On the 24thof June 2020, the Council of the European Space Agency (ESA) approved Latvia as an Associate Member State of ESA, and on the 9th of July this decision was ratified by the Saeima of Latvia. For more than 5 years Latvia has been trying to justify it’s competences and receive the membership. Institute for Environmental Solutions (IES) has been one of the key players of the industry that has supported Latvia in this journey.
Associate Member State status will provide new opportunities for Latvian scientists and entrepreneurs. They will be able to cooperate with high-tech companies and scientific institutions in order to further develop space technologies, innovations, services and their commercialization on the global market. Moreover, cooperation with ESA will foster the development of high value-added economy in Latvia. Information and data supplied by space technologies are crucial for our daily life's, covering areas such as telecommunications, traffic, civil security, environmental protection, climate change, energy, etc. Finally, Latvia will be able to fully participate in development and supervision of these sectors, not only at the national but also globalscale. Expected economic return is another important factor. Other 22 ESA member states have already demonstrated the long-term economic impact provided by ESA’s membership – each euro invested in the space projects fosters the return up to ten times.
Latvia has worked hard to strengthen the competences in order to be accepted by ESA. Important part of this journey was involvement of internationally recognized research institutions such as IES. Latvia's cooperation with ESA began in 2009 when Latvia signed a cooperation agreement with ESA, then in 2015, signing of Cooperating State Agreement followed. As a cooperating state Latvia has received the task for 5-year period to improve the necessary competences and skills in order to demonstrate the capacity to become a Member of ESA Member in 2020. We are proud to announce that we have finally succeeded!
During the 5-year period IES has been the most successful player of the space industry in Latvia by specializing and rising competences in Earth observation. ESA has supported 10 projects submitted by IES. Thus, demonstrating the importance, innovation and competitiveness of the projects and organization itself at international level. IES has implemented such projects as “Simulation of Sentinel-2 Images for Land Cover/ Land Use Monitoring Using Hyperspectral Airborne Remote Sensing” (SentiSimuLat), “Assessment of Grassland Quality and Quantity Parameters and Management Activities Using Sentinel-1 and Sentinel-2 data” (SentiGrass) etc. IES is also currently implementing various projects in cooperation with ESA. For example, “Sentinel-2 service for regular water quality monitoring in lakes” (SentiLake), “Expanding Earth Observation Awareness Among Key Decision-Makers” (ExpandEO) and other projects.
IES has also played an active role in promoting and strengthening the competences of the space industry in Latvia. For example, on October 2019, IES organized a high-level training course for key decision-makers “Earth Observation and Remote Sensing Solutions for Strengthening Business Competitiveness and Making Strategic Decisions” and in 2016 together with internationally recognized experts held “ESA Training Course on Radar and Optical Remote Sensing”.
Since 2017, the Institute for Environmental Solutions (IES) is a member and Latvia’s representative of Copernicus Relay and Academy networks. Copernicus is the World’s largest and most ambitious Earth observation programme. IES explains possibilities offered by the Copernicus program for national, business and public needs, organise training and information activities. For example, Copernicus Climathon Riga 2017; Copernicus Hackathon & Climathon Riga 2018, seminars about satellite data application for research and management of natural resources etc. Moreover, IES researchers and experts are regularly invited to share their knowledge in different space industry conferences, meetings and projects around the world.
The gaining an Associate Membership of ESA will support many organizations in Latvia, such as IES. IES will continue ongoing projects in cooperation with ESA. The accrued knowledge and skills in the Earth observation field will allow IES to develop new cooperation’s with other research organisations within ESA Member States and beyond.
Find more about IES projects and activities in space industry here.
Find more about IES work in Copernicus network here.