The new edition of the “Survey into the State and Health of Earth Observation Services Industry in Europe” has been published in September by EARSC. The survey is the most comprehensive market study available on the sector. According to the latest results, the EO industry continues to grow at a healthy pace of around 10% a year. In 2018, around 8400 highly qualified staff were employed in Earth Observation.
Earth observation is a cutting — edge industry, active in a wide range of vertical and geographic markets. The majority of the revenues are generated by B2G activities, qualifying public authorities as the main customer segment. 51% of the business is generated by the government as a customer of Earth Observation companies (both National and European). B2B activities make up for around 30% of the revenues. The sector, overall, appears to be driven by public demand. This numbers are quite stable if compared to figures reported in previous years.
New skills for new types of services
A very crucial evolution was detected in the type of services offered. Compared to two years ago, the share of fully automated and semi-automated services grew of around 20% in two years. Bespoke services amounted to 64% of the activities of the sector in 2016. In 2018 the share was reduced to 26%. This trend of growing automation is rooted in the uptake of cloud and online services.
This shift towards online will require a new set of skills to be introduced to the sector. As a follow-up to the industry survey, around 20 companies have been interviewed; the interviews included a question on skills. Although a limited number of conversations has not a clear statistical value and the topic requires further research, the companies reported a growing need of skills such as cloud processing, machine learning and artificial intelligence.
The EO sector finds itself at the crossroads of two revolutions: the NewSpace wave — with innovative space-based applications available on the market at increasingly low cost — and the digital revolution, that made big data the most important “raw material” to deliver products and services.
The future of the EO sector will strongly depend on the capacity to attract and develop talents and skills that will enable companies thrive in emerging economic scenarios.