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Canada's Strategy for Satellite Earth Observation

Delivering the vision: Our objectives

1 Ensure that satellite Earth observation data is free, open, and accessible to maximize science, innovation, and economic development

Satellite data and technologies are transformative, sparking innovation in Canada's space sector and beyond. To ensure that Canada is Ready to take advantage of the opportunities in front of us, the GC will:

  1. Enhance access to open data
    Economic development and efforts to address today's biggest challenges rely on data that is open and freely available. Following international best practices and our commitment to an open and transparent digital government, the GC will make data from GC satellites, and those of our partners, more open and accessible through a policy of free and open data that is accessible through digital platforms and cloud-hosted Web portals powered by enhanced high-performance computing. With new tools and data, companies will expand their commercial offerings and market while creating more jobs for Canadians.
  2. Create the conditions for Canada's satellite EO sector to thrive
    The proliferation of benefits from satellite EO relies heavily on the entry and sustainability of firms in the geospatial and environmental intelligence sector. Supporting these firms in the supply chain is an "upstream" of advanced technology and parts manufacturing firms, including factories and distribution centres that provide thousands of jobs across Canada. To support jobs along the entire satellite EO value chain, Canada will create and enhance programs that reward job creation and innovation while providing early support to cutting-edge start-ups, such as through the GC's new smartEarth program. Whether meeting GC needs or highlighting private offerings, positioning Canadian firms to be competitive will also be achieved by streamlining mechanisms for contracting to accelerate innovation and R&D. Further, the GC is reviewing Canada's regulatory framework for space activities to ensure they provide timely responses for industry, maintain strategic oversight for national security, and enable commercial growth.

Satellite EO in action:
Sparking Innovative Canadian Ideas

Since , the GC Space Technology Development Program (STDP) has invested over $186 million to support the creation of nearly 550 technologies, sparking innovation and growth in the Canadian space sector. Over this period, via nearly 50 challenges put out to industry and academia, Canadian companies and researchers have showcased their excellence through new designs and precision instruments that address pressing challenges and advance the reputation of Canadian research and development (R&D). While helping to evolve capabilities for new satellite EO missions that support Canadian priorities, investments from the STDP also open the door for entrepreneurs and researchers across the country to further their careers by generating scientific and commercial solutions to Canada's biggest challenges. Critically, funding at these earliest stages of technology development also helps Canadian start-ups and companies scale up, retain highly qualified personnel, and avoid the challenge of STEM "brain drain."

A young engineer works on a small student-built satellite as part of the Canadian CubeSat Project. (Credit: Charles Nokes, University of Alberta)

  1. Foster domestic and international partnerships
    From the Laboratories Canada initiative to our national Technology Superclusters, the GC is well positioned to convene the brightest satellite EO ideas and people in national hotspots for innovation and scientific discovery. While the GC hosts significant portions of Earth observation expertise in Canada, knowledge and experience from academia, industry, other levels of government, and Indigenous organizations will play an important role in our future. Through funding opportunities for students and researchers as well as centres of excellence dedicated to satellite EO, Canadians will have access to state-of-the-art facilities to develop new instruments and applications in cross-sectoral partnerships. These partnerships will bring together the best of government, business, and academic innovation. Additionally, Canada will leverage international partnerships, such as with the European Copernicus program and U.S. partners, and its membership in the Group on Earth Observations and the World Meteorological Organization to increase opportunities for Canadian companies. Through these partnerships, Canadian companies and academics will be able to access international data sets, build their networks, and improve their competitiveness without needing to leave Canada.

Satellite EO in action:
A Dynamic Sector of Our Economy

Canada's satellite EO sector is vibrant and growing. Most Canadian companies in data transformation and geospatial services are agile small and medium enterprises (SMEs) founded within the past 10 years. At the same time, Canada hosts established world leaders in both satellite manufacturing and data interpretation, rounding out a diverse economic profile for a space sector projected to triple in the coming decade.

  • Canadian satellite and ground station manufacturing for Earth observation accounts for $130 million in direct revenues annually. Of note, manufacturing in the satellite EO sector is 13 times more R&D intensive than traditional manufacturing sectors.
  • In , 74 Canadian organizations invested $356 million in space research and projects, with significant focus on emerging technologies, such as machine learning and big data analytics.
  • Satellite data is vital to the growing geospatial information sector, which contributes $20 billion in economic activity and approximately 20,000 jobs to the Canadian economy each year.

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