Submission from the British Association
of Remote Sensing Companies (BARSC)
1. BARSC is a trade association established
in 1985 to develop and promote the interests of UK companies concerned
with the application of remotely sensed data. BARSC is therefore
concerned with the downstream exploitation of data from Earth
Observation (EO) satellites. The maturity of the EO applications
sector and its rapid convergence with several other technologies
is approaching the point at which, with the right investment,
it will be a disruptive factor in new information markets in the
government, professional and consumer sectors.
2. This submission is consistent with and
builds upon previous communications from BARSC to BNSC on our
priorities for Earth Observation. It also takes into account the
discussion at a recent BARSC/DEFRA/BNSC workshop "Operational
environmental sensing: Future UK policy drivers, technical requirements
and capabilities". Presentations from that workshop and a
summary of the discussion can be found here: http://www.barsc.org.uk/news_&_events.htm
3. In summary BARSC wants the UK government
(a) Restore at least GDP-level funding by
the UK to the Earth Observation programmes of ESA and EUMETSAT.
(b) Through well-targeted national initiatives,
support competitiveness of UK industry within Europe in order
to secure both financial return to UK on major future Earth Observation
programmes such as those of EUMETSAT (MTG) and EC/ESA (GMES),
and UK socio-economic benefits resulting from them.
(c) Strengthen measures to engage all sectors
of UK government as key users of GMES benefiting from the technology
in terms of efficiency and economics.
(d) Ensure that the UK private sector has
a fair opportunity to compete as a provider of Earth Observation
services at national level.
4. Supporting evidence for these recommendations
is given in the accompanying memorandum.
5. Applications of Earth Observation (EO)
technology by individual BARSC members for the purposes of both
environmental sustainability and of wealth creation are described
in the BARSC Brochure: UK Industrial Capability in Earth Observation.
6. In this submission we have concentrated
on the industrial and commercial benefits of EO and on wealth
creation, we have deliberately not addressed the very substantial
environmental and socio-economic benefits of EO which are the
subject of a recently published ESA study led by PWC.
7. BARSC members foresee that environmental
sensor integration (of which observation from space is an important
part) is a new, disruptive technology that is having a strong
beneficial impact on the UK government and on British citizens.
We would point to the impact of Google Earth and emphasise that
this is merely scratching the surfaceoperationalising space
assets for making medium and high resolution observations of the
Earth is enabling a step change in the variety, quality and usability
of up to date environmental and security information.
8. We consider that strong UK participation
in the development and running of operational European observation
systems will bring the following core benefits leading to a multiplier
in wealth creation from the downstream EO sector:
(a) Guaranteed availability and continuity
of observationslack of such guarantees have been barriers
preventing end users from committing to information streams based
(b) Quality assured products which are easy
to usethis has been a major factor in the operational adoption
(c) A solid customer base within the government
institutional sectorfrom this base of users, new commercial
(mass market and professional) applications can follow.
(d) A sustainable business case providing
return on investment in UK infrastructure to support the operational
flow of data and services.
9. Lessons should be drawn from the 30 year
history of how low resolution meteorological satellites evolved
from a supporting role to become indispensable.
10. An analogy can also be drawn between
EO and satellite navigation. After many years as a technology
for professionals and enthusiasts "satnav" recently
reached the mass market through (a) completion of the technology
convergence needed to enable effective functionality at an acceptable
price point and (b) assured quality and continuity of the service.
Both government RTD and government purchasing of services have
been significant factors in this.
11. EO is not yet as mature as satellite
navigation, but there are major EO programmes under development
in Europe which will change this. The UK needs a coherent
strategy forand to make strong commitments tothese
EO programmes now, (especially GMES) not just to secure the end
user benefits, but also to secure the jobs and new downstream
markets which will arise from implementing the technology operationally.
12. GMES represents the current single biggest
opportunity for BARSC members, and the single biggest threat if
UK commitments in GMES services are weak compared to other
leading European nations.
13. UK companies have had success in securing
downstream value adding roles in some precursor GMES services:
For example, BARSC members lead:
(a) the ESA supported RESPOND service for
Rapid Mapping that supports response to natural and humanitarian
(b) the ESA supported TerraFirma service
that provides very accurate measurements of ground motion, including
building subsidence, over large areas.
14. However, this success can be traced
to RTD investments that were made by the UK government in EO applications
development in the 1990s and before.
15. Since the mid 1990s it has been increasingly
difficult for UK EO value adding companies to compete against
those in Germany, France, Italy, Spain and smaller nations such
as Austria and Belgium where national support has been maintained
or increased for EO applications development in the private sector.
16. In the area of EO data provision, UK
government investment in BNSC's MOSAIC programme has resulted
in UK business having an increasingly strong role providing optical
imagery at the low resolution end of the market through DMCii.
