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Balkan GEO Network – Towards Inclusion of Balkan Countries into Global Earth Observation Initiatives

Final Report Summary - BALKANGEONET (Balkan GEO Network – Towards Inclusion of Balkan Countries into Global Earth Observation Initiatives)

Executive Summary:
The main objective of the Project was to identify and coordinate EO activities in the wider Balkan region and to pave the way for future full inclusion of all Balkan countries into GEO.

The first step was to create a well-structured methodology for assessing the EO community in each Balkan country in terms of existing stakeholder institutions and their various EO-related projects. Based on this methodology partners from each Balkan country approached stakeholders and generated databases with information about 276 institutions and 235 projects throughout the first year of the project. During these phases the project was closely cooperating with the FP7 project OBSERVE – a clustered project addressing the same call. Based on collected data a comprehensive gap analysis was performed which was described in details in the deliverable D4.1. Also a prospective contribution of the Balkans to the EO was analysed and summarized in the deliverable D4.2. Following the gap analysis project partners envisaged possible 2- and 5-year development scenarios described in details in the deliverable D5.1. Finally, roadmaps and recommendations were created to set priorities for the future capacity building policy in the region with the respect to GEO priorities and implementation plan. These activities were extensively supported with networking of stakeholders and knowledge dissemination activities in forms of web sites, trainings, promotional packages, media promotion, organization of workshops and national promotional events, as well as participation at the high-level special interest meetings across Europe and the World.

The project generated wide-ranging foreground for a coordination and support action both of significance for the scientific community – including methodologies, training materials and booklets – and for policy makers – such as scenarios, roadmaps, etc. During the three years of the project partners actively interacted with over 3000 persons from the wider Balkan region, including live meetings with representatives of 85 governmental bodies and agencies from Balkan countries and 8 from the EU.

It is always difficult to evaluate the concrete impact of such activities. But the events in course of the project’s lifetime unquestionably generated an increased interest in the topic, a better understanding of the underlying phenomena and technology, and thus – the most importantly – a willingness to commit and participate in EU and global Earth observation initiatives.

A huge amount of custom made materials and great number of carefully planned and executed events and meetings with relevant stakeholders created firm foundations and a positive atmosphere for further development. The B.GN partners hope that the generated momentum is strong enough to persist until tangible improvements and positive advancements are achieved and the Balkan EO starts significantly contributing to the GEOSS.

Project Context and Objectives:
A number of specific characteristics existed in the Balkans which had to be taken into account when orchestrating a global approach. Besides different cultural backgrounds and attitudes towards the environment and natural resources, which influence functioning of governments and their institutions, economies of Balkan countries were developed to a different degree. For example, GDP per capita in 2008 in Greece and Slovenia were very close to the EU average (approx. 30.000 USD), while those of Albania and Bosnia were six times smaller (around 5.000 USD). This discrepancy in income reflected directly to investments into “more sophisticated” fields such as EO, in contrast to “more down-to-Earth” areas such as social welfare programs, housing, road construction etc. Implementation of an all-inclusive coordination in the Balkans was further complicated by specific relations between some countries in the region, which needed to be carefully nurtured to a mature state.

On the other hand, terrain in Balkan countries is very diverse, ranging from marine environments (Adriatic, Black, Ionian and Aegean sea) to rich agricultural land (Pannonian plain), from dense wild forests (Slovenia) to deserts (Deliblato sands), from high mountains (Alps, Dinarids, Rhodopes mountains) to big rivers (Sava and Danube), from Europe’s highest precipitation point (Crkvice in Montenegro) to Europe’s driest area (Ovce Polje in FYRoM). Global observation of such diverse ecosystems called for a deep understanding and deployment of a wide range of different EO methods and technologies.

This Project seeked to identify and integrate players who used different observation technologies within various societal benefit areas, to raise awareness of their complementarities, and pave the way for future networks and collaborations among different disciplines. A very important focus of the Project was the identification of EO-data end-users in the region, of their needs and requirements. To facilitate this, relevant Ministries, Environmental Agencies and companies devoted to LPIS development from the Balkan countries were included in the Project at the dissemination level, and, to some extent, through the Advisory Board of the Project.

One of the first goals of this Project was to analyse gaps and complementarities in EO activities across the wider Balkan region and to identify and coordinate the strongest regional players in different aspects of the EO. Another rationale behind a careful identification of the existing expertise and complementarities was to seek ways of avoiding duplication of efforts in the region.

In accordance with the Outreach Plan in the GEOSS Implementation Plan, BalkanGEONet included important international organizations through the Project Advisory Board. The Project was particularly concerned with GEO 2012-2015 Work Plan and its Sub-Tasks related to capacity building. The approach was based on best practices identified from studying successful and less-successful approaches in the Balkan and other EU countries.

Dissemination and networking of stakeholders were crucial parts of the BalkanGEONet project as they have fostered future regional capacity building. A special work-package was dedicated to the creation of stakeholders’ interaction platform, a permanent web-based tool for registration and networking of EO players in the wider Balkan region, called Permanent Networking Facility (PNF). At the national and local scale, stakeholders were enrolled in the project through national promotional events, such as trainings, workshops and PNF promotional events, which were designed to increase general awareness about project results and about the benefits of EO.

Programmes that represent mail European contribution to GEO like GMES/Copernicus, INSPIRE and SEIS were fully address particularly through the development of roadmaps and recommendations. Although not all countries represented in this project were members of GEO, all of them were member countries or cooperating countries of the EEA (European Environment Agency). BalkanGEONet was, thus, an important contribution in the Balkan countries endeavours to implement the INSPIRE directive and to participate in and comply with SEIS.

Since this project was a coordination action, no direct research will be performed in BalkanGEONet. However, there was a major contribution to the facilitation of research as envisaged in the GEOSS implementation plan. Analysis of the EO status in the region supported collaboration in future projects and encourage networking and partnership between research and end-user communities. Through specially designed series of trainings and workshops, the Project contributed to education and quality of EO-related research in the region. It established a network of experts involved in EO and existing capacity building initiatives, and encouraged and enabled individuals and institutions to get involved either at EO-data provider or end-user levels. The Project aimed at increasing Balkan EO capacity at all levels, including human, technical and institutional, while in parallel targeting both the national and international trainings, networking and coordination.

To further contribute to high-quality education and lifelong learning, the Project also tried to identify EO-related initiatives in national higher-education systems, such as BSc, MSc and doctoral programmes in environmental engineering, bioengineering, bio-resource engineering and similar.

The main objective of the Project was thus to identify and coordinate EO activities in the wider Balkan region and to pave the way for future full inclusion of all Balkan countries into GEO. To that end, several specific objectives of the project were defined:

1. To perform a broad and comprehensive analysis of gaps and complementarities of pertinent actors, institutions and initiatives within the region, with the emphasis on isolating end-user needs in the context which is specific to the Balkan region;
2. To design a comprehensive strategy for full inclusion of Balkan countries into GEO, including a plan for EO capacity building in the region;
3. To disseminate the acquired knowledge and experience to the entire EO-community and to raise government and public awareness;
4. To harmonize all EO players in the region and to create an open permanent stakeholders interaction platform;
5. To identify mechanisms for leveraging, development and coordination of EO capacity building initiatives in the region;
6. To help Balkan countries to more effectively comply with the INSPIRE directive (e.g. Annex II, Landcover) and to be integrated into SEIS.

In a wider sense, these objectives were designed to create an encouraging environment for sustainable development of EO in the Balkans, spanning across all nine societal benefit areas of GEOSS.

1. Identification of existing EO data providers and users and determination of their status, potentials and needs were prerequisites for all later activities of the BalkanGEONet. This project objective was reached through the following tasks:
• Communication with already identified EO players and utilization of their networks;
• Intensive Internet-search for existing EO players, including governmental, academia and industry web-sites;
• Intensive search of relevant data bases (e.g. IEEE, CORDIS, EUREKA!, etc.);
• Preparing a survey template and a questionnaire to be used for identification of entities, assessing their status, potential and needs;
• Direct (live) contact with identified entities; Interviews; To avoid ambiguities, questionnaires will be filled by the BalkanGEONet staff during interview;
• Data aggregation; Summarizing survey results and presenting them in a form suitable for analysis, as well as in the form needed for the Permanent Networking Facility (PNF) developed in this Project.

