The Earth Observation Summit at the Leuven TC Meeting

Contributed by: 
Marc Olijslagers, Associate researcher, GI Expert and Project Manager at Spatial Applications Division Leuven (SADL), KU Leuven


During the recent OGC TC Meeting in Leuven, Belgium, the Spatial Applications Division of the KU Leuven (SADL) organised the first Earth Observation Summit (EO-Summit) supported by EO4GEO and OGC.

EO4GEOTowards an innovative strategy for skills development and capacity building in the space geo-information sector supporting Copernicus user uptake - is an Erasmus+ Sector Skills Alliance that started in January 2018.

EO4GEO aims to help bridge the skills gap in the Earth Observation/Geographic Information (EO/GI) sector by creating a strong alliance of players from the community. Its main objective is to reinforce the existing EO/GI training and education ecosystem and foster the uptake and integration of space/geospatial data and services in end-user applications.

The program of the EO-Summit was closely related to the aims of the EO4GEO project. Day one saw discussion of how the adoption of continuously and quickly evolving technologies has created new skill gaps. Day two showed how a systematic analysis of work processes to design matching curricula can help bridge these gaps. Finally, on day three, the Summit discussed how even though EO4GEO is a project limited in time, the goal is to develop a sustainable long-term skills strategy.

Because active involvement of the EO/geospatial community is important for EO4GEO, the EO-Summit not only offered a number of interesting presentations, but also break-out sessions and panel discussions on the different topics to stimulate active participation among the audience.

Day one: Future trends in Earth Observation and Geospatial Information.

New technologies constantly reshape the Earth Observation and Geospatial Information world. Monitoring technical and non-technical trends is a must if we are to be prepared for the future – both for education and standardisation processes. Therefore, the first day of the EO-Summit focused on new technologies and how to monitor them.

The day started with the OGC Future Trends session zooming in on Edge and Fog Computing. The EO-Summit then started with a presentation in more detail of the EO4GEO project. The importance of user uptake and skills development for the Copernicus program was emphasized. It was explained how OGC monitors new technological developments. Another presentation focussed on new tools for trends monitoring.

In the next sessions, some important new technologies were demonstrated. Insight was given on data cubes, the use of platforms, and deep learning. Practical applications of these technologies were presented.

In a break-out session, participants discussed how EO4GEO and OGC could collaborate to keep track of new technological developments and on what level that should happen. Is a ‘trends watch’ a job for specialists or can everybody contribute? Does the concept of how and when to react to new trends differ for education compared to the standardisation process? And finally, the question was asked if it is enough to have a tech trends watch? Do we also need to watch societal trends and evolutions in other sectors? A panel discussion built upon the outcomes of these break-out groups.

A break out group session at the EO Summit in Leuven, Belgium

Day two: From work processes to curriculum design

An important step to close the gap between supply and demand of skills in the EO/GI sector is to provide training and education that better fits the market’s needs. The analysis of real-world work processes involving EO/GI is an important tool to accomplish this. Using business process modelling, workflows are systematically broken down into sub-processes and then further into tasks. Each task requires several skills. The many skills needed for the whole work process are translated into learning outcomes and this allows us to design curricula (academic or vocational) matching the needs for the whole work process. A trainee completing this curriculum would be immediately employable.

This second day of the EO-Summit started with some presentations explaining in detail the trajectory from work process to curriculum design, including a practical example.

A presentation at the EO Summit in Leuven, Belgium

In the next session, four interesting presentations showed examples of business processes where new Earth Observation techniques have an important impact on the actual work flow. The use of state-of-the-art technology in these cases has resulted in a shortage of people with the required skills. Therefore, these processes can benefit from the analysis process described previously.

A presentation at the EO Summit in Leuven, Belgium

These presentations were followed by break-out sessions where the participants discussed EO use case scenarios that could be tackled by the EO4GEO project. A use case was chosen to map the process steps and an exercise to translate that to the knowledge and skills needed to perform the use case was executed. Results of the break-out sessions were the subject of a panel discussion also focussing on work processes linked to societal challenges and policies.

Day three: Towards a space/geospatial Sector Skills Strategy

The aim for EO4GEO is to build a sustainable skills strategy for the sector. The first insights from the project were presented. It was also explained how this is part of the wider Skills Agenda for Europe. A long-term sustainable approach was introduced. After these presentations the strategy was discussed with representatives from Academia, Industry, and Public sector.

Throughout the summit, the interactions with OGC members during coffee breaks, lunches, and social events were highly appreciated by the EO-Summit participants that are not members of OGC. This was an important contribution to the success of this first EO-Summit.


The presentations of the EO-Summit are available on the EO4GEO project site.

As part of the project EO4GEO is building a Body of Knowledge on Earth Observation and Geospatial Information. Experts are invited to contribute to this Body of Knowledge.