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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

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - 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: 2017-05-01 to 2018-11-30

Major challenges today have to do with adaptation to climate change, improved food security and water extremes management, access to raw materials, and access to solar energy, which are the thematic priorities of GEO-CRADLE. To respond to such challenges, informed decision making through sustained EO services is crucial. In this context, international initiatives such as GEO and Copernicus are of paramount importance, given their support towards the integration and coordination of EO at all levels.

Despite the important progress there are still critical gaps in the uptake of the EO especially in the Region of Interest (RoI): North Africa, Middle East and the Balkans. This is mostly due to the limited cooperation between the EO stakeholders, the ineffective exploitation of resources and expertise, the limited public awareness on the benefits of EO, and the low involvement of the industry sector in the development of relevant EO services.

In order to tackle these challenges, GEO-CRADLE established a regional coordination network that:
1. supports the effective integration of EO capacities relevant to monitoring networks, and skills in modelling and data exploitation;
2. facilitates the networking and engagement of the EO value adding stakeholder community;
3. promotes the concrete uptake of EO services and data in response to cross sector needs, relevant to the 4 thematic priorities of the project;
4. builds trust and capacity among the regional actors, and enhances their participation in GEO and contribution to the improved implementation of GEOSS & Copernicus.
1. Integration of existing EO capacities
a. Extensive inventorying of the EO capacities: Space/air-borne, Ground-based/In-situ monitoring, Modelling and computing.
b. Detailed collection of user needs (93 interviews from 14 countries, 19 regional workshops and exchanges in outreach activities), followed by gaps analysis, and Priorities Action Plan.
c. 4 pilot activities showcasing advanced EO Services to address regional challenges (e.g. SDGs).
d. Regional Data Hub connected to GCI (25.534.239 datasets, 45 regional portals and sites, including the 4 pilots).
2. Engagement of the EO stakeholder community
a. Networking Platform (268 profiles of EO actors from 29 countries).
b. Liaison activities (GEO, Copernicus-DG GROW, DG RTD and ESA).
c. Stakeholder engagement and capacity building events (including 19 regional workshops) and dissemination activities (including 31 scientific papers and articles).
d. Communication materials (e.g. website, social media).
3. Uptake of EO services and data
a. Regional Data Hub providing access to EO services and data.
b. 4 pilot activities addressing the daily needs of key stakeholders.
c. Development of a novel methodology for EO Maturity Assessment (32 indicators) and application in 11 countries.
4. Implementation of GEOSS and Copernicus
a. Advocacy on the importance of data sharing and data opening, in line with GEOSS data sharing principles, and operation of the Regional Data Hub in this direction.
b. “Exporting” of Copernicus data and core services through regional workshops and capacity building activities.
c. Enhancing the establishment of GEO liaisons (e.g. Albanian GEO Office established in 11/2018).
d. Delivery of a Roadmap with an Action Plan by 2030 for the implementation of GEOSS & Copernicus.
The exploitation and dissemination of the project’s outcomes are ruled by a Sustainability Plan, which provides the base towards the implementation of the delivered services for the scientific, societal, and economic sustainability. For this purpose GEO-CRADLE has secured its continuation of actions (engage stakeholders, data, service uptake, capacity building), and even more its expansion in new thematic and geographical areas, as a GEO-Initiative.
GEO-CRADLE achieved great scientific, societal and economic impact through the networking and exchange of EO methodologies, know-how, datasets and services.
For the first time in the RoI the current state-of-play was captured and the provision of EO value-adding services was beneficial for the local societies and the EO market uptake towards sustainable development.
The methodology for EO maturity assessment provided a common standard for evaluating the countries’ involvement in the implementation of GEO and Copernicus for mutual benefit.
The Networking Platform presents an up-to-date status of the regional capacities, and facilitates the networking and synergies among the stakeholders, helping to set region-based consortia.
The Regional Data Hub provides access to millions of regional datasets, and thus fosters further data sharing and EO service development for the benefit of the relevant science and geo-information sector.
The Adaptation to Climate Change pilot supported the sustainability of regional EO infrastructures. It focused on the holistic monitoring and forecasting of region-specific atmospheric components, ECVs and hazards, in line with the standards and vision of GEOSS & Copernicus. It provided services related to desert dust, climate change, and air quality, benefiting key end users, and engaging aviation authorities, environmental and civil protection institutions and state agencies, as well as public/private sectors e.g. tourism, agriculture, natural hazards and water management.
The Improved Food Security – Water Extremes Management pilot transferred state-of-the-art know-how between the involved countries on soil spectroscopy, and built for the first time a standardized regional Soil Spectral Library, as a complement to the EU Soil Sample Data Base, serving the food security and agriculture sectors. It provided detailed thematic soil maps by analysing the soil spectra with Sentinel-2 image acquisitions. Moreover, in support to the agriculture production and flood/drought mitigation, the pilot adapted and launched a region specific version of the myDEWETRA web platform. The delivered services have strong potential to support EU agricultural policy and initiatives (e.g. SDGs, PRIMA).
The Access to Raw Materials pilot studied mining and post-mining sites, focusing on EO based solutions to support the sites’ management and mitigation of their environmental impact on the surrounding areas. All the methodologies were elaborated on the basis of Copernicus data integration and were delivered having a universal character, applicable for other RoIs as well. The pilot engaged key private and public/state organisations from the mining and environmental sectors.
The Access to Solar Energy (SENSE) pilot took advantage of the free access to Copernicus data and Core services, innovative modelling and state-of-the-art real-time solar energy calculating systems, and delivered reliable and high resolution solar Atlases and broader climatology studies. It engraved strategic methods to integrate a solar energy nowcasting system into a wider GEOSS driven system at global scale. It stimulated the interest of key energy stakeholders and decision makers from the private and public/state sector in various countries, e.g. Egypt where it was acknowledged by the Ministry of Electricity and Renewable Energy and is currently integrated in its official website, serving the needs of potential solar investors.
Finally, the detailed Roadmap further promotes multi-actor, cross-border and interdisciplinary collaboration among EO stakeholders in the RoI for the delivery of EO-based benefits to society and economy.
GEO-CRADLE Pilot 2: Improved Food Security – Water Extremes Management (IFS-WEM)
GEO-CRADLE Capacity Building, Stakeholders’ Engagement, Dissemination
GEO-CRADLE Upgrade: Project -> Community Activity -> Initiative
GEO-CRADLE Pilot 1: Adaptation to Climate Change (ACC)
GEO-CRADLE EO Maturity Assessment
GEO-CRADLE Coordination and Management
GEO-CRADLE Roadmap for the future GEOSS & Copernicus implementation
Overview of GEO-CRADLE contribution
GEO-CRADLE Regional Data Hub
GEO-CRADLE Networking Platform
GEO-CRADLE Pilot 3: Access to Raw Materials (ARM)
GEO-CRADLE Communication
GEO-CRADLE Pilot 4: Access to Solar Energy (SENSE)
Overview of GEO-CRADLE implementation
GEO-CRADLE Thematic Areas in support of UN SDGs