ERATOSTHENES: EXcellence Research Centre for Earth SurveiLlance and
Space-Based MonItoring Of the EnviRonment
The EXCELSIOR Project – H2020, Teaming Phase 2:
Through the ‘EXCELSIOR’ Horizon 2020 Teaming project, a new, autonomous and self-sustained Centre of Excellence entitled as ‘ERATOSTHENES Centre of Excellence for Earth Surveillance and Space-Based Monitoring of the Environment’ (ECoE) will be created, as a result of upgrading the existing Remote Sensing Lab, operating within the Cyprus University of Technology (CUT) since 2007. The ECoE will implement a course of actions to progressively achieve full economic sustainability in terms of staff, assets and operations.
The Excelsior Teaming proposal was ranked 1st (attaining full marks 15/15, “Excellent”) on a pan-European scale, among 208 proposals submitted to Programme “Teaming for Excellence” Phase 1, part of European Union’s (EU) Horizon 2020 framework for Research and Innovation.
The Excelsior Teaming proposal was submitted to Programme “Teaming for Excellence” Phase 2, and secured funding from EU Horizon 2020 framework for Research and Innovation, as well as national and own resources. The programme “Teaming for Excellence” (Teaming) aims at connecting, via the creation of new or the major upgrade of existing Centers of Excellence, renowned research institutions from countries with a strong tradition in Research and Innovation with institutions from countries with developing research activity, so that the latter countries become more competitive in securing research funds.
The ‘EXCELSIOR’ proposal was awarded 15 Million euros for a period of 7 years from the European Commission (EC); 15 Million euros for a period of 15 years from the Republic of Cyprus (RoCY); 8 Million euros for a period of 7 years from the Cyprus University of Technology (CUT) (H2020, Teaming Phase 2).
The ‘EXCELSIOR’ Teaming project addresses a specific challenge defined by the work program – namely, the reduction of substantial disparities in the European Union by supporting research and innovation activities and systems in low performing countries. It also aims at establishing long-term and strategic partnerships between the Teaming partners, thus reducing internal research and innovation disparities within European Research and Innovation landscape.
The EXCELSIOR project aims also of creating an inspiring environment for conducting basic and applied research and innovation in the areas of the integrated use of remote sensing and space-based techniques for monitoring the environment. Environment has been recognized by the Smart Specialization Strategy of Cyprus as the first horizontal priority for future growth of the island.
Earth Observation technologies are a must when it comes to providing reliable up-to-date information needed to better observe, understand, protect, monitor, and predict environmental parameters.
‘ERATOSTHENES Centre of Excellence’ (ECoE):
The main concept behind the ECoE is to be a fully functional Digital Innovation Hub (DIH) and a Research Excellence Centre for EO in the EMMENA region, creating an ecosystem where the state-of-the-art sensing equipment, cutting-edge research, targeted education services and entrepreneurship come together.
The ECoE as a Digital Innovation Hub (DIH) adopts a two-axis model in line with the ECoE Vision, the horizontal axis consists of three Thematic Clusters for sustained excellence in research of the ECoE while the vertical axis consists of four Functional Areas.
Thematic Clusters (Horizontal axis):
- Environment and Climate (Atmosphere, Agriculture, Water, Land)
- Resilience Society (Disasters Risk Reduction, Cultural Heritage, Marine Safety & Security, Energy)
- Big Earth Observation Data Analytics (Information extraction, visual exploration, & visualization, crowd sourcing & data fusion, Geo-informatics)
Functional Areas (Vertical axis):
Such valuable inputs are crucial for more informed decision-making oriented towards the protection and management of environment and resources. Earth observation includes, among others, technological solutions including satellite observation, navigation and positioning systems. Satellite observation and remote sensing are the major focal points of the ERC and are used in an integrated manner with other techniques and geospatial tools. Earth observation data are the key factors in Earth environmental programs in order to assess the current information of the environment, inform models, understand relationships among Earth processes, support decision making e.g., toward sustainability and involving stakeholders more effectively in environment decision-making. Earth observation has, so far, made sustainability a reality and it will continue to do so as more research is continuously done and technology improves. Climate change, air and water quality, natural hazards, floods, earthquakes, fires, erosion, landslides and other phenomena are some of the factors that need to be taken into consideration in several environmental studies, both at a national as well as at a regional level. Indeed, Cyprus with its unique geographical position, can support satellite Earth Observation programmes in these areas, as well as their respective calibration and validation aspects.
The project is fully aligned with the Smart Specialization Strategy of Cyprus (S3Cy) in many areas, significantly enhancing the impact of the targeted regional and national investments, namely, Environment and ICT. The ERATOSTHENES CoE – with its expertise and infrastructure could be a hub for the earth observation activities in the eastern Mediterranean area due to the key geostrategic position of Cyprus.
Five partners have united to develop a business plan for upgrading the existing ERATOSTHENES Research Centre into a CoE, with the common vision to become a world-class innovation, research and education centre, actively contributing to the European Research Area (ERA). More specifically, the project is a team effort between the Cyprus University of Technology (CUT, acting as the Coordinator), the German Aerospace Centre (DLR), the National Observatory of Athens (NOA), the German Leibniz Institute for Tropospheric Research (TROPOS) and the Ministry of Transport, Communications and Works (MTCW) of the Republic of Cyprus, through the Department of Electronic Communications (DEC).