Space service providers, developers and end users discuss innovation at Space Days 2014.
Some 320 participants from industry, universities, government institutions and agencies, as well as end users, gathered at the Euro Space Centre in Transinne, Belgium, from 13-17 October for the 2014 Space Days conference. Aimed at keeping space technology specialists up-to-date with progress on Galileo and Copernicus, this year’s event expanded the conference’s scope to include an opportunity for end users to gather together with developers and service providers to explore the new business and scientific opportunities these systems offer.
Organised by Wallonie Espace, Space Days has been held every two years since 2006.
In an introductory presentation, GSA Executive Director Carlo Des Dorides set the stage by highlighting the need to develop innovative real-world applications. “The GSA is in charge of a very important shift towards the user,” he said. “And Space Days is an important platform for supporting this move.”
At a round table discussion on the current state-of-play regarding Galileo and Copernicus, Head of EU Satellite Navigation Programme Unit and Galileo Programme Manager Paul Flament emphasised the economic stakes of Europe’s satellite navigation systems: “Six percent of European Gross National Product relies on satellite navigation,” he said, adding that Galileo will offer more services and signals than GPS does today. However, he said the real breakthrough will come by combining the systems, “which will offer much better coverage and accuracy than we have today.”
Meanwhile, European Commission Head of Copernicus Service Unit Mauro Facchini outlined the potential benefits for end users of the Copernicus earth monitoring system. “Copernicus will enable a whole new range of innovative and unique services for policy makers, as well as citizens,” he said.
Expanding on this topic, GSA Head of Market Development Gian Gherardo Calini illustrated some of the various activities happening at GSA and aimed at supporting key user segments in the adoption of GNSS.
What We Need
A key feature of the conference was a series of workshops where end users could let developers know exactly what they needed. According to Wallonie Espace Executive Officer and Skywin Aerospace Cluster Deputy Director Michel Stassart, without this input “it can be a nightmare for space application developers, as they don’t touch the right people and the business models are not well focused.”
Currently, he explains, some of the applications for earth observation data may be innovative, but they have a limited market, such as tracking the spread of Lyme disease, or monitoring vineyards. Some new opportunities, such as monitoring water leaks in real time, could save millions of euros a year he says.
About 35% of the event’s participants were end users. “This isn’t perfect,” says Stassart, “but in my view it was a success.”
Coming from a wide range of sectors, including air, road, rail, river and maritime transport, energy grid management, wind farms, agriculture, crisis management and the biomedical sector, end users were not only able to see successful applications from around 20 developers, but also able to think about how Copernicus and Galileo could help solve their own needs.
“By the end of the meeting we had 11 expressions of needs,” adds Stassart. “Now it’s important to follow this up.” He plans to invite these end users to other exploratory meetings before the end of the year.
GSA Executive Director, Carlo Des Dorides
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