Over 1 200 people participated in the INSPIRE Conference 2012 which was held from 22-27 June in Istanbul, Turkey. The theme of this year's edition, which was co-organised by the JRC and the Turkish Ministry of Environment and Urbanization, was "Sharing environmental information, sharing innovation". It aimed to investigate how innovations in governance, content, and supporting technologies have further shaped the landscape of sharing environmental information.
With 20 dedicated workshops, 48 parallel sessions, and more than 200 presenters, the INSPIRE Conference 2012 was the biggest event to date relating to the INSPIRE Directive. It was extremely well received by those who attended, who welcomed the initiative and praised the organisers for a job well done.
The first two days of the Conference were set aside for a wide range of workshops, which were very well attended by over 400 participants. The remainder of the conference was made up of stimulating plenary morning sessions and a series of afternoon presentations in three different sessions.
The first full day of presentations started with the opening plenary session on Monday 25th June, which featured an official welcome from the Turkish hosts, a presentation from Guido Schmuck, Director of the IES, and the a talk by the European Commissioner for Environment, Janez Potocnik, by video link. In his formal welcome, the Turkish Minister of Environment and Urbanisation, Erdogan Bayraktar, gave a spirited talk on the importance and value of geospatial data to the economy and lives of citizens. IES scientist P. Smits was part of the panel discussion which followed the opening session. This discussion threw up the notion of INSPIRE as a ‘monster that has to be tamed’, and concluded that there are still plenty of challenges ahead in implementing INSPIRE.
The plenary session of 26 June featured candid and very well-received views of what was right and what was wrong with INSPIRE, and views on the Shared Environmental Information System (SEIS). In his presentation entitled ‘Down to Earth’, Ian Jackson, former director of the British Geological Survey and participant in several INSPIRE-related actions, was asked to present an appraisal of the INSPIRE Directive and its potential impact. Ian covered several aspects of INSPIRE, focusing on ‘Highlights’, ‘Lowlights’, and ‘Lessons to Be Learned’ for each issue. His candid remarks, reflecting not only his own observations and experiences, but those of many who have been, or still are, involved in developing and implementing INSPIRE across Europe, received a very warm welcome from the participants, including an extended ovation at its conclusion.
The closing plenary saw Inês Soares and her mentor, Paulo Matos Martins, Poerugal, receive the annual CEN/TC 287 Award for Academic Excellence within INSPIRE for their contribution to Intelligent Transport Systems. This Award, sponsored by Sparx Systems, is an annual recognition of excellence within the INSPIRE community and an award for academic contributions to the development and adoption of geospatial standards through the use of Enterprise Architect.
Alessandro Annoni, Digital Earth and Reference Data Unit Head at the IES, closed the conference on the final day with a summary of how things had developed. In response to Ian Jackson’s presentation, he underlined the importance of shared leadership in INSPIRE, and the opportunities for innovation and growth that INSPIRE embodies. One of the main points that emerged from the Conference was that INSPIRE needs improved communication and capacity building. Annoni reiterated Ian Jackson’s final thoughts, that communication should be made a priority issue, INSPIRE should be kept simple, that the focus should be more on people rather than technology, and that the pan-European scope should be fully taken advantage of.
With the introduction of the INSPIRE Directive 2007/2, the policy landscape for sharing environmental information has changed drastically. The Commission Communication on the Shared Environmental Information System (SEIS 2008) and follow-up activities at national and European levels have further helped to cultivate a new vision for a coordinated framework for the implementation and monitoring of environmental policies. The governance, content, and supporting technologies are the three pillars with which this vision can be consolidated and implemented.
The aim of this year's INSPIRE Conference was therefore to look at how innovations in these three areas have further shaped the landscape of sharing environmental information. The conference also took stock of how Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) reap the benefits of an improved European landscape for sharing environmental information.