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INSPIRE - Europe's infrastructure for spatial information
Harmonising the access to environmental geo-information for EU policies and citizens

Europe's infrastructure for spatial information (INSPIRE) is a Directive of the European Commission (2007/2/EC) establishing an Infrastructure for Spatial Information in Europe to make available the spatial information necessary to support national and Community environmental policy, and policies that affect the environment. INSPIRE is a distributed infrastructure based on those established and maintained by the Member States, and made interoperable through common standards being developed under the technical coordination of the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission.


With INSPIRE, the European Union is creating common standards to make environmental information quickly and easily accessible. The key elements of the INSPIRE legal framework that facilitate this are: (i) metadata to describe existing information resources so that they can be more easily found and accessed; (ii) harmonization of key spatial data themes so that they can be combined and used more effectively (iii) technical specifications to develop interoperable services and allow discovery, view, transformation and download of information resources, (iv) policy agreements on data and service sharing, and (v) coordination and monitoring mechanisms.

Through these components, the implementation of INSPIRE will also address key concerns of the Digital Agenda for Europe including fragmented digital markets due to the lack of cross-border legal frameworks, and lack of interoperability inhibiting the development of innovative cross-border and multi-lingual services.


The INSPIRE Geoportal connects the environmental applications of the Member States


Studies have shown that the benefits of INSPIRE are both economic and social: while allowing faster and less expensive environmental impact assessments, INSPIRE brings improved business opportunities and creates synergies between public administrations. This will translate into clear benefits for European citizens, ranging from improved emergency services to a healthier everyday environment. Common environmental data standards are crucial not only for policymaking but also for underpinning scientific research and ultimately the deployment of innovative and sustainable technologies.


Hundreds of experts from across Europe have been working together for several years to agree on common definitions in important policy areas such as energy, climate change, biodiversity, the marine environment, and human health.

INSPIRE relies upon the infrastructures for spatial information that are created by the Member States and that are made compatible with common rules and are supplemented with EU level measures. These measures should ensure that the infrastructures for spatial information created by the Member States are compatible and can be used across national boundaries. The INSPIRE implementation is following a step-by-step approach, gradually unlocking existing spatial data.

The Institute for Environment and Sustainability coordinates the technical development of INSPIRE, and provides prototype applications such as the INSPIRE Geoportal. The INSPIRE geoportal provides the means to search for spatial data sets and spatial data services, and subject to access restrictions, view and download spatial data sets from the EU Member States within the framework of the Infrastructure for Spatial Information in the European Community (INSPIRE) Directive.


  • Annoni A., Friis-Christensen A., Lucchi R., Lutz M. (2008). Requirements and Challenges for Building a European Spatial Information Infrastructure: INSPIRE in van Oosterom, and S. Zlatanova (eds.) Creating Spatial Information Infrastructures - Towards The Spatial Semantic Web, CRC Press, United Kingdom: 1-18.
  • Bernard L., Friis-Christensen A., Punty H. (eds.) (2008. The European Information Society - Taking Geoinformation Science One Step Further.  Lecture Notes in Geoinformation and Cartography, Springer, ISBN 978-3-540-78945-1.
  • Craglia M., Goodchild M., Annoni A., Camara G., Gould M., Kuhn W., Mark D., Masser I., Maguire D., Liang S., Parsons E. (2008). Next-Generation Digital Earth. International Journal of Spatial Data Infrastructures Research, 3: 146-167.
  • Friis-Christensen A., Lucchi R., Lutz M., Ostlaender N. (2009). Service Chaining Architectures for Applications Implementing Distributed Geographic Information Processing. International Journal of Geographical Information Science, 23(5): 561-580.
  • Lutz M., Sprado J., Klien E., Schubert C., Christ I. (2009). Overcoming Semantic Heterogeneity in Spatial Data Infrastructures. Computers & Geosciences, 35(4): 739-752.


Contact Info:

Karen Fullerton  - Tel: +39 0332 789101 E-mail: karen.fullerton (at)
Paul Smits -  Tel: +39 0332 785279 E-mail: paul.smits (at)

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