Enabling the public sector to save money, innovate and make more effective policy decisions by using space technology and data

Cross-government Earth Observation Discovery Day

An Earth Observation (EO) Working Group has been established in response to a challenge from the Cabinet Secretary, Sir Jeremy Heywood, to embed satellite data and services (one of the eight great emerging technologies) in policy and decision making across Government.

The group is chaired by Stephen Lovegrove, the Permanent Secretary of the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) supported by Professor Ian Boyd, Defra Chief Scientific Advisor (co-chair) and is attended by a number of senior policy leads from across Whitehall.

The group held a Discovery Day, hosted by the UK Space Agency-led Space for Smarter Government Programme (SSGP), and held at the Satellite Applications Catapult in Harwell. About 40 senior policy representatives from across government and 20 industry representatives attended the day.

The focus of the day was about ‘discovery’ to:

  • Explore the opportunities and benefits which could be realised through Earth Observation
  • Understand the availability of and future evolution of this technology
  • Understand the commercial offering and the associated service offerings/ business models available to access it,
  • Discuss and air the common requirements across Government

This enabled Departments to understand what is available now and the future art of the possible, so they can make informed decisions, better use of their limited resources and plan ahead for what is just around the corner. This was also an opportunity for industry attendees to better understand the policy needs, constraints and challenges facing Government, and discuss how common Government requirements could be met e.g. explore new business models for mutual benefit for all sectors – policy, industry and research.

The outcome will be a collective view (across government and industry) of the cross-cutting policy requirements, the state of readiness of the EO technologies to support those requirements, and a plan about how to tackle the steps that need to be taken to match the requirements with the technologies.

From a government perspective, there is a real desire to engage and attract industry to work in partnership in ways that will allow them to fully test and develop their market offer. The hope is that clusters of government department requirements will emerge which enable the Government to engage and procure more effectively and efficiently.

After a high level overview and a chance for industry and government representatives to ask questions, the day focused on three topic areas in greater detail:

These topic areas have implications for a number of departments and it is hoped that any actions that are derived from these areas are collaborative and cross-cutting in nature.

Attendees express their priorities in relation to which of these topic areas they would want to attend. These will be taken into consideration (as much as possible) when the organisers allocate attendees to groups.

Outcomes from the day

The EO Working Group reconvened on 14 December 2015 to discuss how best to take forward the topics identified at the Discovery Day. More information about the recommendations and proposed Action Plan will be available shortly via this page. The detailed summary of the day and the presentations are available below.