2. Integration of results of previous European, regional and national efforts in the field of EO aimed at optimal exploitation of previous worldwide and regional initiatives. It helped the BalkanGEONet to learn from best practices and avoid duplication of efforts. This objective was reached through:
• Direct involvement of Project partners who are participating or have participated in current/previous EO initiatives;
• Communication with other EO players identified as participants in relevant current/previous EO initiatives and utilization of their networks;
• Intensive Internet search (national research networks, CORDIS, EUREKA!, COST, GEO, GEOSS, ESA and other websites) to identify all relevant recent and ongoing projects;
• Interviewing coordinators and/or key players of identified initiatives, to acquire additional information and foster networking and dissemination (via means of electronic communication or live if needed);
• Creation of a data base with all relevant information about the previous/current EO efforts (participants, objectives, results (if finished), duration, funding, etc.);
• Analysis of acquired information, to discover possibilities for and benefits from integration of efforts and results of different initiatives;
• Inviting selected participants of key initiatives to take part in e-based trainings, national promotional events or workshops organized within the BalkanGEONet project;
• Summarizing survey results and presenting them in a form suitable for analysis.

3. Analysis of gaps and complementarities, including analysis of needs, potential and prospective contribution to GEO of pertinent actors, was needed to create a structured picture of the situation in the region. This objective was reached through:
• Structured and thorough analysis of the survey data, both regarding identified EO players and EO activities;
• Identification of complementarities between different players and/or initiatives, including duplication of efforts and a need for a separate (i.e. national) versus joint (i.e. regional, European) approach;
• Identification of gaps in terms of capacity (missing expertise, equipment, shortage of staff) on national levels, including analysis of whether the gaps should be overcome through separate (national) or joint (regional, European) initiatives; (e.g. should all means and methods of EO be developed in all Balkan countries or a centralized approach better in some cases?); Correlating and matching EO potentials and needs throughout the wider Balkan region;
• Identification of governmental awareness of importance of and potential benefits from EO; analysis of ongoing activities at the governmental levels, especially those targeted towards inclusion of the country into GEO; Experience of Balkan countries who are already GEO members will be analyzed with great care.

4. Development of a comprehensive strategy for full inclusion of all Balkan countries into GEO was one of the final objectives of this Project. It included assessment of prospective contribution of the region to environmental monitoring in the context of all GEO societal benefit areas, as well as a coherent plan for EO capacity building in the region. To that end, the following tasks were performed, based on the intermediate results of the BalkanGEONet project, such as gap analysis, Permanent Networking Facility, etc.:
• Presentation of current efforts in GEOSS workshops and other relevant events, and intensive discussion of the open issues;
• Strong interaction with the BalkanGEONet Advisory Board;
• Detailed analysis of and correlation with developed SEE-ERA.NET PLUS scenarios for sustainable cooperation beyond its lifespan in January 2013;
• Development of scenarios regarding the participation of Balkan countries in GMES, GEOSS and similar, with a clear identification of their prospective contributions;
• Development of the roadmap and recommendations for the inclusion of all Balkan countries in the European and global landscape of Earth observation.

5. Dissemination of the acquired knowledge and experience to the entire EO community and raising the government and public awareness was of a significant benefit to all sides. This objective was reached through:
• Project web-site and electronic newsletter;
• Release of promotional packages;
• Media promotion;
• Participation at special interest meetings such as GEOSS workshops;
• Organization of national promotional events;
• Organization of international workshops with special networking events (round tables);
• Presentation of the developed scenarios and strategies to GEO.

6. Harmonization of EO players in the region was necessary to maximize the region’s contribution to GEOSS. It mitigated duplication of efforts, improved cooperation and fostered the development of complementary expertise and generation of harmonized EO data. This objective was reached through:
• Intensive communication within the Project Consortium backed up with bi- or multi-lateral visits between Project partners, including contacts with previously established networks of individual partners;
• Networking and dissemination beyond the Project Consortium using national promotional events, workshops, Project web-site, promotional packages and the media;
• Creation of a permanent web-based tool for stakeholders’ interaction, namely the Permanent Networking Facility (PNF), which serves as a “Balkan EO Directory”, with several useful tools such as partner search, expertise search etc. PNF includes data acquired during identification of EO players and activities in the region, depending from the consent of the involved entities. It will be possible to update PNF with new data even after the end of the Project.

7. Identification of mechanisms for leveraging, development and coordination of EO capacity building initiatives in the region was performed through national and international networks established within this Project. This objective was reached through:
• Assessing institutional, national and regional capacity for EO, through identification of relevant EO players and activities;
• Identification and review of best practices in capacity building, with the support from EU Project partners and the Advisory Board members;
• Identification of international and national capacity building options, with special attention to funding opportunities;
• Raising awareness of the decision makers about the importance of EO, linking them to leading national EO actors, encouraging governments to develop national EO-related strategies and to invest into national EO capacity building.

8. Contribution to Balkan countries’ compliance with the INSPIRE directive and their integration into SEIS. The fulfilment of this objective was directly related to Balkan’s contribution to GEOSS, and was sought after through the following activities:
• Presentations of INSPIRE principles and requirements to identified EO-data providers through e-based trainings, relying on the expertise of Project partners directly involved in ISPIRE and SEIS;
• Discussions and transfer of knowledge and expertise through bi- and multi-lateral visits with the Consortium, national promotional events and Project workshops.
Project Results:
Assessing status, potential and needs of EO communities in the wider Balkan region

Work package number 2 Start date or starting event: Nov 2010
Work package title Assessing status, potential and needs of EO communities in the wider Balkan region
Activity Type COORD
Objectives
o Identification of existing EO data providers and users.
o Determination of status, potentials and needs of identified EO players.
o Presenting survey in form suitable for analysis, as inputs for WP4.
o Providing inputs for Permanent Networking Facility (PNF) developed in WP6.
Main results and foregrounds of the WP2

Task 2.3: Identification of EO activities in the wider Balkan region

Updates of the database of identified stakeholders was performed due to information gaps primarily in Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and in Romania. Additional information was provided by B.GN partners in those countries and the WP4 inputs were ready for the gap analysis

WP3: Integrating outcomes of previous EU and regional initiatives

Work package number 3 Start date or starting event: Nov 2010
Work package title Integrating outcomes of previous EU and regional initiatives
Activity Type COORD
Objectives
o To identify all relevant recent and on-going projects, initiatives, key players and stakeholders in the field of EO on EU, regional and national levels.
o To analyse their outcomes and prepare a comprehensive survey to be fed into WP4.
o To directly involve Project partners who are participating or have participated in current/previous EO initiatives.
o To establish a link with identified projects and initiatives in order to exchange views and coordinate activities.
o To prepare inputs for WP4 and WP6.

Main results and foregrounds of the WP3
All foreseen actions for this WP have been completed prior to this report. Although it was initially foreseen for this WP to last longer and enable updates if needed, it was concluded that the initiative database has been populated with enough information to perform the gap analysis.

WP4: Analysis of gaps, complementarities and prospective contribution to GEO

Work package number 4 Start date or starting event: August 2011
Work package title Analysis of gaps, complementarities and prospective contribution to GEO
Activity Type COORD
Objectives
o To identify complementarities between different players and/or initiatives.
o To identify gaps in terms of capacity on national levels.
o To correlate and match EO potentials and needs throughout the wider Balkan region.
o To discover optimal approaches to EO (e.g. national versus joint regional/ European).
o To identify levels of governmental awareness of EO.

