Among the greatest strengths of Earth Observation (EO) is its universal application. This aspect is manifested in two ways. Firstly, EO satellites allow the monitoring of a wide variety of natural phenomena and operational processes across the whole globe. Secondly, the decisions or actions that organisations dealing with such phenomena or operations must take are often very similar in different countries. Thus, thanks to this “universality”, companies have an enormous opportunity to do business abroad, whether providing farm management support in Australia, dam deformation monitoring in Chile, solar irradiation forecasts in Egypt, or illegal fisheries management in the Philippines, to name a few.
This business opportunity has been significantly enhanced since the advent of the Sentinel era: thanks to the free, full and open data policy, companies are able to utilise high-quality observations to support clients across the world. Of course, this is often complemented by the use of higher-resolution or more frequent observations, accomplished by private-sector satellites. The importance of export is directly reflected in recent economic figures as shown in the 2019 EARSC Industry Survey: a staggering 63% of sales is done outside of the home country of European EO companies (34% in the rest of Europe and 29% outside of Europe).
Whilst this presents an excellent situation for start-ups and investors alike – given the upscaling perspectives – it also raises a series of important challenges. The most applicable is the ability of small companies (94% overall with 68% having less than 10 employees) to develop a solid presence in export markets. For this, a series of support mechanisms and funding opportunities are in place. This includes the Clusters Go International effort, which beyond dedicated EO activities (see IDEEO) supports multiple downstream sector-relevant initiatives, the EU IPR Helpdesk with global footprint, Business Beyond Borders offering matchmaking opportunities and country-specific schemes such as Keys to Japan.
At the same time, increased economic diplomacy efforts open new collaboration channels for European companies. This includes activities organised under the Technical Assistance and Information Exchange instrument of the European Commission (TAIEX), whereby multiple missions have had EO representation (e.g. Bangkok and Singapore in 2018, Manilla and Panama in 2019). Finally, an important stream of activity is related to Development Aid for which EO is an essential tool. For instance, under the ESA initiative EO4SD, European companies are assisting International Financial Institutions towards incorporating EO products in their development planning and implementation activities. In parallel, DG DEVCO supports multiple activities in different regions of the world, whilst GEO can be leveraged to support the uptake of EO in SDG monitoring.
In this overall context, it is important for start-ups and entrepreneurs to monitor opportunities, understand dynamics and seek the right type of support for their internationalisation. PARSEC will provide such support to 2nd stage beneficiaries. The Market Trends Observatory will aid this process by providing relevant market insights.