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ERATOSTHENES: Excellence Research Centre for Earth Surveillance and Space-Based Monitoring of the Environment

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - EXCELSIOR (ERATOSTHENES: Excellence Research Centre for Earth Surveillance and Space-Based Monitoring of the Environment)

Reporting period: 2021-01-01 to 2022-03-31

The EXCELSIOR project aims to upgrade the existing ERATOSTHENES Research Centre of the Cyprus University of Technology into a new Centre of Excellence for Earth Observation, which will provide an inspiring environment for conducting basic and applied research and innovation in the thematic clusters of Environment and Climate, Resilient Society, and Big Earth Data Analytics. Satellite observation and remote sensing are the major focal points of the Centre, and these will be used in an integrated manner with other techniques and geospatial tools.

The existing ERATOSTHENES Research Centre is established in Cyprus, a low performing Member State; and through the EXCELSIOR project, three leading European institutions (DLR, NOA and TROPOS) are assisting in upgrading it into a Centre of Excellence. Thus, the EXCELSIOR project responds to HORIZON 2020 efforts to overwhelm the disparities in terms of research and innovation performance in national and European level.

The new Centre of Excellence will integrate novel Earth Observation (EO), space and ground-based integrated technologies and this approach can contribute to a more sustainable and systematic monitoring of the environment, the timely detection of societal risks/threats and the growth of vital economic sectors. The ultimate goal is to foster the sustainable development in line with the International policy framework (EU Societal Challenges, UN SDGs, Sendai Framework, Paris Agreement) and provide critical information through end user products to policy makers, local, national, and regional authorities, citizens, and tourists.

The new Centre of Excellence will enable the provision of highly innovative products and services for the benefit of National, regional, and International public and private sectors, in the Space and Earth Monitoring sectors. This will be achieved through research and innovation excellence in the respective scientific and technological disciplines and collaborating with other Earth Observation industries, through which the new Centre will develop a pool of scientific expertise and engineering capability as well as technical facilities.

The specific objectives of the project are:
1. To increase the scientific and innovation potential of the upgraded Centre.
2. To motivate uptake of innovative scientific outputs.
3. To achieve sustainability and autonomy of the Centre of Excellence through diversified funding sources.
4. To position Cyprus as a European Focal Point for advanced Earth Observation research and innovation, addressing environmental and societal challenges from local to global scale.
5. To establish a strategic, multi-actor, mutually beneficial and long-term partnership network.
6. To address societal challenges and minimise risk to the public through research results in order to assist in the shaping of informed decisions.
The work carried out up to now by the EXCELSIOR project covered a range of activities, such as the establishment of the Eratosthenes Centre of Excellence (ECoE) as a new and autonomous legal entity, development of ECoE’s strategic growth map and human resources framework, as well as equipment procurement, recruitment of ECoE personnel, capacity building and knowledge transfer, development of the ECoE digital innovation hub, communication and dissemination.

Main results achieved include the following.
- Formal registration of the new legal entity in Cyprus. The governance and organisational structure of the new Centre were also established, as well as a comprehensive policy for liaison with external stakeholders and the gender equality plan.
- Acquisition of temporary office space for the ECoE and preparation of the construction program for a new building.
- Development of ECoE's strategic research and education plans as well as of the framework for the business development strategy and growth path of the Centre.
- Development of EcoE's Human Resources framework as well as design and implementation of the Centre's recruitment strategy. 24 positions were advertised up to the end of the second reporting period and 9 new members of staff were recruited; while, 7 existing CUT staff were transferred to the ECoE.
- Technical specifications for the equipment of the ECoE, such as the Ground-based Remote Sensing Station (GBS), the Earth Observation Satellite Data Acquisition Station and the Earth Observation Satellite Data Hub. The tender for the GBS was formally published and the procurement process is currently at the negotiation stage. New equipment was also installed in Limassol Cyprus; this was a PollyXT Raman/Polarization Lidar, provided by Advanced Partner TROPOS as part of their commitment letter to the EXCELSIOR project and the ECoE.
- Development of the workplan for the three capacity building schemes of the project. Three capacity building trainings were also held online between November 2021 and February 2022.
- Establishment of the three thematic research clusters and assignment of roles and responsibilities as well as setting scientific goals for individual research areas.
- Development of the ECoE Data Cubec was initiated.
- Signing of 16 MoUs between the ECoE and external stakeholders.
- Development of the networking and knowledge hub of the ECoE was initiated.
- Concept development of two living labs was initiated. Actions were also undertaken for the establishment of a Business Incubator Centre at the ECoE.
- Development and implementation of a communication strategy and action plan as well as of communication material. Furthermore, two Annual International Workshops of the ECoE were organised as well as a series of invited talks, educational activities and participations in international thematic events relevant to Earth Observation and Remote Sensing.
- Participation in international conferences, scientific journal publications, and development and implementation of a Data Management Plan for the EXCELSIOR project.
A number of impacts were observed during the second reporting period of the project.

The greatest impact was observed in terms of Societal Impact, measured mostly through the participation and/or organisation of events by the ECoE. Through these events, the ECoE developed at least 66 partnerships with public authorities, and 77 partnerships with stakeholders from the private sector, in the form of research project proposals or through the provision of 6 services for the needs of Public Administration developed by the ECoE.

Moreover, a high Scientific Level impact was observed, since 37 journal and 15 conference papers were published. The h-index of the ECoE is 9 in Google Scholar and 7 in Scopus.

There was low impact in the Human Capital Creation sector, and more specifically in the employment and/or hosting of researchers by the Centre of Excellence. This is reasonable as the Centre is still at early stage.

The lowest impact in relation to the KPIs was in terms of Participating organisations, with the ECoE having improved in comparison with what was achieved during the first reporting period of the project.
Flyer of the Second International Workshop of the ECoE
Home page of the EXCELSIOR website