Main results and foregrounds of the WP4

Task 4.1: Development of preliminary standards for potential and gap analysis
Although there are some ongoing efforts within the Group on Earth Observations (GEO), currently there is no final strategy or specific method for gap analysis available. Therefore, an indicator based gap analysis has been chosen and developed in Task 4.1 of B.GN. This analysis has been performed with special focus on organizations and institutions in the wider Balkan area. Three indicator subsets are considered: (1) general indicators valid for all organizations/institutions, (2) indicators valid only for the group of data providers/producers and (3) indicators valid only for the group of data end-users. The analysis of potentials and gaps was mainly based on the two databases built up in WPs 2 and 3 of the B.GN project. Additional input data were derived from the existing knowledge and past experience of the B.GN project partners as well as from literature and internet reviews. Several corrections have been made in standards for the gap analysis to take into account recent changes in the GEO Workplan. Since the original indicators were drawn from the previous Workplan version it was necessary to introduce several minor modifications which allowed the gap analysis to be completely in line with the GEO Workplan 2012-2015.

Task 4.2: Potential and gap analysis of Balkan EO capacity in remote sensing
Main aim of Task 4.2 was the assessment of the degree of international integration of all relevant Remote Sensing (RS) institutions. Their potential had to be extracted and summarized, and gaps in terms of thematic topics, methodologies or facilities had to be evaluated. Results of this Task have been integrated with those of the Task 4.3 to result in the overall comprehensive analysis of gaps and complementarities.

Task 4.3: Potential and gap analysis of Balkan EO capacity in in-situ monitoring
Main aim of Task 4.3 was the assessment of the position and importance of observation networks and underlying institutes for Balkan region as well as their degree of international integration. Their potential had to be summarized, and shortcomings and gaps had to be identified and evaluated. This analysis shows that, in an overall view, entries of Remote Sensing (RS) data producers outweigh in-situ data producers significantly (100 compared to 51). As double entries occur, the number of RS data producers is the same as the number of In-situ data producers. Within the RS data, Satellite Imagery (37) and Aerial Imagery (39) dominate followed by telemetry data and laser data (12 each).

Task 4.4: Analysis of EO-data needs and end-user awareness

To complement comments of interviewed stakeholders additional sources of information were used in forms of short national reports by each country partner and reports and comments by the Advisory Board Members. The separation into institutions dealing with Remote Sensing data and into institutions dealing with in-situ data proved to be difficult because of the following main reasons:
1. the questionnaires feeding into the main data sources (Comprehensive Database on Identified Balkan EO Players, Database of identified relevant EO Initiatives and Projects) were not structured to allow this separation consequently
2. many of the organizations dealt with both Remote Sensing and in-situ data
However, the collected data provided more than enough information for a statistically significant evidence based analysis of gaps in Balkan Earth observation.
BalkanGEONet project was clustered within the same FP7 call with another project dedicated to the same topic – Project No. 265282 “Strengthening and development of Earth Observation activities for the environment in the Balkan area – OBSERVE”. Many activities within the OBSERVE project have been focused to collect information and investigate the current situation on EO in the Balkan region. As in the B.GN databases the collected database was not consistent regarding completeness and accuracy of data depending on the respective person in charge. Comprehensive summaries of data as collected in single OBSERVE partner countries were published online in a Special-Thematic Issue of the South-Eastern European Journal of Earth Observation and Geomatics, entitled “Status of Earth Observation activities for the environment in the Balkan area”.
In order to get an additional indicator of the international integration of Balkan organizations a literature research was conducted as foreseen in the DoW. The literature research was based on Open Source Web resources (Google Scholar, CiteSeerX, ScienceDirect).
The complete results of separate gap analysis and their integration are provided in detail in the deliverable D4.1 of this project.

Task 4.5: Integrating results of performed analyses
General indicators that were taken into account were:
• Number of organizations involved with EO (number of providers and users)
• Types of data
• Types of organizations
• Problems regarding exchange and use of EO data
• Assessment of challenges and obstacles
• Assessment of the importance of technical challenges
• Assessment of the importance of a global (worldwide) EO system
• Assessment of scientific activity (publications in selected international journals)
• Web-based information dissemination
• Assessment of activities

Further, the data have been analysed from the point of view of data providers/producers and from the view point of end users. Deliverable D4.1 includes over 200 pages of explanatory diagrams, tables and charts which were drawn within this Task.
By combining and analysing all the data sources at hand, the following main conclusions were drawn:
• EO communities in the Balkans are at a disparate level of development. The differences seem to be larger between different fields of EO than between different countries. Therefore two major problems have been identified: first, there is a fragmentation of communities with insufficient interaction and second, there is a lack of awareness of the larger EO relations.
• Duplicated data collection resulting in high cost of data can be observed in many areas of EO application. This is also linked to the first point of insufficient interaction and awareness of (user) communities.
• While GEO exhibits best results with a "top-down" approach in small economies, all Balkan countries exhibit "bottom-up" approaches in addressing Earth Observation issues driven by sporadic and insufficiently co-ordinated user needs.
• With the only exception of disaster management, initiatives originating in the scientific community target the same (research) community instead of the general public.
• A lot of data providers and producers disagree with the free data access, as it is currently being a source of income for institutions or it is not possible due to state monopoles on collection of certain data sets.
• One main problem especially among the EO data users is the lack of utilization of existing standards for data collection, storage and sharing. This may be connected to the lack of co-operations among user organizations, as typically co-operations require the use of standards.
• Data producers claim to mostly use INSPIRE standards. A significant difference between GEO and non-GEO countries was observed as the percentage of data compatible with INSPIRE is much higher in GEO member countries.
• There is a general improvement potential on data quality: more than half of the data end-users are not or only partially satisfied with the provided services and products. High costs and delays in data delivery seem to be frequent reasons of this negative assessment.
• Access to EO information is considered very important for SMEs and their economical strengthening.
• It is necessary to raise awareness in the EO community – both for users and producers - about GEO and GEOSS in order to improve the acceptance and thus the benefits of such a global EO system.

Task 4.6: Assessing prospective Balkan contribution to GEO
This Task dealt with the overview of current and potential contribution of the Balkan region to the GEO. The Task also seeked to identify “weak spots” of the region, where additional stimulus was needed to foster Earth observation activities and the general contribution of the Balkans to GEO and the GEOSS.

This Task also links to the deliverable D5.1 Scenarios for Participation of Different Balkan Countries in Global EO Initiatives and provides additional inputs for it.

While the EO data situation in the Balkan region had improved somewhat in recent years in terms of GEO, it was still far behind that of other regions, particularly Central and Western Europe. Hence the potential contribution of the Balkan region to GEO was significant – assuming certain hurdles could be overcome.

Some of these hurdles include:
• A general lack of funding to provide the data
• Cultural aspects to address in terms of data exchange
• Wrong business model currently in use
• Lack of incentives: e.g. no geo-label and data citation guidelines
• Some Balkan countries are not yet members of GEO
• Existing EO activities in many Balkan countries are not well known and poorly connected to the wider community
• Stakeholders in Balkan countries are not aware of options and possibilities which lie in the coordinated use of EO

Unfortunately, weak spots remain within the Balkan region in terms of contributing to GEO. However it is clear that the situation is improving, as monitored by the B.GN Project. It may be that by continuing the efforts begun in the B.GN Project and other related projects, keeping in mind the hurdles listed above, that participation in GEO can finally be achieved across the Balkan region in the coming years.

WP5: Scenario development, roadmaps and recommendations

Work package number 5 Start date or starting event: June 2012
Work package title Scenario development, roadmap and recommendations
Activity Type COORD
Objectives
o To develop scenarios regarding the participation of Balkan countries in GMES, GEOSS and similar initiatives.
o To develop roadmap and recommendations for the inclusion of all Balkan countries in the European and global landscape of EO.
Main results and foregrounds of the WP5

Task 5.1: Scenario development for participation of different Balkan countries in global EO initiatives
Efforts of this Task resulted in the deliverable D5.1 “Scenarios for participation of different Balkan countries in global EO initiatives”, which draw lots of attention during the regional and European promotion on events such as Split Workshop in Croatia, OBSERVE Final Symposium in Thessaloniki, Greece, Ninth Plenary Session of the Group on Earth Observations (GEO-IX) in Foz de Iguazu, Brasil, 2nd National Austrian GEO Workshop in Vienna, Austria, Seventh GEO European Projects' Workshop (GEPW-7) in Barcelona, Spain and Regional Plenary Conference and Technical Workshop of the ARPEGEO project in Yerevan, Armenia. It was published as a separate document on the GEO portal.

