Space and satellite technology have become the backbone of modern digital life, helping us to keep in touch, find our way, stay safe and monitor the Earth for changes that could help or harm the environment and society. They are also a vibrant source of inspiration for new scientific developments, patents and downstream commercial products and services that boost the global economy.
Satellites and space exploration are high-technology enterprises. And throughout the history of space technologies, many have produced spin-off applications that significantly improve life on Earth: from new medical technologies – through solar cells and recycling techniques – to computer technology and miniaturised electronics.
Today, satellites allow us to track changes and patterns in weather, agriculture, urban development and other land use. Earth observation technology can aid archaeology, detect forest fires, measure ocean wave heights and assess the levels of gas emissions such as carbon dioxide and methane, as well as analyse patterns of agriculture and soil moisture.
Satellite location and navigation (sat nav) services have become part of everyday life, thanks to Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) that use precisely timed radio signals from orbiting satellites to pinpoint the location of the user. Navigation and location-based services have grown hugely since their invention. Innovation – and patents – will be key to Europe staying at the forefront of these services.