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08-04-2024 10:30

Opening address by the Deputy Minister of Research, Innovation and Digital Policy, Dr Nicodemos Damianou, at the 10th International Conference on Remote Sensing and Geoinformation of Environment

I am delighted to be with you today at a Conference that acts as a vehicle to examine the latest advancements, challenges and opportunities linked to key disciplines of the geoinformatics science, remote sensing and geoinformation. Components and disciplines with applications that are as diverse as they are impactful. A warm welcome to our guests from abroad, and congratulations to the organisers for once again providing researchers, experts and policymakers from the region and beyond with a unique platform to connect, discuss and leverage their collective knowledge in order to discover new ways of harnessing the transformative potential of Space technologies.

Before continuing with my speech, please allow me to convey the greetings of His Excellency the President of the Republic of Cyprus, Mr Nikos Christodoulides, who was not able to join us due to other obligations. Yet, he sends his best wishes for a productive two-day experience.

Dear friends,

Utilising spatial information and data is crucial for sustainable growth. Remote sensing and geoinformation technologies have in recent years revolutionised our ability to monitor, analyse and better manage the earth's resources and ecosystems. Satellite imagery, aerial surveys, geographic information systems (GIS) and advanced analytics enable the monitoring of the complex interactions that shape our environment - with unparalleled accuracy and scale - playing a pivotal role in advancing our understanding of ecosystem dynamics, biodiversity patterns and environmental processes as mere examples of the opportunities. From monitoring climate change and natural disasters to forestry, agricultural productivity and urban development, the integrated insights derived from spatial data and technologies are indispensable tools for informed decision-making and effective resource management.

Dear friends,

Space is no longer the prerogative of certain nations or organisations, and it is not confined to exploration and observation alone. The space sector is both a growth sector in itself and also a key enabler of advancement and efficiency in many other sectors of the economic activity as well as that of government policy. Recognising its significance, governments across the globe have stepped up their efforts to further understand how space research, technology and applications can improve the economy and the wellbeing of the society.

The latest OECD report: “The Space Economy in Figures” highlighted the significant increase in space activities worldwide, both in terms of operational satellites in orbit and commercial activities. There were some 6,700 operational satellites in orbit by the end of 2022, twice the number recorded in 2020, with over two-thirds of satellites from commercial operators.

With the exponential growth of the space economy, reaping the full benefits of what space has to offer requires substantial government action. Targeted policy interventions are needed to be able to regulate access to space and its resources while, at the same time, fostering innovation and entrepreneurship.

Determined to be part of the space development, Cyprus has taken a number of steps at policy, regulatory and business level, focusing largely on the areas of satellite communications,  earth observation and space navigation.

In 2023, we formulated our National Space Strategy and developed a national Space Law to authorise and supervise space activities. We are also working in close collaboration with the Ministry of Defence to explore opportunities arising from the new European Space Strategy for Security and Defence.

Major developments in satellite communications in our country include established gateway facilities and satellite ground stations for major European operators as well as four satellites in orbit, using Cypriot assets. This resonates significantly with our goal to further develop into a regional telecommunications hub, capitalising on our geographical location, which also enables linkages with satellites flying over Asia, Africa and Europe. In addition, we are planning to establish an Optical Gateway to take advantage of the developments in the EU Secured Connectivity programme, which will be based on GOVSATCOM (Governmental Satellite Communications) systems and EuroQCI (European Quantum Communications Infrastructure) networks.

Cyprus is also one of the four countries in the whole of Europe hosting a receiving earth station deployed as part of the Search and Rescue service of the EU Galileo System for detecting and locating emergency beacons. Our strategic role in the area and our prospect as a regional digital hub is further highlighted by the decision of the Agency for the European Space Programmes (EUSPA) to deploy two ground stations (called RIMS) in Cyprus for the operation of EU EGNOS System, used to improve global navigation for aviation, maritime and land-based users.

To further strengthen the capacity of the local ecosystem, we are committed to significantly enhancing relations with the European Space Agency (ESA), with whom we have established a new Agreement with an increased annual investment of €3 million. In addition, and to advance space-related business activity, we are working towards the establishment of a Space Business Incubation Centre and a local Space Cluster, while supporting Cypriot participation in ESA programmes and offering access to targeted funding tools via the Research and Innovation Foundation. Such opportunities focus on turning research results into products and bringing them to market. Focus areas include the use of earth observation and remote sensing technologies for various purposes, such as smart applications in agriculture, ship management, monitoring of climate change and environmental conditions, as well as conservation of cultural heritage.

The Eratosthenes Centre of Excellence is one of our key partners in this journey. The work carried out by the centre has been crucial in strengthening the Cyprus space ecosystem, generating new opportunities for innovative research and establishing important partnerships at all levels.

Dear friends,

As we delve deeper into the space realm, it is imperative that we use all tools at our disposal as well as foster collaboration across disciplines and borders. Space is at the core of our efforts to diversify our economy, build resilience and create real value for future generations. By bridging the gap between science, policy and practice, we can leverage our collective expertise to address pressing environmental issues and pave the way for a more resilient and sustainable future.

Thank you for your attention and may this conference inspire new ideas, forge meaningful partnerships and propel us toward a future where the sky is no longer the limit. Have a great day.