The Task aimed to derive scenarios of participation of various Balkan countries in the global EO activities with nine Project partners involved: IRIDA (Greece), UNS (Serbia), JSI (Slovenia), UoS (Croatia), JR (Austria), EAA (Austria), IIASA (international, located in Austria), UGent (Belgium) and ROSA (Romania).

The methodology of the scenario development and its final results included the outcomes of the analysis performed for every given Balkan country within the WP4, according to the Deliverable 4.1 “Report on integrated potentials and gap analysis in the wider Balkan region”. Along with the analysis derived from WP4, a categorization of the Balkan countries was made depending on the level of their current involvement in European and global EO initiatives. The participation of Balkan countries in European organizations and initiatives related to Earth observation was then examined and assessed additionally through a SWOT and indicator analysis for each Balkan country. In addition analysis was carried out for the countries that participate in GEO, for non-GEO countries and for the whole Balkan region.

The scenarios were developed regarding the participation of Balkan countries in ESA, EUMETSAT and specific programmes like ESA Climate Change Initiative (ESA-CCI) or the Earth Observation Envelope Programme (EOEP by ESA) and related programmes during the time span of the Project. In this context, case studies were presented for countries participating in the BalkanGEONet consortium.

Furthermore, in order to specifically describe how a Balkan country and/or organization could approach and participate in different global or European initiatives such as GEOSS, GMES, etc., best practices were analysed. In addition concrete procedures and criteria are developed as well as scenarios that provide information on potential future contributions of Balkan countries to these initiatives.

The major weakness demonstrated in different aspects in this study was the lack of a defined national policy towards EO activities for each Balkan country but also for a coordinated policy in Balkan level. An important issue was also the national budget that each country allocates to EO programs as well as national participation and budget allocation for various European-level Earth observation organizations and initiatives.

Taking into account the current economic crisis and the fact that especially non-GEO countries are the smallest economies in the Balkans and are newly-formed states with socio-political instabilities in some cases, the differences between GEO and non-GEO and EU and non-EU countries are somehow expected. Therefore, it is of great significance that the stronger countries in the EO field (Croatia, Greece, Serbia and Slovenia) can improve their presence in the field by becoming key players in the Balkans, and that weaker countries should follow the best practices and benefit through networking and regional co operations.
Task 5.2: Roadmap and recommendations for full inclusion of Balkan countries into GEO
One of the main objectives of the BalkanGEONet project was to develop a comprehensive strategy for full inclusion of all Balkan countries to the Group of Earth Observations. This Task included assessments of current involvement of each Balkan country and the wider Balkan region to environmental monitoring and civil protection in the context of all GEO societal benefit areas (SBAs). It examined the nine GEO societal benefit areas by briefly describing their main sectors of focus while providing key statistical outcomes on the current status of Balkan countries as derived from the analysis performed in WP4, Deliverable 4.1 “Report on integrated potentials and gap analysis in the wider Balkan region”. In order to assess the development in the EO sector relative to the funds that had as yet been allocated and the future investment opportunities towards EO capacity building, it examined the financial opportunities originating from Europe for the period 2007-2013. In addition, institutional and infrastructural challenges were assessed and analysed for the Balkan region based on previous WPs (WP4, WP5), assisting the study towards developing a coherent plan for EO capacity building in the region. In this context, best practices and case studies across SBAs were recorded for each Balkan country individually. In addition, success stories of projects’ results transformed into fruitful cooperation were demonstrated through best practices from the non-Balkan partners in order to share experience and provide a key trigger to EO Balkan stakeholders.

Finally, guidelines to the Balkan EO community in the process of building capacities in its region were created. Long standing records’ experiences of capacity building made by Earth Observation user organizations in a range of relevant projects and activities were assessed for this purpose. Contributions of the Advisory Board members had to be included in the creation of the guidelines, expressing their views on EO capacity building in their respective countries. All practices were presented, providing a comprehensive list which could be used as a check-list, aiming to foster successful EO capacities at national and Balkan wide level.

Furthermore, in order to study the benefits and the potential contribution of the Balkan countries in GEO Task ID “Developing Institutional and Individual Capacity” individual roadmap and recommendations for each country were developed and case studies of networking and transfer of expertise inside the Balkan region and beyond were described.

In this task nine partners were involved: IRIDA (Greece), UNS (Serbia), JSI (Slovenia), UoS (Croatia), JR (Austria), IIASA (international located in Austria), UGent (Belgium) and ROSA (Romania).

The developed recommendations and guidelines were officially promoted during the Novi Sad GEO workshop in Serbia and during the Greek PNF promotional day in Athens, Greece. Both events took place in September 2013.

WP6: Stakeholders interaction

Work package number 6 Start date or starting event: August 2011
Work package title Stakeholders interaction
Activity Type COORD
Objectives
o To harmonize EO players in the region.
o To maximize the region’s contribution to GEOSS.
o To mitigate duplication of efforts.
o To improve cooperation and foster the development of complementary expertise and generation of harmonized EO data
o To ensure permanent networking between EO players in the wider Balkan region, during and beyond the duration of the project.
Main results and foregrounds of the WP6

Task 6.1: Creation of web-based Permanent Networking Facility – PNF, (UoS, GET)
The main outcome of the Task 6.1 was the creation of the Permanent Networking Facility (PNF) – a search repository for Earth observation activities in the wider Balkan region. PNF aims to strengthen the collaboration between data providers and users in the region. It covers EO-data providers at all levels (national, county, city), research entities devoted to development of EO-data acquisition tools and their implementation and EO-data users.

The repository is available at the following web address:
http://balkangeonet.unist.hr/
Being "the Balkan Earth observation directory”, with tools for easy and user-friendly partner and expertise search, PNF includes data acquired during the identification of EO players and activities in the Balkan region in the frame of the FP7 project BalkanGEONet. It is open to all users and the database is extended through continuous voluntary inputs by EO stakeholders.

PNF is based on the GEOSS data sharing principle which states that “all data, metadata and products for use in education and research will be encouraged to be made available free of charge or at no more than the cost of reproduction.” All users of PNF are encouraged to register components not limited to those resulting from work undertaken within the scope of the BalkanGEONet project in the GEOSS Components registry. Each new input passes through a strict validation process, so database users can be sure that the provided information are accurate and reliable.

The task was completed by combining two databases, namely selected fields from BalkanGEONet project WP2 and WP3 databases and by developing a comprehensive search tool over these data. Having 229 EO activities, 890 stakeholders and 655 identified GEOSS components the PNF is an instrument for making Balkan region more visible in GEOSS community. However, it is expected that non-GEO member countries being included in PNF will be motivated to join GEO. Since PNF is open to all users it is expected that EO stakeholders will extend that database.

The PNF website was created using Joomla 2.5.4. In the background of the website a search engine and the maintenance tools have been developed in the PHP programming language. The PNF is a common property of two project partners who have participated in its development – University of Novi Sad, Serbia and University of Split, Croatia. The ownership is restricted only to the exploitation of the visual identity, the PHP source code and the database structure. There is however, no ownership of the data contained and it is available for the entire GEO community free of charge and without registration.

It is expected that PNF, due to its open source structure, will extend its lifetime after the conclusion of the BalkanGEONet project, and be devoted to all providers, users, and research community to engage in joint efforts of using and developing new tools and their implementation in EO data coverage.
Task 6.2: Facilitating networking of Balkan partners
The main goal of this Task was to foster the cooperation and coordination of research activities conducted at regional, national or international level by partners inside and outside the project.

