By Efthemios Flourentzou - 25th October 2012
Systems that are today essential for the wellbeing and security of European citizens are heavily dependent on space
Efthemios Flourentzou is confident the EU’s ‘Let’s embrace space’ conference can add momentum to Europe’s space and research programmes
Space is a driver for growth, innovation and sustainability. The ‘Let’s embrace space’ conference, which will take place in Larnaca, Cyprus, targets showing the evolution and use of space tools for a sustainable economic and environmental development in Europe and internationally. Its use can significantly contribute to the objectives of the European 2020 strategy for a smart, sustainable and inclusive economy. Systems that are today essential for the wellbeing and security of European citizens are heavily dependent on space. These systems stimulate competitiveness and contribute to economic growth and job creation in almost all economic areas.
It is a fact that European citizens use space technology in their daily lives, whether by using their mobile phone, navigation, making financial transactions, or simply by watching the weather forecast. Space applications made a remarkable difference in our lives, and it is widely accepted that they can do much more. Space research is therefore essential. A substantial and coherent EU level space research and innovation programme is of the utmost importance. Space research can take us forward in addressing major societal challenges, such as climate change, resource efficiency, transport, citizen’s security, and natural and manmade disasters.
The EU has realised the potential of space research and has been active in this field for decades. Under the seventh European Union framework programme for research and development 2007-2013 (FP7), space is one of the key themes for funding activity, with ‘global monitoring for environment and security’ and ‘strengthening space foundations’ being the two main headings.
Plans for space in Horizon 2020, the FP7 successor, propose that it covers R&D and innovation with the objectives of enabling European competitiveness in space, advances in space technologies, full exploitation of space data and European R&D in the context of international space partnerships. It constitutes a Cyprus EU council presidency priority to reach agreement at council level on the legislative proposals of the Horizon 2020 package.
The ‘Let’s embrace space’ conference will present the current status and results of the third call of FP7 space research. The conference which is organised by the European commission under the aegis of the Cyprus presidency will provide the forum for discussing future options for European research in the space sector. This scientific conference targets showing the evolution and use of space tools for a sustainable economic and environmental development in Europe and internationally. To this effect, space research for environment and climate, for sustainable growth and for the service of citizens, are some of the topics set to be examined. Moreover, participants will have discussions on the development of new space technology, on exploring the universe and solar system, as well as on the possibility of human habitats in space. Finally, a roundtable discussion on future directions in European space research will also take place. The two-day event is anticipated to gather space experts, researchers and industry stakeholders, personalities from European and international space science and research organisations, coordinators and members of FP7 funded research projects, as well as representatives of national space administrations and space agencies.
Before and during the conference, the European space expo will take place in Larnaca on 12-18 of November. The space expo will give visitors an insight into the wide range of satellite applications currently available, with a focus on those provided by EU satellite navigation and Earth observation programmes. Its interactive displays show how satellites and other space applications affect and can further transform our lives. Following its successful appearance in Brussels and Vienna, the space expo will travel to London in December and to 12 other destinations in 2013.
Europe should continue to play a leading role in space research and strengthen its independence in space systems. The sustainable development and the full operation of its own infrastructure (Galileo and GMES) and its protection (space situational awareness) must be a priority. I personally believe that the conference will give momentum to the ongoing process of space development.
Efthemios Flourentzou is Cyprus' communications and works minister