Examination of Witnesses (Questions 380
WEDNESDAY 7 FEBRUARY 2007
Q380 Dr Spink: Could I come in on
one final question on coordination again. Is the Centre for Earth
Observation Instrumentation a good idea or not?
Mr Stuttard: Perhaps on the upstream
side we have lost, in the UK, sensor development capability, so,
yes, it is a very good idea.
Professor Wingham: Yes. In the
past I was somewhat responsible for it. I am a bit concerned that
our level of expenditure on skills in the higher education sector
involved in construction, testing, flight of aircraft, for example,
of this instrumentation, has got a bit low in the past few years
and I am of the view that we need to build back up the skills
Professor Quegan: I think it needs
to be done because our influence in instrumentation across Europe
is actually weakening. Something needs to be done and this is
at least part of a step along the way.
Dr Spink: Thank you very much.
Q381 Dr Iddon: BARSC have been rather
critical that we do not have a coordinated programme. It says
that is needed now in order allow our companies to become competitive
with the best in the rest of Europe, in Germany, France and Italy
particularly. Do we have the balance right between the amount
of money we are feeding into the earth observation programmes
through ESA? Would you like to comment on this need for a national,
coordinated programme rather than taking that route?
Mr Stuttard: Yes, indeed. One
way to win European Space Agency money is to be able to bring
something of your own competence to the party. ESA bids are extremely
competitive and the UK national competence in the exploitation
of earth observation datawhich was once supreme in Europe
actuallyhas really been eroded over the last 10 years by
neglect of the downstream application development areas. As I
have already mentioned, there is basically no national programme
of any magnitude. There are very small amounts of money which
the BNSC tries very hard to make available and when it does spend
that money it gets huge results from even quite small sums of
money. There is the International Cooperation Programme (ICP)
which has had a tiny amount of budget that has been used for little
bits of application development here and there. That has been
greatly welcomed by the downstream industry but it has not been
enough compared to where we were. There used to be a programme
called Link. There used to be a programme called the Application
Development Programme. The two GMES services in which we are involved
now nationally and in leading them you can trace directly back
to that Application Development Programme over 10 years ago and
there has really been nothing since then putting other things
into the pipe. There are other areas in which we need to be involved
and I would particularly point to the atmospheric monitoring,
which is the one that has not been claimed yet. In atmospheric
applications, such as sunburn index, public health in relation
to boundary layer pollution and that sort of thing, there are
great opportunities there within GMES, and it also leads into
the climate change agenda which the UK is wanting to lead on.
I would point to that area as a very good one for the UK nationally
to focus on and develop real applications which have good sciencethere
is very good science to be done there which the UK wants to lead
onbut also potential spin-offs into the real societal benefits
and possibly even commercial benefits.
Q382 Dr Iddon: What are countries
like Germany, Italy and France doing which helps their industries
to be extremely competitive, more so than ours, it appears, which
we are not doing?
Mr Stuttard: They establish priorities
very early on and they then go for them. In GMES, France claimed
the oceans very early on and said, "We want to do everything
marine." It was a very smart move because that is the next
operational application after meteorology in terms of using earth
observation in an operational context, not a scientific research
context, because there will be sufficient observation platforms
providing streams of data on sea surface temperature, roughness
and so on, which allow modelling of the whole ocean system and
the French claimed that area. Land, which of course is commercially
very valuablethat is where the people live, that is where
the economic activity by and large takes placethe land
and land cover monitoring was claimed by Germany very early on.
They put their flag on it and said, "We want to do that."
The UK did not claim any area as a priority.
Q383 Dr Iddon: It seems we have been
elbowed out by France and Germany, is that right, or is there
a niche that we can find and exploit?
Mr Stuttard: Atmosphere.
Professor Quegan: The first statement
is correct: we were elbowed out.
Q384 Dr Iddon: Are we going to be
bullied by these two countries? Why can we not claim a bit of
the oceans? Why can we not claim a bit of the earth?
Professor Wingham: It depends
on what you regard as fixed. I myself have long supported the
fact that much of our space expenditure is being directed by the
agencies who need the results. I am not sympathetic to building
a strong single space agency because there is a tendency for them
to commit money on launching programmes in man space flight programmes.
I think the UK has been very good about this. I would make one
comment: our experience has been that if you pay for satellites
you must invest 40% of your budget in the downstream application
of the data if you wish to be successful. It is not altogether
clear to me that we are doing that with GMES.
Q385 Dr Iddon: NERC's earth observation
sector is being reorganised at the moment. Professor Wingham and
Professor Quegan, how is that going to affect your work?
Professor Quegan: At the moment
the details of that are being thrashed out. We have to submit
our bid on 1 May. The original centres were based on, basically,
opportunities to do things you wanted to do, so there were particular
lead scientists in certain areas. Duncan led on the ice, I led
on carbon, other people led on tectonics and so on. The new centre
is very much more to try to integrate those capabilities together,
which is a very sensible thing to do, so that means the basic
centre structure that exists is not as clear cut any more, so
the actual way that works when we set up the new structures has
to be thrashed out properly. The new centre will be much more
integrated to make sure that the pieces fit together in a more
consistent way, shall we say, and that you take strength from
the various centres to make a more coherent approach.
Q386 Dr Iddon: You are involved in
and also behind this reorganisation. That is the message I am
Professor Wingham: The idea is
to produce more integration. There was certainly a NERC view that
the centres we had were slightly balkanised and that we could
get more by integrating to a degree. The balkanisation, on the
other hand, has had its strengths too. My view is a positive one.
I think we will benefit from it. I do not regard it as threatening.
I hope that we will have a better outcome and I think there are
lots of reasons to imagine that is true. Of course the final print
is yet to be written but I am in favour of it.
Chairman: That is a very positive note
and on that positive note we will finish. Matthew Stuttard, Professor
Duncan Wingham and Professor Shaun Quegan, thank you very much