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Event summary

On 29 June 2021 a webinar "Earth Observations for citizens and the planet - V4 perspective on R&I contributions to the Copernicus programme" took place as an annual V4 Conference 2021 organised by the Polish Science Contact Agency of the Polish Academy of Sciences (PolSCA) together with Czech Liaison Office for Education and Research (CZELO), National Research, Development and Innovation Office Hungary (NRDIO) and Slovak Liaison Office for Research and Development (SLORD).

All speakers’ presentations and event-related documents (i.e. HE Cluster 4 WE and Copernicus reports) as well as video recording of the event are available under Downloads.

 The conference brought attention of over 190 participants representing various academic and non-academic institutions as well as start-ups and companies operating in the field of Earth Observation across Visegrad countries and from all over Europe and beyond! Among attendees were also representatives of various stakeholders organisations in the Space/EO sector at the local, national and pan-European level.

The webinar was a great chance to get first-hand information from various experts in this field, representing European Commission (DG DEFIS and DG RTD) as well as key EU stakeholders and representatives of V4-based R&I public institutions and private companies. Furthermore, it was an opportunity to engage in discussion concerning networking, mobilising and reinforcing cooperation between European scientists and innovators, research organisations and various actors in the field of Earth Observations.

Through a selected talks and interventions, all event attendees could get a glimpse on the current policy framework, priorities and future challenges regarding the EU flagship programme Copernicus. This was well supplemented by a thorough overview of a numerous European Space Agency (ESA) activities and the mission of newly launched Knowledge Centre for Earth Observation (KCEO) at the Joint Research Centre (JRC). Furthermore, viewpoints of key stakeholders were presented via interventions from Association of European Space Research Establishments (ESRE) and SME4SPACE Association.

Particularly interesting were fine indications on how members of the R&I communities across the V4 countries, CEE region and all over the Europe can tap into and provide valuable contributions to the Copernicus programme. In parallel, conference audience had a chance to witness a showcase of four examples of success stories from the region – so to say “V4 champions” to the Copernicus programme.

 The event was opened by Professor Roman Słowiński, Vice President of the Polish Academy of Sciences, Chair of the Laboratory of Intelligent Decision Support Systems at the Institute of Computing Science, Poznań University of Technology and also a Professor at the Systems Research Institute of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw. During his speech the long-lasting collaboration among V4 R&I liaison offices in Brussels was emphasized, with annual “V4 Conference” being shown as one example of such initiatives. In fact, in past years a number of themes have been discussed in this format, including (i) importance of researchers mobility, (ii) a concept of circular economy and innovation ecosystems or (iii) challenges and opportunities of the digital transformation – which in fact was a theme of the last physical V4 conference organised in 2019 by the SLORD Office. When introducing key guests of the conference, Prof. Słowiński also provided a remark on the Nicolaus Copernicus - a great Polish, German and European scientist and observer who was the catalyst in the 16th century to better understand our world. It’s after him, that we now talk about the Copernicus Programme – an Europe’s eye on the Earth!

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The event started with the keynote speech provided by Mr Matthias Petschke, Director for Space, including Space Policy, Satellite Navigation and Earth Observation at the European Commission, Directorate-General for Defence Industry and Space (DG DEFIS). In his lecture, Mr Petschke discussed an European coordination to maximize the use of Earth Observation products and information in order to best equip scientist, innovators and industry to steer resilient and green transition for our citizens, governments & policy makers and to safeguard our planet. In this sense, he introduced the Copernicus Programme with its architecture, evolution and key priorities including data acquisition, services processing, access to data and information as well as fostering its uptake. Last but not least, the newly launched Knowledge Centre on Earth Observation was discussed along with numerus contributions of the Copernicus to Green Deal priorities.

 The first panel session was a showcase of V4 space sector involved in developing, deploying and using global space-based infrastructures, services, applications and data for Earth monitoring using Copernicus programme, bringing key contributions to the European Green Deal and Space Strategy for Europe. Among invited speakers were Mr Karel Charvát of the Czech-based company – Wirelessinfo, who explained how Sentinel-1 and Sentinel-2 time series data can be successfully used for the smart agri food sector. On the other hand, Mr János SZOKE, a CTO at Admatis Ltd. based in Miskolc, Hungary told the story how his comapny contribute to the space infractructure of the Copernicus, mainly through hardware development for Sentinel-2 multispectral instrument. Following on that, Mr Sebastian Aleksandrowicz (in absence of Ms Edyta Woźniak) of the Space Research Centre of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Poland  in Poland guided the audience through a number of top-notch research projects with clear objective and impacts for agriculture, ecosystem services as well as hazard and security. Last but not least, Mr Matúš Bakon, a funder and CEO of the Slovak Insar.sk, provided an inspiring talk on deformation monitoring via satellite radar interferometry and how his company uses such principle to support early warning systems based on EO data.

 All speakers of this session have highlighted their openness to expanding their existing networks and initiative collaborations with new partners, stakeholders and Space/EO sector actors cross V4, CEE region and Europe at large.

 You can see more examples of fine success stories of research institutions and companies based across Visegrad countries on the event website. click here to learn more about such projects in Czechia, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia.

Over a second session of the conference – moderated by Mr Michal Brichta, head of the Industry Branch of the Slovak Space Office working under the Slovak Investment and Trade Development Agency (SARIO) – an audience could follow a roundtable discussion with key European EO actors and stakeholders on the current status and future challenges regarding the Copernicus programme. The first speaker of this session – Ms Simonetta Cheli, representative of the European Space Agency – presented the main activities of the ESA regarding the space component of the EU Earth Monitoring programme. A particular attention was also given to future of Copernicus with its sentinel expansion missions. Taking over – Mr Mark Dowell, Project Leader for Scientific and Technical Support to the Copernicus Programme at the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre, has provided the audience with a detailed description of the Knowledge Centre on Earth Observation and its mission in enabling  transition from monitoring and gathering vast amount of data into its holistic understanding and application, for instance for policy development. In this regard, a key role of research and innovation community was underlined. In the subsequent part of the session views and recommendations on the EO sector at large were provided by Mr Laurent Leylekian – on the behalf of the Association of European Space Research Establishments (ESRE) and by Mr Hans Bracquené – on the behalf of SME4SPACE Associations. The former one provided a detailed overview of ESRE’s views on EO, including a wide range of recommended R&TD to be addressed in Europe, preferentially by collaborative research in Horizon Europe as well as proposals for large-scale projects based on defined roadmaps. The latter one provided valuable perspectives on European space-tech development in industry leadership in Earth Observation sector, especially from the SMEs point of view.

For the closing remarks, attendees could follow a speech provided by Ms Marjan Van Meerloo (in absence of Mr Philippe Tulkens), a Policy Officer at Sector Environmental Observation of the Directorate General for Research and Innovation (DG RTD). Over this closing lecture, an overview of Horizon Europe funding opportunities for EO sector was provided, highlighting the paramount role of Copernicus in environmental observations. Last but not least, a potential of citizen engagement and citizen observations was strengthened, in line with the motto of the event: Earth Observation for citizens and the planet!

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We strongly believe that this type of first-hand presentations is crucial to foster the involvement of all European researchers, innovators, and other relevant stakeholders in this flagship European programme and thus ensuring successful Copernicus’ mission as the Europe’s eye on Earth!

 Please note that all the speakers’ presentations are available for you in pdf format on the “Downloads” section and may allow you to discover much more about all issues raised and discussed during the event! On the website you can also learn more about each of the event speakers.