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  • Periodic Reporting for period 1 - GEO-CRADLE (Coordinating and integRating state-of-the-art Earth Observation Activities in the regions of North Africa, Middle East, and Balkans and Developing Links with GEO related initiatives towards GEOSS)

GEO-CRADLE Report Summary

Project ID: 690133
Funded under: H2020-EU.3.5.5.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - GEO-CRADLE (Coordinating and integRating state-of-the-art Earth Observation Activities in the regions of North Africa, Middle East, and Balkans and Developing Links with GEO related initiatives towards GEOSS)

Reporting period: 2016-02-01 to 2017-04-30

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

Major challenges faced by the world citizen today have to do with his/her need for food security and adaptation to climate change, access to raw materials and renewable energy sources, adequacy of water resources and protection against disastrous water extreme events (floods/draughts). In order to respond to such challenges the informed decision making based on the continuous, accurate and timely provision of information through coordinated and sustained Earth Observation (EO) activities is crucial. In this context, the role of international initiatives such as the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) and Copernicus is of paramount importance, given their support towards the integration and coordination of EO at regional, national and international levels.

Despite the important progress made over the past years, the task for EO integration and coordination is hardly accomplished, especially in the region of interest (RoI) namely Balkans, North Africa, and Middle East, where there still exist critical gaps in the uptake of the EO. The issues that are mostly reported relate to the level of cooperation between the EO stakeholders among the countries, the ineffective exploitation of available resources and expertise, the limited public awareness on the benefits of EO services, and the low involvement of the industry sector in the development of relevant EO services.

In order to tackle these challenges the GEO-CRADLE project has been selected for funding in the framework of the EU H2020 Framework Program. It is now running a series of activities, bringing together key players from these 3 regions and establishing a multi-regional coordination network that:
1. Supports the effective integration of existing EO capacities;
2. Facilitates the networking and engagement of the EO stakeholder community ranging from research entities and value adders, to decision making bodies where special emphasis is put;
3. Promotes the uptake of EO services and data in response to regional needs;
4. Builds trust and capacity among the regional actors, and enhances their participation in and contribution to the implementation of GEOSS and Copernicus in the three regions.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

Significant work has been performed so far such as:
1. Effective integration of existing EO capacities relevant to space/air-borne/in-situ monitoring networks, modelling and data exploitation skills, and past project experience
a. Extensive documentation of the EO capacities in the RoI, capturing the current state-of-play with regards to infrastructure, skills, national policies, involvement in international projects, etc.
b. Systematic collection of end-user needs through dedicated interviews and exchanges in numerous outreach activities. Analysis of the needs versus the existing EO capacities, and identification of relevant gaps. Delivery of a regional action plan proposing 4 support actions and 4 thematic priorities to address common regional challenges of high priority.
c. Launch of 4 pilot activities, integrating observational capacities and skills, providing services in the areas of adaptation to climate change, improved food security and water extremes management, access to raw materials, access to renewable energy.
d. Design and launch of the GEO-CRADLE Regional Data Hub, connected to the GEOSS Common Infrastructure (GCI), effectively bringing together regional datasets, and fostering data sharing and cooperation in the RoI.

2. Engagement of the EO stakeholder community (scientists, service/data providers, end-users, governmental organisations, and decision makers)
a. Raising awareness about the project’s activities and collection of EO stakeholders profiles through a dedicated survey. Publication of the profiles on the GEO-CRADLE Networking Platform (242 profiles of EO actors so far), allowing for the interested parties to seek for potential synergies.
b. Establishment of dedicated liaison activities with high-level stakeholders including inter alia GEO, Copernicus, DG GROW, DG RTD and ESA.
c. Reaching out to a large number of regional actors through targeted stakeholder engagement events organised or attended by the project partners, contributing significantly to the build-up of strong momentum around the project’s activities.
d. Approaching a very large community of EO actors through the production and dissemination of dedicated communication materials, creating a distinct brand for the project.

3. Concrete uptake of EO services and data in response to regional needs
a. Successful engagement of local stakeholders owning datasets, registration of their datasets to the GCI platform, and enhanced visibility of the datasets and stakeholders through the GEO-CRADLE Regional Data Hub.
b. Launch of 4 pilot activities following a rigorous gap analysis and identification of regional priorities, thus paving the way for the development of sustainable EO services in the region meeting the decision makers’ needs.
c. Development of a novel methodology on measuring the EO maturity of each country, in consultation with the GEO Secretariat.

4. Improved implementation of and participation in GEO, GEOSS, and Copernicus in the region (in close collaboration with GEO, DG RTD and Copernicus-DG GROW)
a. Advocacy on the importance of sharing data and opening up access, in line with GEOSS data sharing principles and launch of the GEO-CRADLE Regional Data Hub in this direction.
b. Exporting Copernicus through a series of raising awareness activities among local stakeholders in the RoI, and among EU service providers and integration of Copernicus Core products in the pilot activities.
c. Extending GEO by actively supporting capacity building in countries with lower EO maturity, and putting effort in the establishment of GEO liaisons at regional level.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

GEO-CRADLE made a remarkable progress in meeting its objectives and achieving a significant and sustainable impact in the RoI:
• Enhanced the level of knowledge on existing EO capacities in the region (through an ongoing survey). So far, more than 134 in-situ networks and 25 space acquisition facilities have been identified which could be integrated and form larger scale monitoring infrastructures.
• Facilitated the partnering between EO stakeholders (through a networking platform and a series of regional workshops and events). Consortia between the partners have already been formed for addressing regional needs.
• Identified the gaps and the maturity level (through dedicated analysis) and boosted the maturity of different countries in the region.
• Enabled the sharing of EO data (through the Regional Data Hub).
• Showcased (through the feasibility studies) concrete ways of tackling regional challenges related to the 4 thematic areas of the project.
• Proposed first directions for establishing a roadmap for the implementation of GEO, GEOSS and Copernicus in the RoI.

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