One-to-one with SARIO
A member of SCO since October 2021, Slovak Space Office, through SARIO, reaffirmed its commitment by signing the Founding Charter in June 2022. What are the reasons for this membership?
Michal Brichta © SARIO
Michal Brichta: There are several reasons for our involvement in SCO. First of all, we find the overall topic of promoting and facilitating the use of space technology for environmental protection and climate action very important. Satellites provide us with large amounts of data that are easily accessible for researchers and companies transforming them into useful applications.
Downstream, and EO segment in particular, has grown into a strong part of the Slovak space economy and it also draws a significant interest from young entrepreneurs and researchers as we could see during our CASSINI hackathon focused on environmental solutions protecting the Arctic in November 2021 or the first batch of our newly-launched incubation programme.
What are the main impacts of climate change that Slovakia is facing?
M.B.: According to the Slovak hydrometeorological institute, over the past 100 years, the average temperature in Slovakia has risen by 1,1 °C. And even though there have been more frequent cases of storms with extreme amounts of precipitation, the average overall precipitation has been decreasing signaling possible future water reserve shortages. These trends will likely have a negative impact on many areas including the overall biodiversity and human health as well as our agricultural production, forest economics, and fisheries.
In its Recovery and Resilience Plan, approved by the European Commission in June 2021, Slovakia allocates 43% of its total budget to measures that support climate goals. What are these measures and how can space help implement them?
M.B.: That is true, the green economy investments make up the largest part of Slovakia’s Recovery and Resilience Plan and they include such areas as sustainable energy sources and energy infrastructure, sustainable transportation, or climate change adaptation. All of these include a variety of solutions that can be made more efficient or directly enabled using Earth observation data or GNSS technology. Particularly the climate change adaptation involving new solutions in landscape planning, nature protection, water management, or biodiversity protection will need to strongly rely on satellite data.
What do you expect from SCO in this regard?
M.B.: We see SCO as an important initiative that can, among other things, help our companies and researchers coordinate their efforts with foreign partners in order to create new effective solutions for climate monitoring, mitigation, and adaptation.
Slovakia is one of the newest members of the SCO network through the Slovak Investment and Trade Development Agency (SARIO) responsible for the national space governance implementation within the Slovak Space Office. Our goal when it comes to SCO is to promote and facilitate partnership creation between interested entities in our country and relevant foreign partners. As an EU member state and the newest associate member of ESA, we have an excellent precondition for European collaboration. Nevertheless, our companies and researchers do not limit themselves to the European continent when it comes to cooperation, and neither do we!
“Over the past years, a variety of unique projects have emerged in Slovakia, [providing] a solid base for cooperation possibilities.”
How do you see the emergence of SCO projects in Slovakia?
M.B.: Over the past years, a variety of unique projects have emerged in Slovakia covering a wide range of topics relevant to SCO. These include, for example, infrastructure and land deformation monitoring, solar radiation monitoring, forest disturbance mapping, and monitoring, meteorological forecasting and modeling, natural habitat monitoring, or early warning systems. All of them provide a solid base for cooperation possibilities and we cordially invite our international partners to get in touch with us to learn more.
You, who chaired the 9th International Steering Committee in May 2022, what future do you see for the SCO?
M.B.: SCO has a strong predisposition to become one of the leading global networks connecting space with environmental topics. And as such, it will be able to positively contribute to the quality as well as quantity of future projects aimed at climate monitoring, mitigation and adaptation solutions. We look forward to our further collaboration within this platform and active contribution to its activities.
Beyond climate issues, Slovakia is showing a remarkable spatial dynamism. What are the main points of this "young" history?
M.B.: We started our involvement in the Slovak space ecosystem development in 2019. Since then, it has been a truly fruitful journey with many important milestones we have achieved together with our partners from the ministry of education including consolidating and further developing the Slovak space industry which has practically doubled its size, establishing the Slovak Space Office with a broad portfolio of supportive tools for entrepreneurs and researchers, and bringing Slovakia to the associate membership in ESA. With more than 40 companies active in our space economy, new technology companies working on their sector entry, regular hackathons and outreach events, an incubation programme, and a strong international partner network, we are now looking forward to the new opportunities and challenges that the 21st century’s space creates.
The Slovak Space Office consists of two components. The Ministry of Education, Science, Research and Sport of the Slovak Republic is responsible for inter-ministerial political coordination and multilateral international cooperation (European Space Agency, European Union, United Nations). Slovak Investment and Trade Development Agency – SARIO covers the implementation part of the agenda, especially developing the space ecosystem and local and international partnerships.
The Industrial Branch of the Slovak Space Office is an official national contact point for international cooperation with space agencies, offices, associations, businesses, and research entities. It aims to support Slovak entrepreneurs and researchers in integrating into European industrial structures and participating in international projects. Its objective is to actively develop professional international cooperation of Slovakia with relevant actors in the space industry field.