This comes at a time when much more costly (factor of 100) but
technically much stronger programmes operated by France and the
USA are faltering. So the timing is excellent but complacency
is not an option as the global demand for higher quality optical
imagery exceeds the current capability of the UK supply.
17. A co-ordinated national action programme
is needed now and UK commitment through ESA is also needed to
secure strong roles for the UK in the EC-funded implementation
phase of GMES. Without these measures the UK will get in a situation
where it has no option but to buy services by proxy through the
EC from non-UK companies. Currently the possibility exists to
ensure UK industry can compete for and win a larger share of these
roles, but the window of opportunity will close at the next ESA
GMES funding decision in 2007.
18. The elements of ESA's programme devoted
to the development of downstream EO applications have been less
than 3% of its overall EO programme, yet it has had a very significant
impact on the industry. This funding should at least be maintained
if not strengthened.
19. In BARSC's view ESA has taken a highly
effective leadership role in raising the technology-readiness
levels of many EO applications. Measured in terms of outcomes
(such as new customers, new users, new operational applications),
ESA activities such as EO Market Development, Data Use Element
and GMES Service Element have been significantly more effective
than equivalent activities in EC Framework Programmes.
FROM UK SPACE-BASED
20. Since 2003 responsibility for UK government
investment in EO passed from DTI to NERC. Whilst this has undoubtedly
had a good effect on UK science very little of this funding finds
its way to support knowledge transfer into the private sector.
National spending on the pre-competitive development of commercially
operated EO applications has been negligible for more than five
years. As a result the skill base and the breadth of new commercial
applications in which the UK is competent has dwindled.
21. There are identifiable structural and
cultural barriers, in particular there is low motivation and few
incentives in the environmental research world to work with existing
successful businesses on transferring know-how and intellectual
property related to EO applications. Where knowledge transfer
in EO applications does take place the majority is into government
agencies rather than private companies. This further weakens the
possibility for the downstream industry to offer services as the
capability for institutional in-sourcing is strengthened. BARSC
is working with NERC on these issues.
22. Concerning the operation of EO services,
BARSC members are anxious to ensure that the provision of GMES
services does not become wholly a responsibility of national public
sector institutions or international agencies (institutional in-sourcing).
Whilst the oversight and provision for delivery of services might
reside with governmental organisations we would insist that much
of the technical and operational work should be carried out by
private industrial entities under competitively contracted conditions.
23. Our case for industrialised services
is based on:
(a) cost reduction by maintaining competitive
(b) enabling the innovation of new commercial
servicesthis type of wealth creation simply will not occur
if services are delivered solely from inside public sector organisations;
(c) staff attitudes, management and organisational
structures in industry are geared to delivering operational services
efficiently and to agreed service levels.
DEFRA, MOD, DTI, DFT),
24. BARSC members currently deliver some
EO services to government departments under competitively contracted
conditions. For example there is now a 15-year history in monitoring
agricultural subsidies using remote sensing. This model for service
delivery has been effective in driving down the cost of services
whilst allowing the private sector to develop the complex expertise
needed, build infrastructure capacity and thereby develop new
business streams in new markets.
25. BARSC would welcome measures to ensure
that this approach to procuring national services is considered
as a priority in the UK as new EO services are adopted across
26. Existing BNSC programmes such as GIFTSS
can point to real success in getting government departments to
adopt EO applications as part of evidence based decision making.
The scale of the GIFTSS programme has been remarkably modest in
relation to the potential returns and it has sometimes taken a
very long time to engage users in governmentsometimes due
to departmental reluctance. We would call for stronger measures
to eliminate barriers and strengthen the uptake of EO applications
across governmentDEFRA is to be congratulated on its recent
development of departmental best practice in this respect.
THE UK SKILLS
27. Funding for NERC research in EO applications
has been effective in developing UK science. BARSC has concern
that the very advanced knowledge that exists in the research base
is not being transferred sufficiently rapidly into the EO industry
(as IPR or as skilled practitioners).
28. BARSC members would like the UK government
to identify GMES facilities that might be hosted within the UK
(a) UK-hosted services will create high value
jobs in the UK, build up national skill levels and capacity in
the EO domain.
(b) UK-hosted services will inevitably bring
international visitors to the UK.
(c) UK-hosted services, if set up and operated
in the right way, can act as a catalyst for new value adding services
(both public and commercial).
(d) UK-hosted services will benefit from
the significant industrial experience and expertise in operating
facilities of the type that are required for GMES.
29. This concludes BARSC's written evidence
to the Committee, please note that key recommendations we would
request the Committee to consider are contained in the covering
letter on the first page of this file.
1 http://www.barsc.org.uk/Event%20reports/UK%20Industrial%20Capability%20in%20EO%20web.pdf Back