The objectives of the networking activities were exchange of information and foundation of closer scientific, technological and practical cooperation between the project partners and other academic, governmental and industrial partners in the field of Earth Observation. Strong network of stakeholders in Earth Observation in the Balkan area is a necessary and important step in the harmonization of activities and efforts to maximize the region’s contribution to GEOSS.

Although networking meetings faced a slow start-up the number of reported meetings increased in the second half of the project This indicates that the project partners integrated well inside the consortium. Especially those partners that had weak international network found organisations in the region, country, Europe and also all over the world with common interests and/or goals. By the end of the project several partners have reported successful project submissions in the EO related activities. A total of 49 meetings were held in the second reporting period totalling in the overall number of 86 meetings for the entire project duration.


It has been noticed that particularly partners arriving from non-GEO members states were active in networking area. We can conclude that partners that needed the networking activities and better integration into EO field gained with BGN project the necessary tool and great opportunity to do so.

BGN partners expertise cover different areas of the GEO. Even with partners that were already well integrated into the EO community this was a great opportunity to start interdisciplinary cooperation or at least to get a better insight into the different areas of EO.

All this indices show that a solid base for future cooperation and joint research work in the field of Earth observation has been developed. We have created a solid scientific and technical base for future joint research work at the European and regional level. It is expected that majority of the partners will continue their work in the EO filed and that BGN helped them to open the doors to the international community and helped them position well inside their region.
Task 6.3 Facilitating networking of governmental institutions
Project partners dedicated significant portion of their effort to raising awareness of the EO community not only about project results but also about general EO topics of high importance for the region. In order to achieve maximal impact a direct engagement with numerous institutions from the region took place in form of survey participation, trainings, workshop, networking events and even participation in the project’s Advisory Board. A wide cross-section of institutions from industry, science and government has been created representing all Balkan countries and beyond.

Policy makers and public bodies (apart from public companies) and many ministries from the region were engaged both in the regional survey and in a dialogue which followed each milestone in the project. Many representatives of these institutions actively participated in the creation of several key outputs of the project including roadmaps and recommendations for the Inclusion of Balkan Countries into GEO.

An entire project workshop in Split in September 2012, entitled “Towards inclusion of Balkan countries into global EO initiatives” was dedicated to the audience from relevant ministries, agencies and other public bodies from Balkan countries.

In total, 85 such institutions from around the Balkans were engaged and 8 additional from the EU. The following table lists all approached stakeholders from the governmental sector and explains the level of their engagement in project activities.

Engaged stakeholders from regional ministries agencies, public bodies and other governmental institutions
# Name of the institution Country Level of engagement
1. Prime minister of the Albanian government Albania - networking meetings
2. Ministry of Interior Albania - networking meetings
3. Ministry of Education and Science Albania - networking meetings
4. Agency for Research, Technology and Innovation Albania - survey
- networking meetings
5. General Directorate for Civil Emergency Albania - networking meetings
6. Institute of Energy, Water and Environment Albania - networking meetings
7. Prefecture of Berat Albania - networking meetings
8. Prefecture of Shkodra Albania - networking meetings
9. Federal Ministry of Environment and Tourism Bosnia and Herzegovina - advisory board
- survey
- networking meetings
10. Federal Ministry of Physical Planning Bosnia and Herzegovina - networking meetings
- workshops
- national promo events
11. Federal Ministry of Civil Affairs Bosnia and Herzegovina - survey
- workshops
12. Federal Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Relations Bosnia and Herzegovina - survey
- networking meetings
13. Federal Administration for Geodetic and Property Affairs Bosnia and Herzegovina - survey
- networking meetings
14. Institute for Canton Planning Bosnia and Herzegovina - survey
- networking
- advisory board
- workshops
- project dissemination
15. Ministry of agriculture, forestry and water management of Tuzla Canton Bosnia and Herzegovina - networking meetings
16. Municipality Gradačac Bosnia and Herzegovina - networking meetings
17. Municipality Živinice Bosnia and Herzegovina - networking meetings
18. Mine Action Center BH Bosnia and Herzegovina - survey
19. Centre for Ecology and Energy, Tuzla Bosnia and Herzegovina - networking meetings
20. Ministry of Interior Bulgaria - survey
21. Ministry of Education, Youth and Science Bulgaria - networking meetings
22. Executive Agency "Electronic Communication Networks and Information Systems" Bulgaria - survey
- networking meetings
23. Executive Environmental Agency Bulgaria - survey
24. Geodesy, Cartography and Cadastre Agency Bulgaria - survey
25. Agency of Sustainable Development and Eurointegration Bulgaria - networking meetings
- workshops
26. National Meteorological Administration Bulgaria - workshops
27. Military Geographic Service Bulgaria - survey
28. Ministry of environmental protection Croatia - trainings
29. Ministry of culture Croatia - survey
30. Croatian Environmental Protection Agency Croatia - networking meetings
- workshops
31. Meteorological and Hydrological Service Croatia - survey
- networking meetings
- workshops
32. Hydrographic Institute of the Republic of Croatia Croatia - survey
33. State Geodetic Administration Croatia - survey
34. State Institute for Nature Protection Croatia - survey
35. Institute for physical planning, Viroviticko-podravska county Croatia - survey
36. Municipal office for strategic planning and city development of Zagreb Croatia - survey
37. Ministry of Communication, Infrastructure and Networks Greece - survey
38. Ministry of Energy, Environment, Climate Change, Directorate of Environment Greece - survey
39. Ministry of Rural Development and Food, Topography Greece - survey
40. Hellenic National Meteorological Service Greece - survey
41. Center for Renewable Energy Sources and Saving Greece - survey
42. Ministry of Environment and Physical Planning FYR of Macedonia - survey
- networking meetings
- trainings
- workshops
43. Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Economy FYR of Macedonia - networking meetings
- trainings
44. Agency for Real Estate Cadastre FYR of Macedonia - survey
- networking meetings
- trainings
45. Crisis Management Center FYR of Macedonia - survey
- networking meetings
- trainings
46. Ministry of Health Montenegro - survey
47. Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development Montenegro - survey
48. Ministry of Sustainable Development and Tourism Montenegro - survey
- networking meetings
49. Ministry of Defence Montenegro - trainings
- workshops
50. Environmental protection agency of Montenegro Montenegro - survey
- networking meetings
- trainings
51. Hydrological and Meteorological Service of Montenegro Montenegro - survey
- trainings
52. Real Estate Directorate Montenegro - survey
- networking meetings
- trainings
53. Armed Forces of Montenegro Montenegro - survey
- trainings
54. Forestry Directorate of Montenegro Montenegro - survey
55. Maritime Safety Department of Montenegro Montenegro - survey
- trainings
56. The statistical office of Montenegro Montenegro - survey
- networking meetings
- trainings
57. Montenegro Seismological Observatory Montenegro - survey
58. Phytosanitary Directorate Montenegro - survey
59. Sector for Emergency Management Montenegro - survey
60. Veterinary Administration of Montenegro Montenegro - survey
61. National Meteorological Administration Romania - advisory board
- survey
- networking meetings
62. Centre for National Security and Defence Romania - networking meetings
63. Ministry of environmental protection, mining and spatial planning Serbia - trainings
64. Ministry of Education, Sceinces and Technological Development Serbia - workshops
65. Ministry of Agriculture, Trade, Forestry and Water Management Serbia - advisory board
- survey
- trainings
66. Ministry of Defence Serbia - trainings
67. Provincial Secretariat for Agriculture, Water Management and Forestry Serbia - project partner
68. Provincial Secretariat for Urban Planning, Construction and Environmental Protection Serbia - workshops
- national promo events
69. Environmental Protection Agency Serbia - advisory board
- survey
- trainings
- workshops
70. Republic Hydrometeorological Service of Serbia Serbia - survey
- trainings
- workshops
71. Statistical Office of the Republic of Serbia Serbia - survey
- trainings
72. Republic Geodetic Authority Serbia - workshops
- trainings
73. Republic Agency for Spatial Planning Serbia - trainings
74. Headquarter of Serbian Armed Forces Serbia - trainings
75. Institute of Lowland Forestry and Environment Serbia - survey
76. Chamber of Commerce Serbia - trainings
77. Regional Chamber of Commerce - Novi Sad Serbia - workshops
78. Municipality of Belgrade Serbia - trainings
79. Municipality of Bačka Palanka Serbia - workshops
80. Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Slovenia - survey
81. Ministry of the Environment and Spatial Planning Slovenia - survey
82. Slovenian Roads Agency Slovenia - survey
83. Slovenian Environmental Agency Slovenia - advisory board
- survey
- networking meetings
84. Slovenian geodetic survey Slovenia - survey
85. Institute for the protection of cultural heritage, Centre for preventive archaeology Slovenia - survey
86. Federal Ministry for Science and Research, Austria Austria - networking meetings
- national promo events
87. Environmental Agency Austria Austria - project partner
88. Central Institute for Meteorology and Geodesy Austria - networking meetings
- national promo events
89. Ministry of Foreign Affairs Hungary - workshops
90. Department of Civil Protection Italy - networking meetings
91. General Directorate for Civil Emergency Italy - networking meetings
92. Federal Ministry of Transport, Building and Urban Development Germany - workshops
93. Slovak Environmental Agency Slovakia - workshops

