If you follow the subject of Earth Observation, you may have heard about the Horizon 2020 project FIRE – European Forum for Earth Observation – which came to a close in early 2023. Coordinated by the European Association for Remote Sensing Companies (EARSC), our frequent partner in many activities, FIRE was one of the initiatives which allowed us to gather ideas with users from different industries and fill identified gaps in R&D (and ultimately find desired solutions) to work towards a more thriving Earth Observation sector. The project has itself nicely wrapped up its statistics, testimonies and success (read about it here). This article highlights five main lessons learnt by the many Evenflowers involved throughout all stages of FIRE.
1. Become an EO Evangelist – the industry needs YOU!
One of the novel concepts proposed by Evenflow was that of the Earth Observation Evangelists. Seven enthusiastic professionals took up the mission to bring the message of Earth Observation – its possibilities, potential benefits and implied transformations – of the sectors to focus by presenting at industry events and discussing directly with actors from different sectors. All came back with the same, unfortunately unsurprising conclusion – we need more EO evangelists as there is still a lot of space for synergies and building mutual understanding. Evenflow has been targeting this transversal dimension of EO from the start, but what is a development of the recent years and the result of an ever-growing team is also the chance to embrace more user sectors and involvement from sector experts in our various other contracts and projects. By doing so, we can expand and help EO flourish in the years and decades to come.
2. Sustainability is not just a buzzword, it is a way of working
Making a lasting impact is a challenge for many projects. With the mission to create an actionable roadmap for future EO solutions and a community that further drives implementation, sustainability was built into the DNA of FIRE. To enable the communication of EO benefits and project results, a major output produced by our communication team was the FIRE video series, leaving an attractive set of materials that can be viewed and reviewed in various contexts when some “EO evangelisation” may be useful. As a strategic consultancy with EO expertise we will inevitably build upon the work achieved in FIRE, exploiting the network of actors from throughout different sectors, as well as the strategic roadmap in shaping a new tomorrow for EO at our scale.
3. Open and honest feedback drives improvement
If you joined the FIRE Forum 2023 sessions, you saw the presentation of one of the main outputs of the project – the six sectoral roadmaps which were presented and discussed by policy and industry stakeholders. Evenflow had the honour and the challenge to wrap up the results of the project into formats for different information needs. These can be used both by EO sector, but also professionals of FIRE focus sectors in their future work. While we had been moderating and designing many of the sessions of FIRE Fora events, this last one felt like an “exam” as we explicitly wanted to get clear and honest feedback from the professional speakers as to how we could learn and improve.
4. Progress can be slow
Together with the whole FIRE team, considerable efforts were made to build bridges with sectors, going beyond the EO bubble in defining the path forward. This remained a challenge throughout the project, regardless of the everstronger ties with experts and leaders of each industry. This is where continuity is key and where Evenflow is heading thanks to its growing portfolio of transversal work. But wouldn’t it be great if tomorrow we’d wake up and every mayor of a small town is looking for their EO data powered supplier for a smarter urban development plan?
5. How to measure success – beyond KPIs
Considering the hours, workforce and brain cells spent on a project, it is important to track one’s own success, often through a set of pre-defined Key Performance Indicators. However, clearly not all results can be translated into figures. Some are as seemingly naïve as having had a coffee with a certain infrastructure company representative during a FIRE Forum coffee break. At Evenflow we took some time to discuss our experience with FIRE and specifically its roadmap (being the culminating output, in case we need to remind you again), not without a hopefully healthy dose of criticism. The main conclusions? It has been a great journey which has helped build stronger ties with our partners, many new encounters and inspiring impressions which will guide our work as we continue building the future of EO together.