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EO service industry meets to map out its future

More than 120 representatives of the European and Canadian EO value-adding sector took part in the ‘eoVox Stakeholders Consultation Workshop’ held on 14 September at ESRIN, ESA’s Centre for Earth Observation in Italy.

The workshop focused on the status and future of the Earth Observation value-adding (EO VA) industry. It was organised by the eoVox Consortium which includes the European trade body for the industry - European Association of Remote Sensing Companies (EARSC). The eoVox Consortium was initiated by ESA to explore common issues affecting the Earth Observation (EO) service industry sector in Europe and Canada.

At present, some 250 (mostly small) companies are involved in the EO VA sector processing raw and semi-processed data from remote sensing instruments, and converting these into commercially useful information for end users.

The European sector employs about 2900 people and generates an estimated turnover of around €300 million, an amount that is growing annually at a rate of 6%. Companies in this sector operate in a diverse range of land and ocean applications including agriculture, cartography, environmental monitoring, marine surveillance, ice mapping and monitoring of hazards both on land and sea (e.g. floods, fires, oil spills).

The eoVox workshop attracted a wide range of participants including representatives from many EO value-adding companies; potential customers of EO services such as AMEC (civil engineering), Shell (oil and gas), Microsoft (Virtual Earth), and a number of national EO trade organisations within Europe.

The prime objective of the workshop was to discuss a new industry Position Paper presenting the combined needs of the industrial sector and addressing the question: What should the public sector do to incubate the EO value-adding sector, and Why?

This paper is a first attempt to synthesise the risks and challenges that the EO VA sector faces and chart a commonly endorsed road map for the industry covering the next 10 years which identifies development actions for public funding to help the sector grow and strengthen.

Presentations at the workshop covered the key aspects of the EO services industry - significance and new trends and EO industry expectations from its trade association.

Participants were encouraged to voice their different opinions during splinter meetings on three important issues:

GMES and GEOSS: is it going to help or hinder the EO service industry?
Making the most of research and development (R&D) and new technologies,
Can EO industry work together to expand the downstream commercial market?
The workshop ended with the presentation of an item that the industry considers urgent; a one-page declaration on behalf of the industry to the EC lobbying for firm commitment of resources in the short to mid term (2006-2010) for key activities such as Global Monitoring of the Environment & Security (GMES), where the EO services industry can deliver benefits.

The eoVox Position Paper is now undergoing an open review process in which all those associated with the EO service industry in Europe and Canada are invited to participate. All comments and feedback should be sent to the eoVox Consortium by mid-October for the paper to be finalised by end-October, prior to being presented to the EC and ESA.

More information (including the Position Paper and the workshop presentations) can be found at the eoVox website.

Mariangela D'Acunto | alfa
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