OBSERVER: The Copernicus Networks General Assembly 2021
OBSERVER: The Copernicus Networks General Assembly 2021
Thu, 06/01/2022 – 10:16
The 2021 General Assembly (GA) of the Copernicus Networks took place on 23 and 24 November. Bringing together the full spectrum of the Copernicus Relays and members of the Copernicus Academy, the GA presented the 280 registered Copernicus network members with a unique opportunity to learn the new direction on the future and evolution of Copernicus and the opportunities unfolding from the EU Space Programme, the CASSINI initiative, internationalisation activities and Horizon Europe funding. The GA also sought to inspire future engagement across the Copernicus Networks through a range of Copernicus stakeholder presentations and the hosting of 18 organisations that demonstrated their Earth observation-relevant capabilities in exhibition booths. With the aim of bringing together such an important community during a time of disruption, this year’s GA was enabled by an interactive online platform that not only facilitated the presenters and exhibitors but also allowed for networking opportunities across the event. The value of the GA was recognised by Celso J. Coco Megia, Forestry Engineer and Professor at the Almázcara Integrated Vocational Training Centre, Congosto, Castilla y León, Spain, and member of the Copernicus Academy, who said that: “For grassroots Copernicus Academy members who are in the field, like me, far from Brussels or Madrid, and immersed in a community of users, foresters in my case, the General Assembly is a great opportunity to learn about best practices, and to keep up to date with the “last news from Copernicus”. It is a source of inspiration for my dissemination and teaching activities.”
Jolanda Van Eijndthoven, Head of Unit at DG DEFIS, hailed the progress that the Copernicus component has made since its inception: “When Copernicus became fully operational in 2014, and its user uptake activities kicked off, we could not imagine that the programme would grow so rapidly, with currently over 750,000 users of Copernicus data and information seven years later. The continuity of funding for the next 7 years provided by the EU Space Programme budget will enable Copernicus to keep on providing world-class authoritative data and information and expand even further”.
Jolanda Van Eijndthoven, Head of Unit at DG DEFIS, underlined that with 750k+ users, Copernicus is a genuine success while the future, Copernicus 2.0, is on the launchpad, as an EU Green Deal enabler based on robust science.
We are now at a turning point in the evolution from Copernicus to Copernicus 2.0. During a session on the future of Copernicus, participants learned how the space component and the Services will continue to grow and expand in the next decade, while synergies with other components of the EU Space Programme will become more and more important. They also heard from ESA about the planned next generation which will replace the current Sentinel missions, and about the Sentinel Expansion missions which will drive the development of new applications and products, both within the Copernicus services, but also for Copernicus users in the Relays and Academy. Prof. Bernardo de Bernardinis, National Coordinator of the Italian Copernicus Academy, highlighted the value of the GA as a source of information for Academy members: “The General Assembly of the Copernicus Networks is a highlight of the year for Copernicus Academy members. It is a source of information on results achieved by other members, an opportunity to meet new the ones, even virtually, to receive information about new initiatives and plans. It is also an opportunity to showcase the efforts that we are putting in coordinating and growing the Italian National Copernicus Academy and Relays network and maximising its tangible impact at local level and in new user groups”.
With the evolution and continuous improvement of the product portfolios of the Atmosphere, Climate Change, Land, Emergency Management and Marine Environment Monitoring services, and the launch of the CO2M carbon dioxide monitoring mission as soon as 2025 and the other Sentinel expansion missions in the following years, Copernicus will establish itself as a cornerstone and enabler of the monitoring of EU Green Deal and Climate Action ambitions and activities.
The shift to Artificial Intelligence (AI) and High-Performance Cloud Computing will further empower the evolution of the Copernicus Services; a fact noted by ECMWF and EEA during presentations about the Services they manage, the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service and Land Monitoring Service, respectively. While the solid science and internationally recognised quality and reliability of the Copernicus Service products and Sentinel data will remain key, technologies such as AI can complement and facilitate the processes to generate these datasets, while more accessible platforms will bring the data to the users seamlessly and faster.
Muriel Lux from the Copernicus Marine Environment Monitoring Service highlighted the Service’s priorities for the future: Service Continuity, incremental product improvements (e.g. resolution), increased integration of Copernicus Sentinel Satellite data, and Inter-service collaboration.
Moreover, participants heard that cooperation and coordination between the different elements of Copernicus, as exemplified by the integration of the data and information in the Copernicus Data and Information Access Services, will become an even stronger focus in the coming years, to improve the products according to users’ needs. Copernicus also does not stand alone in the EU Space Programme. Synergies with, for example, the European GNSS component will contribute to boost innovation and uptake of Copernicus data and information. General Assembly Copernicus network members also heard that interaction between the NewSpace ecosystem and Copernicus can benefit both parties by empowering start-ups to build prototypes using the free and open data of Copernicus, and by implementing novel subscription schemes within the Copernicus Contributing Missions scheme.
Guerric de Crombrugghe, General Manager at Scanworld, Liège, Belgium, spoke of how this interaction was helpful for Scanworld: “We like to say that our NewSpace company stands on the shoulders of giants: leveraging on the fantastic tools made available by the Copernicus programme to serve one specific market: agriculture. It was thus our pleasure and honor to present our vision at the annual gathering of the Copernicus Networks. We saw it as a unique opportunity to interact with members of the Copernicus Academy and Relays, raise awareness about the potential of hyperspectral imagery, and obtain contacts that we will use to capture additional user requirements.”
