Portugal Space brings together 150 Copernicus users in Évora

The 1st Copernicus National Conference, organised by the Portuguese Space Agency, took place on 22 and 23 March in Évora. The major city of the Alentejo region hosted an exchange of knowledge between several stakeholders in Earth Observation.

For two days, the Main Auditorium of the Colégio do Espírito Santo of the University of Évora was the meeting point for the Portuguese community of Copernicus users. The real applications and potential of the various components of the European Earth Observation programme set the pace at the 1st Copernicus National Conference, organised by the Portuguese Space Agency – Portugal Space, in collaboration with the University of Évora, on 22 and 23 March 2022.

The programme covered a wide variety of topics, ranging from projects linked to the management of natural land and marine resources to entrepreneurship and innovation initiatives. Around 150 users of Copernicus data came together in Évora for this knowledge exchange between companies, public administration and academia. The Minister of Science, Technology and Higher Education, Manuel Heitor, presided over the opening of the conference, considering that the 1st Copernicus National Conference “marks an important step in building the future” and is “a significant milestone for the Portuguese strategy for space, Portugal Space 2030.”

Describing what the participants could expect throughout the two days, the minister pointed out that “the sessions’ organisation shows the particularly critical challenges that we have to face today in territory management, in mapping carbon levels and other conditions for the territory to serve for carbon sequestration”. Manuel Heitor also pointed out that it is necessary to “articulate very different areas of knowledge, between public and private institutions, companies and governmental organisations.

The president of the Portuguese Space Agency, Ricardo Conde, stressed that Copernicus is the “European flagship of excellence and democracy” and that the conference is crucial to “gather answers for two or three years from now”. With stakeholders from all areas present at the University of Évora, Ricardo Conde challenged the academy “to put Portugal in a new position” regarding the use of satellite data, especially considering the national projects under development. As an example, he referred to the satellite constellation (Atlantic Constellation), so that space technologies can respond to the needs of preservation and sustainable use of resources, putting them at the service of the economy and knowledge.

The Rector of the University of Évora, Ana Costa Freitas, underlined the importance of the 1st Copernicus National Conference to “stimulate the user base,” adding that “Earth Observation data is valuable and diverse. We must be more attentive to take advantage of this data and prepare new generations for the speed at which the world turns.” In this sense, the Rector of the University of Évora drew attention to EARSLab, the academy’s Remote Sensing Laboratory recently created.


The importance of articulating knowledge

In Évora, there were representatives from the Directorate General of the Territory and the AIR Centre, which also supported Portugal Space in organising this event. There were also other national public entities such as the Portuguese Sea and Atmosphere Institute (IPMA), the Hydrographic Institute, the Institute for the Financing of Agriculture and Fisheries, and the National Laboratory for Energy and Geology (LNEG), among others. The National Laboratory for Civil Engineering (LNEC) explained how InSAR technology allows the monitoring of Metro do Porto’s infrastructures.

There were also presentations from companies in the Portuguese space ecosystem. This was the case with Agroinsider, which uses data from the Sentinel-1 and Sentinel-2 satellites to provide farmers with value-added products, or with GMV, which uses the data to provide information on marine pollution, emergency management and security. Edisoft and Development Seed presented their activities in marine oil spill detection; and SpinWorks gave examples of how the data is being used to support precision viticulture. The Portuguese satellite operator GEOSAT demonstrated the different applications of very high-resolution satellite data (VHR). EyeCon presented SOILRISK, a high-resolution predictive model application for landslides.

​​Eyecon also presented its proposal to detect toxic algae blooms automatically (HABTRAIL). This project won the latest edition of the Portugal Space Challenge, held within the scope of the Copernicus Masters and organised by AZO. LS Engenharia showed the community its solution for mapping coastal bathymetry, which won the Azores Regional prize in the same competition. Innovation was also discussed with the Pedro Nunes Institute, the body that manages the ESA BIC Portugal programme, and Spotlite, an infrastructure monitoring start-up, which has already attracted private investment in Portugal.

To strengthen the articulation between different spheres and actors, the conference also brought together research centres, with CoLab +Atlantic and several universities represented: Évora, Lisbon, Nova de Lisboa, Coimbra, Porto, Azores, Algarve and also the Polytechnic Institute of Cávado and Ave. In addition, Ciência Viva was present and spoke of the importance of preparing the younger generations and communicating the various applications of Earth Observation. The sessions were also attended by representatives of the programme at the European Commission and the six Copernicus services, and the European Space Agency (ESA).

In addition to the various oral presentations, 18 poster presentations visually exemplified the use of satellite data in areas such as land monitoring, climate change, atmospheric monitoring and marine monitoring.

The 1st Copernicus National Conference had 11 sessions, divided into themes such as Terrestrial Monitoring, Climate Change and Atmosphere Monitoring, Earth Observation for Agriculture, Marine Monitoring and Emergency Management and Security. There was also room for post-graduate student projects and Copernicus Innovation Start-ups presentations. “This diversity of themes and the amount of presentations that we managed to gather in Évora, shows that there is a growing community of Copernicus users in Portugal. Furthermore, it is gratifying to realise that this initiative, which is debuting in Évora, had the participation of several public and private entities, from companies to universities,” said Carolina Sá, Earth Observation project manager of the Portuguese Space Agency. “As Minister Manuel Heitor mentioned in his speech, it is necessary to have this articulation between various actors to take knowledge forward, reach more people, and show that satellites do indeed have very diverse applications and that they can contribute to the solution of many challenges that we face today.”

There were also two awards for students who participated in the conference: one prize for best poster, selected by the participants’ votes, and another for best student communication, decided by a jury. The best poster award went to Filipe Santos, with a paper focused on fire risk analysis with Earth Observation data, while the best student paper award went to Francesco Valerio, with an article exploring the use of satellite data in conservation biology. Both winners are from the University of Évora.

Portugal Space
24 of March, 2022