November 22nd, 2019

Launching of the H2020 Teaming project Phase 2 “EXCELSIOR”

The public inauguration event of the strategic research project ‘EXCELSIOR’: ERATOSTENES: Centre for Excellence in Land Surveillance and Environmental Monitoring was successfully held on the 22nd of November 2019. The event took place at the Cyprus University of Technology under the auspices of the President of the Republic of Cyprus, Mr. Nicos Anastasiades, in the presence of officials and elected personalities from the diplomatic, political and academic community of Cyprus and abroad.

During his speech President of the Republic of Cyprus, Mr. Nicos Anastasiades mentioned that ‘Despite the extremely competitive process, the EXCELSIOR Project has successfully secured the EU Horizon 2020 funding. I take this opportunity to express my sincere thanks to the European Commission for this decision, in addition to the funding of five other Centres of Excellence in Cyprus. This constitutes further evidence of the competitiveness Cyprus enjoys in the field of research and innovation, both at European and international level. I wish to express my sincere respect and appreciation to Professor Diofantos Hadjimitsis, the project coordinator, and his dedicated team for their hard work and for succeeding in this highly competitive procedure, as well as extending my best wishes for every success in your future endeavors.’

The European Research Program EXCELSIOR, through a highly competitive process, secured € 15 million of seven-year funding from the EU Horizon 2020 Program ‘Spreading Excellence and Widening Participation – Teaming Phase 2’, with a view to creating a sustainable and autonomous Centre of Excellence for Earth Observation and Space Monitoring of the Environment. The project has also received € 15m in funding from the Republic of Cyprus for 15 years and € 8m for 15 years from the Cyprus University of Technology (Coordinator).

The event was attended by representatives of the project consortium, which consists of the Cyprus Technological University (Remote Sensing and Geo-Environment Laboratory – Department of Civil and Geo-informatics Engineering); the German Aerospace Centre (DLR); the National Observatory of Athens (NOA); the Leibniz Institute for Tropospheric Research (TROPOS); and the Department of Electronic Communications of the Ministry of Transport, Communications and Works (MTCW-DEC).
The Director of the Department of Electronic Communications Mr. George Komodromos, Dr. Haris Kontoes, Research Director of the National Observatory of Athens and Director of the BEYOND Center of Excellence, the Deputy Director of the German Remote Sensing Data Center (DFD) of the German Aerospace Centre (DLR), Mr. Gunter Schreier. Albert Ansmann from the Leibniz Institute for Tropospheric Research (TROPOS) developed the roles that partner organizations will play in the project. It is important to mention that the EXCELSIOR project is supported by more than 95 organizations from Cyprus and abroad (eg NASA, ISPRS, NEREUS, GEO, ACTRIS, CYTA, ETEK, I-BEC, Aristotle University, National Technical University of Athens) including 6 Ministries, 19 governmental departments, municipalities (including Limassol, Ayia Napa, Peyia and Geroskipou) and research and innovation enterprises. The support of the Municipality of Limassol in the creation of the ‘ERATOSTHENES’ Centre of Excellence is vital, aiming in implementing space technologies and geo-informatics to solve the problems of the Municipality and participate in joint events.

The event was also welcomed by the Welcome addresses were given by the Counsellor of Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in Cyprus, Mr. Ulrich Peitz and the Deputy Head of Mission of the Embassy of Greece in Cyprus, Mr. Ioannis Mallikourtis.

The importance of the Centre for Cyprus and the geographical area was emphasized by representatives of the EXCELSIOR External Advisory Committee and the ERATOSTENES Centre of Excellence such as Mr. Vincent Ambrosia (NASA / University of California); Mrs. Simonetta Cheli (European Agency for Space Agency); Mr. Marcello Maranesi (freelance consultant with experience in space organizations such as Telespazio in Italy), Prof. Lena Halounova (Czech Technical University in Prague and ISPRS Secretary – International Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing); Dr. Peter Zeil (Spatial Services GmbH from Austria); and Mr. Daniel Barok (Independent Consultant with previous work experience at the ISRAEL SPACE AGENCY).