It is always difficult to measure and evaluate the concrete impact of such activities. But the events in course of the project’s lifetime unquestionably generated an increased interest in the topic, a better understanding of the underlying phenomena and technology, and thus – the most importantly – a willingness to commit and participate in EU and global Earth observation initiatives.

WP7: Dissemination

Work package number 7 Start date or starting event: December 2010
Work package title Dissemination
Activity Type COORD

Objectives

o Dissemination of information about the project, its objectives, the approaches and results through a combination of electronic and traditional methods
Main results and foregrounds of the WP7

WP7 consists of seven very diverse tasks devoted to various aspects of dissemination activities. Some tasks such as workshops and release of promotional materials have been closely correlated, while others were developing more or less separately. The central dissemination activity providing a frame for all others was the project website.

Task 7.1: Website Development
After Geonardo’s default from the project at the start of the second project year, the UNS became in charge of the Project's website maintenance. An immediate change was noticed and the website was frequently updated to indicate latest activities and developments of the project. This was particularly true during the final event of the project – Novi Sad GEO Workshop – where the website with the redirected homepage provided a meeting point for all workshop participants and project partners.

Beacuse of the importance and impact of the website contents it has been decided that the website will reamin operational for at least 5 years after the official end of the project.

Task 7.2. Promotional packages
Various promotional materials have been used to promote the project. A total of four promotional packages with these materials have been released containing miscellaneous promotional items. Project partners presented the project on special interest meetings creating a new poster with updated information on latest achievements for each occasion.

The materials continued to evolve as more results and outcomes of the project became available. The release of promotional packages in the second project year was collocated with project workshops in September 2012 and September 2013.

Task 7.3: Media promotions
The project attracted media attention and supported dissemination to the widest possible audience through publication of articles and news reports.

The third Workshop in Novi Sad received significant coverage from several local media. Two newspapers (Dnevnik and Gradjanski) one radio station (Vojvodina) and two TV broadcasting stations (RTV and Kanal 9) reported on September 19th, 2013 from the opening day and interviewed honouree guests of the Workshop.

Another opportunity to increase the visibility of the project was the publication of article “Maps without Frontiers: Linking Balkans to GEO” in “Projects” magazine by Peter Gyuris from GET, published in May 2012. The University of Novi Sad received 200 copies of the magazine in August 2012 and forwarded them to project partners in the Balkans in order to distribute it through their stakeholder networks.

Task 7.4: European-level Special Interest Meetings and Workshops
16 travels to special interest meetings were completed in the second project year mobilizing all project partners. B.GN partners took part in the following events:
• High Level Event on the Scientific Support to the Danube Strategy, Bratislava, Slovakia - May 16th, 2013
o Vladimir Crnojevic, UNS, Serbia
o Vesna Crnojevic-Bengin, UNS, Serbia
o Miroslav Veskovic, UNS, Serbia

• GMES COPERNICUS Conference, Bucharest, Romania - May 21-22nd, 2013
o Ion Nedelcu, ROSA, Romania
o Ioana Vlad, ROSA, Romania
o Dubravko Ćulibrk, UNS, Serbia

• Regional Plenary Conference and Technical Workshop of the ARPEGEO project, Yerevan, Armenia - May 21-22nd, 2013
o Boris Antic, UNS, Serbia

• GOFC-GOLD Global Land Cover symposium, Wageningen, Netherlands - April 15-19th, 2013
o Robert De Wulf, UGent, Belgium
o Freike Van Coillie, UGent, Belgium

• Seventh GEO European Projects' Workshop (GEPW-7), Barcelona, Spain - April 15-16th, 2013
o Vladimir Crnojević, UNS, Serbia
o Vesna Crnojević-Bengin, UNS, Serbia
o Boris Antić, UNS, Serbia
o Roko Andričević, UoS, Croatia
o Snježana Knezić, UoS, Croatia
o Petra Šimundić, UoS, Croatia
o Dmitry Schepaschenko, IIASA, Austria

• The Third special session of the Committee on Science and Technology (CST S-3), Bonn, Germany - April 9-12th, 2013
o Hamid Čustović, UNSA, Bosnia and Herzegovina

• European Geosciences Union General Assembly 2013 (EGU2013), Vienna, Austria - April 7-12th, 2013
o Dmitry Schepaschenko, IIASA, Austria
o Dimo Solakov, NIGGG, Bulgaria
o Stella Simeonova, NIGGG, Bulgaria

• High-level Meeting on National Drought Policy (HMNDP), Geneva, Switzerland - March 11-15th, 2013
o Hamid Čustović, UNSA, Bosnia and Herzegovina

• Regional Conference on Capacity Building and Education, Durrës, Albania - March 5th, 2013
o Boris Antić, UNS, Serbia
o Christian Ansorge, EAA, Austria
o Ibrahim Milushi, UPT, Albania
o Hamza Reci, UPT, Albania

• 2nd National Austrian GEO Workshop, Vienna, Austria - December 10th, 2012
o Boris Antić, UNS, Serbia
o Herbert Haubold, EAA, Austria
o Petra Šimundić, UoS, Croatia

• INSPIRE Day, Budva, Montenegro - December 3rd, 2012
o Igor Đurović, UoM, Montenegro
o Vesna Popović Bugarin, UoM, Montenegro

• PSCE Forum Conference, Rome, Italy - November 28-29th, 2012
o Roko Andričević, UoS, Croatia
o Snježana Knezić, UoS, Croatia
o Petra Šimundić, UoS, Croatia

• Ninth Plenary Session of the Group on Earth Observations (GEO-IX), Foz de Iguazu, Brasil - November 22-23rd, 2012
o Vladimir Crnojević, UNS, Serbia
o Vesna Crnojević-Bengin, UNS, Serbia

• IIASA 40th Anniversary Conference, Vienna and Laxenburg, Austria - October 24-26th, 2012
o Dmitry Schepaschenko, IIASA, Austria
o Steffen Fritz, IIASA, Austria

• OBSERVE Final Symposium, Thessaloniki, Greece - October 15-16th, 2012
o Vladimir Crnojević, UNS, Serbia
o Vesna Crnojević-Bengin, UNS, Serbia
o Vassilis Tsagaris, IRIDA, Greece
o Roko Andričević, UoS, Croatia
o Petra Šimundić, UoS, Croatia
o Dimcho Solakov, NIGGG, Bulgaria
o Stela Simeonova, NIGGG, Bulgaria

• GDI Forum 2012 - XVII ESRI Hungary User Conference, October 11-12th, 2012
o Borislav Brunet, PSAFW, Serbia

A detailed report from each event is available at the project’s website including respective photos, presentations and posters.