During the panel discussions on the Green Deal, CASSINI, Horizon Europe and Internationalisation, participants heard from fellow network members, the European Commission and the European Agency for the Space Programme (EUSPA) about exciting new opportunities to empower the Relays and Academy with new best practices, innovative approaches to connecting with new user communities, how the CASSINI initiative will enable new opportunities for entrepreneurs in the EU space ecosystem, and how Copernicus has become and will continue to grow globally as a symbol of the European Union’s soft power and a driver of business opportunities on export markets.
Emmanuel Pajot from the European Association of Remote Sensing Companies (EARSC) singled out the growing interest of the European Earth Observation industry in the development of new business in Africa and Latin America.
As has been the case for many years now, with Horizon 2020 in the past 7 years, and Horizon Europe until 2027, the Research and Innovation programme of the European Union will continue to support Copernicus-related scientific and product development activities through grants. During the panel session on Horizon Europe, Copernicus network members heard that the various pillars of the initiative will focus both on the development of the upstream space sector, in the form of the evolution of Copernicus and Galileo space components, and develop innovative capabilities for SSA, GOVSATCOM and Quantum. While there will be calls under the Work Programme to develop applications, and evolve the Copernicus and Galileo Services, in line with the practice of previous years, there will also be a strong focus on strategic objectives of the European Union, such as developing sustainable launchers in the EU, and critical technologies for non-dependence. Moreover, international cooperation is also part of the targeted and strategic actions under Horizon Europe.
The European Commission will also be focusing on internationalisation besides Horizon Europe. The EU Global Action Project, which kicked off this summer, will focus on boosting user uptake of the EU Space Programme outside Europe, through the organisation of a range of webinars, bringing together stakeholders from Africa, Central and South America, Asia, and Australia, and to further broaden and deepen political and business cooperation. The General Assembly also included participants from outside Europe. Jorge Cabrera, Senior Advisor for Space at the General Secretariat of SICA, Central America, praised the opportunities the GA presented: “For me and the members of the Copernicus Academy in Central America, the General Assembly is an opportunity for networking and information gathering. It complements the support we receive from the European Commission and the Copernicus Support Office to disseminate and implement the great potential of Copernicus open data for public and private actors in our member countries, and to mitigate the effects of climate change that particularly affect us.”
Global cooperation has become more important than ever, in the frame of the fight against climate change and developing regulations that support common sustainability goals. The EU Green Deal is the first programme of its kind, with the EU committing to lower its carbon emissions by 55% by 2030, and to become the first carbon-neutral continent by 2050. To achieve these goals, innovative actions and research will be indispensable. During the session devoted to the Copernicus contribution to the Green Deal, held on the second day of the GA, Copernicus network members were presented with several examples of the research that is contributing, and will continue to contribute, to achieving the Green Deal objectives. One of the most significant points made during this session was that Copernicus is not just about robust scientific research, but engaging about citizens, having their voices heard, educating them about how these measures can benefit them, and ensuring that they are able to participate in shaping a new, carbon-neutral future for everyone. This is critical for any action undertaken to support the EU Green Deal.
In the CASSINI session, Thomas Tanghe introduced the CASSINI Hackathons and revealed that the next Hackathon (in 10 cities in parallel) will address applications in the Tourism sector, which has been hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Finally, speakers emphasised that end users are also a strong focus in the activities undertaken in the CASSINI initiative. Knowing your customers, using testimonies or use cases to showcase the benefits of any novel applications developed with EU space data, signals and information, and implementing ideas with a strong team were some of the tips given by the panellists of the CASSINI session. Through an expanded space entrepreneurship initiative, and in cooperation with EUSPA which also boosts the development of new ideas under the MyEUSpace Competition, it is hoped that the EU Space entrepreneurial ecosystem will continue to grow.
Justyna Redelkiewicz, Head of Sector LBS, Market and Technology, Market Development at EUSPA presented the expanded role of the Agency for Copernicus user uptake and R&D funding, and encouraged participation in the #MyEUSpace innovation competition.
This evolution was highlighted to Copernicus network members, as they will act as Copernicus multipliers, together with the development of Copernicus 2.0 and the EU Space Programme and its opportunities in general. It should be reflected in the activities of the members of the Copernicus Networks – through implementing some of the innovative actions presented to Copernicus network members over the two days of the GA, by continuing outreach to citizens and users, and by developing educational material to lower the barrier for new entrepreneurs to use space-based data and signals.
At the start of this new year, we want to thank the Copernicus Relays and Academy members for their continued efforts in promoting Copernicus in their local networks, boosting user uptake, organising events, and training sessions, educating the next generation of Copernicus experts, bridging the gap between research and industry, and supporting the European Commission in the outreach of the EU Space Programme. We hope to see them all back next year at the General Assembly of the Copernicus Networks.
We also would like to wish all our Copernicus Observer readers a very Happy New Year, and we also hope that 2022 will be the year that we get to see you in person again.
Thu, 06/01/2022 – 12:00