The Vice-Rector for Academic Affairs of the Cyprus University of Technology and Professor Diofantos G. Hadjimitsis, coordinator of the EXCELSIOR project, said in his speech that the project “aims at conducting a high level of basic and applied research in the sectors related to the combined use of space, remote sensing and geo-informatics technologies for systematic and in-depth monitoring of the natural and built environment. He also stressed the importance of using SENTINEL satellite data from COPERNICUS presenting various satellite data usage applications in Cyprus. Some of the examples he cited was the systematic monitoring of water quality in reservoirs, marine pollution, air pollution, water leak detection, agricultural applications (crop disease detection, irrigation management, etc.), study of unexcavated archaeological sites and detection of unexcavated buried remains, natural hazard management, forest fire detection, support through educational and training programs, etc.”

The President of the Republic, Mr. Nicos Anastasiades, welcoming the event, emphasized that the ERATOSTHENES Centre of Excellence will become a hub of innovation and entrepreneurship in our country and a protagonist in the Eastern Mediterranean region, with great economic and social benefits for Europe.

The Rector of the Cyprus University of Technology and Professor Andreas Anayiotos said that this is perhaps the most ambitious project secured by the “young” Cyprus University of Technology and assured of the high quality of services offered by the Centre at national, European and international level. He also stressed that it is important to transfer the gained expertise from academia and research to the industry for the commercial development of related services.

The representative of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Research and Innovation (DG-RTD), Mr Stefan Weiers; and the Head of Unit Spreading Excellence, Widening Participation, Science with and for Society, The Research Executive Agency (REA), Mr. Ales Fiala stated that the EU has high expectations of the implementation and results of the program, but also of the impact on Cyprus and at European level of promoting science and innovation, which it is expected to create opportunities for economic growth.

The Chief Scientist for Research & Innovation Dr. Kyriakos Kokkinos mentioned that internationally recognized centers are working on this project to achieve excellence. Dr. Kokkinos emphasized the extensive experience of the consortium partners as well as the active involvement of various stakeholders from industry, society, academia and the wider public sector which ensure the success of the project. Finally Dr. Kokkinos stressed that the EXCELSIOR project opens a new horizon for Cyprus and the wider area of space.

Dr. Haris Kontoes, Research Director of NOA and Director of the European Center for Space Monitoring of the Earth ‘BEYOND’, presented services of continuous observation, recording of information and the extraction of scientific knowledge about natural disasters around the world. Mr. Gunter Schreier presented DLR’s contribution to the project through the transfer of know-how to install satellite data antenna in Cyprus. Dr. Albert Ansmann from TROPOS presented the importance of Cyprus’ geographical position in climate change monitoring and atmospheric study through satellite observations. Concluding, Dr. Ansmann presented the benefits of setting up a ground-based atmospheric remote sensing station in Cyprus. The Director of the Department of Electronic Communications, Mr. George Komodromos emphasized the importance of the space sector for the Republic of Cyprus, referring to various actions taken to date such as the participation of Cyprus in the European Space Agency and presented his Department’s contribution to the project for promoting space technologies to all interested parties in Cyprus.

The Environment sector was recognized by the Smart Specialization Strategy for Cyprus (S3Cy) as the first horizontal priority for the future development of the island. The project is fully aligned with Smart Specialization Strategy for Cyprus in many areas, significantly enhancing the impact of targeted regional and national investment, namely the environment and ICT. The Centre of Excellence that will emerge through the existing potential of the ERATOSTHENES Centre, with its experience and infrastructure, will become a hub for Earth Observation activities in the Eastern Mediterranean region, due to the geostrategic position of Cyprus.

The Centre will be based in Limassol with research infrastructures in the coastal municipalities of Cyprus. In the coming years, the Centre of Excellence is expected to employ 112 people in research, management and technical positions to develop new research activities and collaborations with companies and government organizations. The Centre of Excellence will become a hub of innovation and entrepreneurship in our country and in the Eastern Mediterranean region, with great economic and social benefits for Cyprus and Europe. Also important is the transfer of know-how from the NOA through the European Earth Observatory ‘BEYOND’, which aims to continuously collect information from the planet about evolving natural phenomena, and in particular natural disasters, in order to inform the authorities and the citizens to take appropriate safety measures in a timely manner. In addition, the contribution of DLR to install an Earth Observation Satellite Data Antenna at CYTA’s facilities and TROPOS Research Institute to establish a ground-based atmospheric remote sensing station which will be the national infrastructure of the ACTRIS-ERIC network are very significant.

To download the Agenda of the Public Event please Click Here

This project has received funding from the Government of the Republic of Cyprus through the “Directorate General for European Programmes, Coordination and and Development”.
This project has received funding from the European Union’s “Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme” under Grant Agreement No 857510”.
This project is co-funded by the Cyprus University of Technology.