Task 7.5: Project workshops
Two workshops were held in the second half of the project.

The second project’s workshop entitled “Towards inclusion of Balkan countries into global EO initiatives” was jointly organized by three FP7 projects: BalkanGEONet and OBSERVE. The workshop aimed to discuss the results of the gap analyses, and serve as a starting point for drafting recommendations and formulation of the roadmaps and strategies for the full inclusion of Balkan countries into GEO and their contribution to GEOSS. It also aimed at an exchange of views on how these activities relate to EO activities on national levels with a focus on capacity building and more extensive use of EO in the Balkans. Primary audience of the workshop were representatives of local governments and governmental agencies from the region.

The Workshop was held in Split, Croatia on September 24-25th, 2012 at the Premises of University of Split.

The Workshop was collocated with several management meetings: Joint meeting of OBSERVE and B.GN B.GN General Assembly Meeting #5, B.GN Advisory Board Meeting #3 and OBSERVE Management Meeting.

The workshop was started with a keynote speech by Mark Noort from the HCP International Ltd. about GEO, GEOSS and societal benefit areas, followed by the presentations of the two clustered project BalkanGEONet and OBSERVE presented by project coordinators. Remaining presentations and round tables have been divided into seven sessions during two days. Total of 21 presentations have been held. Complete presentations in PDF format are available at the project’s website. In this deliverable presentation highlights and conclusions relevant to the Balkan EO community are provided.

The workshop was concluded with a round table co-chaired by the coordinators of all two FP7 projects. One of the key conclusions was that the BalkanGEONet and OBSERVE projects used different methodology and thus came to complementary conclusions regarding the gap analysis over the jointly collected data. However, both projects show significant overlap in conclusions gravitating towards similar issues.

The third workshop of the project entitled “Novi Sad GEO Workshop: The future of Earth observation activities in the wider Balkan area” gathered over 140 experts from 6 on-going and 3 past FP7 projects, the renowned representatives the European Commission – JRC, the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) and the EU Strategy for the Danube Region (EUSDR), as well as the representatives of the governments from the region. The workshop was a unique opportunity to get acquainted with the latest achievements in coordination of the Earth observation (EO) activities and address questions of interest for its future in the wider Balkan area, Mediterranean region and the Black Sea Catchment. Coordinators of the FP7 projects: BalkanGEONet, IASON, EOPower, DANCERS, enviroGRIDS, ENORASIS and InnoSense invited all interested parties to join them at the workshop in Novi Sad and to contribute to the discussions, the exchange of information and the creation of a common strategy towards the upcoming H2020 programme. The JRC held a special session devoted to the prospective partnership between the EUSDR and all EO-related projects in the region. The participants addressed potential contributions of current and future projects to the EUSDR, the creation of recommendations for the EO components articulation and the creation of short and mid-term synergies.

Day 1 of the workshop was mainly devoted to raising awareness of high-level participants regarding the latest EO projects’ achievements of interest for the region. The morning session provided an insight into the global EO initiatives and their relation to various aspects of human society, the business opportunities based on the EO, as well as the recently developed roadmaps and recommendations for the full inclusion of all Balkan countries into the GEO and their contribution to the Group on Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS). During the afternoon session the two panels discussed: 1) opportunities for future EO in the Balkans, including EU Strategy for the Danube Region, Post GEO and GEO 2, Copernicus programme, and the INSPIRE directive and 2) strategies for EO capacity building in the Balkans.

Day 2 covered three parallel practical trainings related to the use and exploitation of the existing EO knowledge and tools. These were: 1) The enviroGRIDs Tools; 2) Marketing Toolkits for Water and Crop Modelling, continuing with short trainings on the Open Geospatial Consortium, the PNF and the DANCERS database; and 3) Bringing GEOSS into Practice. The afternoon panel session of the second day, presided by the coordinators of the six projects, was mainly devoted to the discussion of future opportunities towards Horizon 2020, including possible joint approaches to specific calls.

Day 3 was dedicated to exploring synergies between the EU Strategy for the Danube region (EUSDR) and the existing projects in the region. This event was organized by the JRC of the European Commission. During the morning plenary session the representatives of the JRC and the FP7 projects presented their prospective contribution to the Danube initiative and the Danube Reference Data and Service Infrastructure (DRDSI), as well as the potential obstacles, opportunities, roadmaps and actions. In the first afternoon session the panellists shared the experience and discussed the creation of recommendations for the existing and future EO components articulation. The final panel session addressed partnership strategies between various projects and the JRC. The participants explored options for future cooperation, funding opportunities and other issues of interest for the creation of short and mid-term synergies.

Bothe workshops fully succeeded in achieving setup goals and were the principal interface of the project towards the EO community in the region.

Task 7.6: National promotional events
All Balkan partners had – in their respective budget – funds for organizing at least two national promotional events and additional resources to enable various mass media support to overall project promotion. The aim of national promotional events organized by the project partners from the wider Balkan region was to raise awareness about the project activities, to promote GEO and GEOSS and to raise awareness about the nine societal benefits, as well as to open up a dialogue with the local players. The events were held in national languages, since the targeted audience (SMEs, governmental institutions, etc.) are not necessarily well versed in English. Although main national promotional events were held starting from month 18 (after end-users have been identified and special events prepared) many opportunities have been used to start smaller promotional events around the region. The promotion was strategically held prior to project workshops devoted to similar topic, so parties who raised interest would still have time to apply for the participation at Project workshops.

Promotion in media at national level was foreseen since the access to media in most Balkan countries was straightforward and induced rather low-costs. Mass media promotions were performed in form of guest appearances on TV and radio shows, as well as through dedicated articles in national newspapers since the targeted audience of the dissemination activities was very wide and the Project needed to ensure the access to the widest community. Carefully planned and well-timed media promotions ensured an omnipresence of the topic in the region during the entire life time of the Project. National coordinators in each Balkan country were in charge of this activity.

A total of 40 events were held across the wider Balkan region and 1 event was held in Austria at the initiative of the Austrian GEO. Project partners ceased any opportunity to promote project results and to disseminate the idea of GEO and GOESS to various levels of population and collocated most of the events with other national gatherings and occasions to maximize the number of participants and the dissemination impact. The total number of people involved in promotional events without workshops was 935 and the average number of institutions addressed per country was 23.

The project attracted media attention and supported dissemination to the widest possible audience through 6 articles and news reports.

With a considerably larger number of events than initially foreseen our conclusions is that the promotional activities at national level were successfully conducted. They made a significant contribution to raising awareness and promotion of ideas of the GEO, data sharing principles of the GEOSS and provided a clear visibility of project vision and outcomes.
Task 7.7: E-based dissemination trainings
This Task dealt with the trainings created within the BalkanGEONet project with the purpose of raising awareness among decision makers, industry, scientific community and general population about GEO related issues. In the project proposal these trainings had been conceived only as e-based, but during the execution of the related tasks the project partners recognized the importance of live interaction with all target groups. The language barriers and apparent poor knowledge of English among the targeted audience, particularly the representatives of governmental institutions, eventually led to the decision to translate at least one training to all Balkan languages.

The original training topics were partially altered as the project management became aware of the actual needs and knowledge gaps among identified EO players in the Balkan. During the management meeting in Sarajevo in April 2012 and later via Skype in August 2012 a new training plan took shape in form of four trainings:

1. Fundamentals of GEO and GEOSS (live & e-based)
Training devoted to bridging the observed gap in knowledge about GEO and GEOSS. This training is available in 9 languages (English, Serbian, Croatian, Bosnian, Montenegrin, Greek, Albanian, Macedonian and Bulgarian) and it is the first B.GN training which was presented in form of live sessions in 8 countries around the Balkan in the period June-July 2012.

