount and type of data increases and new processing techniques become readily available to take away some of the hard number-crunching needed for today’s products. This should lead to new services, of higher quality, more affordable and open to a new-wider market.

On the other hand, maybe those saying the VA industry will disappear are right. Squeezed between satellite operators seeking whatever markets they can find for their data and large IT companies, throwing resources at machine learning and automated processing, will the middle part of the value chain be able to survive? They could be absorbed by those even closer to the end-user ie the IT players, and seamlessly integrated into vertical businesses as a small part of a much wider offer. Today, the IT players are very effective in the B2C market but less so in B2B. Will this be a factor in the evolution of the sector?

What will these trends mean for the VA industry, or the EO services industry, as it is today? How should the VA industry react and re-position in face of these technology and market forces? To seek answers to these questions, we propose to organise a workshop in the new year to consider these questions and how industry leaders view the future. Planning has just started and we’ll make announcements as soon as details are available; watch this space! In the meantime, if you wish to comment then we should be delighted to hear from you either by email or through comments left on the page.

 

The Future of Copernicus

I had the pleasure last week to make a short presentation to the EU Council Space Working Party. For those lost in the complexities of Brussels and EU governance this is the group which prepares decisions to be taken by the EU Council in all matters pertaining to space in the EU. But do not be confused with the ESA governance which is completely different - except that when the ministers meet together in either ESA council or the EU council, there are often the same people around each table; just that they are wearing different hats!! But the Space Working Party is - as the name suggests - where the real work is done to prepare the decisions.

They meet quite regularly; under the chair of the EU presidency which is currently Estonia whose representative had invited me to present. The topic on the table is to prepare for an informal minsters meeting in Tallinn in November where one topic will be to start to prepare for a new regulation on Copernicus defining the next phase of work from 2012 to 2027. Many ideas for new sensors and new Sentinel satellites are being developed,and whilst this is of strong interest to the EO Services sector, the concerns are more focused more on access to data and development of a new market in EO services. We have set out our thoughts in a dedicated position paper which is what I had been asked to present.

As the market is changing so rapidly, it is very hard to predict where it will be in even 5 years time. Europe has a strong industry today and needs to take steps to try to help position this for the future. We see a very strong trend towards on-line services even if today, we estimate that only around 5 % of the revenues of the sector are coming from automatically generated products. With the advent of high speed processing, cloud storage and machine learning the stage is set for a squeeze on traditional, hand-crafted products which dominate today's market. So the sector faces both opportunity and threat from two directions. Firstly, increasing availability of data is driving prices down but at the same time opening up many new possible products. Secondly, IT technology is reducing the skill-level and thematic knowledge needed to generate products but opening up the possibility of their entry into many new very large-scale markets.

How all this will play out is anyone's guess today. But I find it hard to imagine that over 3 decades of hard-won knowledge will be replaced overnight. I believe that this same expertise will be a platform from which to develop, but companies will need to be highly agile, innovative and ready to adapt. Hence, the key policy steps must be to help create the conditions for the industry. This is a challenge when the public stakeholders are also institutions with a long reaction time. It is even more difficult if there is no dialogue. Hence, our primary request in the position paper is to establish a formal mechanism whereby the industry viewpoint can be heard by the decision makers. The second request is to establish conditions whereby public customers - which are still the backbone of the market - can themselves become more flexible which leads to the third main request which is to concentrate on buying services and not infrastructure as has been the case in the past. This can truly lead to a situation where public and private working together can be a win:win situation.

A busy Summer

This week, containing the public holiday for the Assumption Day, is the quietest of the year in Brussels apart from Xmas/New Year. It also marks the ending of the summer holiday period for many and the start of the coming back to work. But things have not stood still over the summer and two things stand out for me which have each been subject to significant development over the summertime.

Firstly, we have managed to get the ITT issued for the development of eoMALL. Most of you will know that eoMALL is the concrete manifestation of the project we have initiated to establish a Marketplace for EO services. It is being guided by the Marketplace Alliance (MAEOS) which is the group within EARSC formed to co-operate on the venture. ESA agreed to procure the eoMALL for us and over the last few months we have been working with them to prepare the technical specification and the statement of work. We have asked for an innovative procurement process and I think we have achieved this with a 2 phase approach. For the first phase, lasting only around 3 months, 3 “winners” will be selected from those proposing solutions. A small fee will be paid to come up with a working prototype (demonstrator). At the end of the 3 months, a single winner will be selected to go on and develop the full solution. This will enable creative ideas to be put forward. We plan that this will allow us to meet our first target to have a beta version running by end January, and to follow a progressive development over the following 18 months. We are grateful to ESA for agreeing this approach and also for their support to the industry.

Secondly, the winners of the competition for the DIAS (Copernicus Data and Information Access Service) have been selected. No announcement has yet been made as the EC wishes to do this, probably after the holiday period, but it is a fairly open secret, even if I am not going to reveal the answers here! DIAS will be a major element to help build future services based on Copernicus data – but not just – and we shall learn how far each proposal has managed to push the boundaries in due course. Each or all of the services proposed will encourage the emergence of an ecosystem of service providers. The eoMALL will enable those providers to reach a wider market than would otherwise be reasonable. That eoMALL is backed by a co-operative venture should remove competitive issues and allow it to become the foremost site and tool to promote the European industry.

Both these initiatives are designed to help overcome the fragmentation of the industry in Europe. Both should help “ecosystems” of service providers to develop and partnerships to form to build upon prior and future investments. There is still a great deal of work to do – for anyone who has not seen our recent position paper on Copernicus Evolution it is available on our web-site – but the DIAS and the eoMALL are two important steps forward. The autumn should bring more; but that is for another blog.

In Tshwane @ ISRSE37

This week I am in Pretoria or Tshwane, as it is now called, for the ISRSE 2017 conference. This is the 37th ISRSE which is an impressively long record. In addition to some really interesting papers concerning African space policy, space agencies activities and on climate change impact, two particular points stand out.

Firstly is the ambition coming from the whole continent and being led/orchestrated by the African Union Commission. An African Space Policy has been published in which EO features prominently and where GMES and Africa is a main element. Secondly was the B2B meeting which we organised to enable networking between European and African companies. I’ll start with the latter.

This was the second such event we have organised with the first one being during the AARSE conference last October in Kampala. In each case we are grateful for local support without which such an initiative would not be possible. We had 5 companies from Europe and 5 from Africa which participated. Very short introductory presentations from the European companies was followed by a “speed-dating” session providing each company to introduce itself to the others. Given the difficulty I had separating some of the company pairs the exchanges were quite productive. Participants agreed at the end that the formula was a good one and we shall seek to recreate similar opportunities in the future. There is strong support for further exchanges with African companies and we'll seek opportunities to do so.

At the end we managed to get Tidiane Ouattara to talk about GMES and Africa. The call is to be launched next week and Tidiane explained how the private sector will be involved with 20% of the funding needing to be spent with service providers. Partnerships between African and European companies are almost mandatory with no set conditions excepting that there must be a partnership agreement in place showing how the African business will benefit from the arrangement.

We’ll publish more information for members as it becomes available. I shall be presenting on Thursday and part of the plenary panel on Friday looking at how big data and other trends affecting commercial EO services. I'll be talking about MAEOS and eoMALL. The meeting concludes with a session on the GEO WorkProgramme taking place on Friday and Saturday.