How to become an Earth Observation specialist? Start with the Copernicus Skills Programme

 How to become an Earth Observation specialist? Start with the Copernicus Skills Programme

The Copernicus satellites generate 12 terabytes of remote sensing data every day, making it by far the largest Earth Observation programme in the world. This data is made available for free to researchers and application providers around the globe, offering great scientific and commercial opportunities to anyone.

As attractive as this sounds, these large amounts of data require specialist skills to turn them into useful information. Of course there are many services out there to help users do this, but even then you may want to have some basic understanding of how space data works. For this reason, the Copernicus programme includes an extensive education element, to help users from all levels of understanding make use of the wealth of data, known as the Copernicus Skills Programme.

Copernicus Skills Programme

The space data education side of Copernicus is organised in the Copernicus Skills Programme, which consists of six elements:

  • Copernicus Academy Network
  • EIT Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs)
  • EO4GEO project
  • Eyes on Earth Roadshows
  • CopHub.AC Horizon 2020 project
  • Copernicus MOOC

Let’s have a look at each of these six elements, to see how they help you or your organisation benefit from learning about the use of space data.

1 – Copernicus Academy Network

The Copernicus Academy connects universities, research institutions, business schools, private, and non-profit organisations in the Copernicus Participating Countries (EU28 + Norway & Iceland) and beyond. The goal of the network is to link research and academic institutions with authorities and service providers, facilitate collaborative research, develop lectures, training sessions, traineeships as well as educational and training material to empower the next generation of researchers, scientists, and entrepreneurs with suitable skill sets to use Copernicus data and information services to their full potential.

Copernicus Academy Network in the Netherlands area (source: Copernicus Academy)

The currently over 174 members of the Copernicus Academy also work to increase the exchange of ideas and best practices across borders and disciplines while contributing to the development of the use of Earth Observation data in general and Copernicus data and information in particular.

See Copernicus Academy members in your area on this map here (web page)

Find the representatives of all Copernicus Academy members here (xls-file)

The Dot Space Foundation is proud to be one of the Copernicus Academy members, so please let us know if you have any questions about space data training!

2 – Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KIC)

The European Institute of Innovation & Technology (EIT) is an independent body of the European Union set up in 2008 to deliver innovation across Europe. The EIT brings together leading business, education and research organisations to form dynamic cross-border partnerships. These are called Innovation Communities and each is dedicated to finding solutions to a specific global challenge.

EIT Climate-KIC uses Earth Observation data for climate change monitoring (image: EIT)

The EIT’s Knowledge and Innovation Communities are partnerships that bring together businesses, research centres and universities.

The Knowledge and Innovation Communities carry out activities that cover the entire innovation chain: training and education programmes, reinforcing the journey from research to the market, innovation projects, as well as business incubators and accelerators. The EIT’s role is to guide the process and set the strategies, but it’s up to the Innovation Communities to put these into practice and provide results.

There are currently eight Innovation Communities and each focuses on a different societal challenge:

All of these KICs benefit from the use of space data, where the Climate-KIC has long be the most active user.

In 2021 several organisations launched an initiative for a new Space-KIC. Groundstation.Space was one of the participants. Read more about this here:

Space-KIC – A Collaboration Model for the European Space Community

3 – EO4GEO

EO4GEO is an Erasmus+ Sector Skills Alliance gathering 25 partners from 13 EU countries, most of which are part of the Copernicus Academy Network. Be they from academia, public or private sector, they are all active in the education and training fields of the space / geospatial sectors.

Technological progress and globalisation offer tremendous opportunities for innovation, job creation and growth. This also requires people to acquire new skills in order to drive and support change. But which skills are they, and how can we build and shape the workforce of the future? This is where EO4GEO steps in.

EO4GEO aims to bridge the skills gap between the supply and demand of education and training in the space/geospatial sectors, fostering the uptake and integration of space/geospatial data and services in a broad range of application domains.


There are several projects under the EO4GEO umbrella, one of which is a repository of training materials, that you can find here.

Another important task of the EO4GEO project is the development of an Earth Observation Body of Knowledge, to which many specialists have been contributing. You can access this body of knowledge here.

4 – Eyes on Earth project

The main objective for the Eyes on Earth project was to create an awareness raising campaign in EU universities, a Copernicus Road show, to promote the Copernicus skills and start up programmes related opportunities developed for supporting skills development, foster the use of Copernicus data and information products, entrepreneurship, in synergy with initiatives organised by the members of the Copernicus Academy Network.

Copernicus Eyes on Earth Roadshow
Groundstation.Space organised the Eyes on Earth Roadshows

Together with several partners, Groundstation.Space organised a series of roadshows in 2019 and 2020. These started of as physical events in cities around the EU, continuing as online events after the pandemic hit. Although there are currently no more events planned, most of the roadshow content is available on our YouTube channel.

Online Copernicus Eyes on Earth Roadshow a great success!

Watch the replays of the Eyes on Earth Roadshow

5 – CopHub.AC

CopHub.AC is the Copernicus Academy Hub for Knowledge, Innovation and Outreach. The overall aim of the Horizon 2020 project CopHub.AC is to establish long-term Copernicus hubs to consolidate and sustain the Copernicus Academy as a knowledge and innovation platform.

To fulfil this, several nodes are created – like the knowledge landscape, dedicated thematic working groups, and a roadmap to sustain the Academy. In an innovation pipeline, the project links ongoing R&D activities in Copernicus-relevant academic fields and fosters the mutual innovation process between academia and business on a high technical level. We have a clear commitment to a full thematic and geographic coverage for a Europe-wide boost in demand-driven uptake of space technology and geospatial information.

Among its many deliverables, those looking for space data training opportunities may find the CopHub.AC training catalogue useful:

CopHub.AC Training Catalogue

6 – Copernicus MOOC

One of the most accessible ways to learn about the opportunities and workings of the Copernicus Programme is the Copernicus MOOC. This free online certification course addresses three key topics:

  • Chapter 1 – Understanding Copernicus data and services– what they are, and how they can be accessed and used
  • Chapter 2 – Learning from success stories – understanding how existing Copernicus-enabled services and applications have been developed and deployed
  • Chapter 3 – Doing it yourself – acquiring the key skills and knowledge to develop and deploy Copernicus-enabled products and services and to navigate the Copernicus ecosystem.

The course modules are taught in English by internationally-recognised experts and successful practitioners. Different engaging and interactive formats are used during the lessons, from webinars and videos to use cases and projects. The course is built on a user-driven approach aimed at enabling participants to work on their own projects, learn from others, understand the latest trends in situational awareness technologies, and become active members of the Copernicus community.

You can access the Copernicus MOOC here

Remco Timmermans

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