The training was complemented with a number of additional materials about GEOWiki, GMES and INSPIRE in form of presentations, interactive online materials and videos.

2. INPISRE Directive (live & e-based)
Training devoted to explaining the concept of INSPIRE and its current progress in Europe and the Balkans. The live session of this training was held collocated with the Second Workshop in Split, Croatia in September 2012.

3. European Funding Opportunities Related to EO (e-based)
This e-based training targeted governmental agencies and scientific community offering an overview of most significant resources for GEO related activities in Europe. The training was launched in October 2012.

4. Sustainable Management of Natural Resources Supported by EO (e-based)
The final B.GN training aimed mostly governmental agencies and decision making bodies with a comprehensive overview of possibilities to manage one’s country resources using EO tools. The training provided many useful case studies reflecting positive examples of successful and sustainable resource management around the Globe. The training was launched in November 2012.
During the nine live sessions the audience counted more than 250 people from all Balkan countries and EU, while the e based trainings had over 4000 hits with estimated minimum of additional 1500 people being exposed to training materials.

All training materials are original work of the BalkanGEONet project partners and were produced specifically for the BalkanGEONet project. They will be permanently available to the entire EO community free of charge via the project’s website.
Corrective measures
Since the partner in charge of training activities departed from the project at the start of the second reporting period a significant shifting of training activities was necessary to allow the rest of the consortium to invest additional time and resources into completing this taks.

Potential Impact:
Wider societal implications
All project outputs were directly or indirectly aiming at the inclusion of Balkan institutions into global EO activities. However, three of them stand out with respect to the impact level to the community. These are:
• Report on prospective Balkan contribution to GEO
• Roadmaps and recommendations for the inclusion of Balkan countries into GEO
• Permanent Networking Facility

Throughout this Project the gender equality was promoted due to the small number of woman researchers present in areas such as agricultural, electrical and environmental engineering. At all times equal opportunities were given both to women and men as enshrined in the Treaty on European Union (articles 2 and 3). Although no special treatment or privileges for women researchers were applied, the differences in life patterns, needs and interests of both genders were acknowledged.

Inclusion of women form partner organizations was 15 out of 59 people or over 25%. Such underrepresentation of women is not a reflection of poorly addressed gender issues in the region, since the number of ladies in project partners from non-EU countries compared to the number of gentlemen is in a much better ratio: 36% (5 out of 14). In contrast to that the percentage in EU partner institutions is only 22% (10 out of 45).

Synergies with science and education were achieved through the promotion of the survey methodology guides, distribution of training materials and the B.GN booklet.

The BalkanGEONet partners generated numerous outputs which could be of use to the wider audience, industry and policy makers. These materials contain evidence-based analysis of present status and possible future of EO activities in the Balkans. Beside the production of such outputs, project partners were actively engaged in an interaction with various groups of stakeholders and maintained active contacts during the entire lifetime of the project. Further engagement with stakeholders included expansion of the network, delivery of trainings and promotional materials and participation in project workshops.

One third of all assessed stakeholders (90) were commercial companies. These stakeholders provided significant insight into the needs and potential of the industrial sector, but also provided an interface towards further cooperation and engagement. Two thirds of those identified commercial EO players (67) were privately owned companies while one third (23) were state-owned public companies.

After the needs and remarks of the industrial sector were surveyed, a response to those needs was created.

The third B.GN training “European Funding Opportunities Related to EO” was particularly aiming at the industry sector to demonstrate possibilities for business expansion.

The strongest interaction with the industry was ensured through participation at project workshops, where some of the most significant keynote speakers from the EU were representing this particular sector. The idea was to expose regional companies to advances business solutions, strategies and marketing tools related to EO, which constitutes a significant part of their business solutions.
Several national networking meetings with industry stakeholders were held in Slovenia, Serbia, Greece and Bulgaria.

Apart from that the project was promoted at popular seasonal fairs devoted to agriculture, IT solutions, health and others to increase the industry outreach.

Needless to say, several project partners were SMEs from the region and one of them was the leader of the work-package devoted to scenario and recommendation development.

Policy makers and public bodies (apart from public companies) and many ministries from the region were engaged both in the regional survey and in a dialogue which followed each milestone in the project. Many representatives of these institutions actively participated in the creation of several key outputs of the project including roadmaps and recommendations for the Inclusion of Balkan Countries into GEO.

An entire project workshop in Split in September 2012, entitled “Towards inclusion of Balkan countries into global EO initiatives” was dedicated to the audience from relevant ministries, agencies and other public bodies from Balkan countries.

In total, 85 such institutions from around the Balkans were engaged and 8 additional from the EU. The following table lists all approached stakeholders from the governmental sector and explains the level of their engagement in project activities.
Main dissemination activities
Apart from generating dissemination materials such as websites and promotional packages, the project partners organized and participated in many events with the purpose of promoting project results.

On national levels the events were divided into:
• networking meetings with EO stakeholders
• national promotional events, e.g. PNF promotional days held in each Balkan country
• dissemination trainings

These Explained in detail in the deliverables: networking and dissemination as well as in the previous section under the description of Tasks 7.6 and 7.7.

On the international level the following types of activities were performed:
• BalkanGEONet workshops
• special interest meetings and workshops around Europe and the World

The complete list of international meetings and events is given in the previous section in the description of the Task 7.4 and 7.5 of the WP7.

Dissemination activities have been performed predominantly in English as the official language of the project. However, all national events have been supported by generating materials in local languages. Examples include:
• training materials for training #1 in English, Albanian, Bosnian, Bulgarian, Croatian, Greek, Macedonian, Montenegrin and Serbian
• various promotional presentations in South Slavic languages
• presentations by regional experts for local audience in Bosnian and Albanian languages
• PNF promotional presentation translated into English, Albanian, Bosnian, Bulgarian, Croatian, Greek, Macedonian, Montenegrin and Serbian

Exploitation of results
Project partners dedicated significant portion of their effort to raising awareness of the EO community and interaction with the stakeholders. The issues addressed were not just about project results but also about general Earth observation topics of high importance for the region. Project dissemination activities included:
• synergies with science and education,
• engagement with civil society and policy makers,
• use of media and other means of communication,
• work on the regional inclusion into global EO activities.

In order to achieve maximal impact a direct engagement with numerous institutions from the region took place in form of survey participation, trainings, workshop, networking and promotional events and even participation in the project’s Advisory Board. A wide cross-section of institutions from industry, science and government has been created representing all Balkan countries and beyond.

The BalkanGEONet project generated an increased interest in the topic, a better understanding of the underlying phenomena, technology and coordination, and thus – the most importantly – a willingness to further commit and participate in EU and global Earth observation initiatives.

A huge amount of custom made materials and great number of carefully planned and executed events and meetings with relevant stakeholders created firm foundations and a positive atmosphere for further development. The B.GN partners hope that the generated momentum is strong enough to persist until tangible improvements and positive advancements are achieved and the Balkan EO starts significantly contributing to GEOSS.

The following exploitable foreground is available as results of the B.GN project:
• Training on Fundamentals of GEO and GEOSS
• Training on INSPIRE Directive
• Training on European Funding Opportunities Related to EO
• Training on Sustainable Management of Natural Resources Supported by EO
• Survey Methodology
• Gap Analysis
• Scenarios for Participation of Different Balkan Countries in Global EO Initiatives
• Prospective Balkan Contribution to GEO
• Roadmaps and Recommendations for the Inclusion of Balkan Countries into GEO
• Database of identified EO stakeholders in the region
• Database of identified EO initiatives in the region
• Permanent Networking Facility

This foreground is listed in more details in part B2 of this report.

List of Websites:

http://www.balkangeo.net

Project information

Grant agreement ID: 265176

Status

Closed project

  • Start date

    1 November 2010

  • End date

    31 October 2013

Funded under:

FP7-ENVIRONMENT

  • Overall budget:

    € 1 204 889,65

  • EU contribution

    € 990 189

Coordinated by:

UNIVERZITET U NOVOM SADU