Evaluation of the Centre for Earth Observation Instrumentation (CEOI) Programme

Satellite hovering above Earth, photo by giorgi/Adobe Stock

Photo by giorgi/Adobe Stock

What is the issue?

Over recent years, the UK has committed to bolster its investment in the space sector, including in Earth Observation (EO), in its attempt to become a science and technology superpower. EO refers to remote sensing and in-situ technologies used to capture the planet’s physical, chemical and biological systems and to monitor land, water and the atmosphere. Beyond space, EO instrumentation technologies can also be used for measurement, optical imaging, global navigation, radar and precision machining with applications across a much wider section of industries. These include: agriculture, defence/security, maritime, medical/health, meteorology, oil and gas, rail and water sectors.

The UK Space Agency (UKSA) has a crucial role to play in helping to catalyse investments, delivering missions and capabilities and championing the power of space. The National Space Strategy (2021) has stated goals to grow and level up the UK’s space economy, as well as lead pioneering scientific discoveries.

In this context, the UKSA launched the Centre for Earth Observation Instrumentation (CEOI) to deliver programmes on EO Instrumentation and Technology (EOIP and EOTP) to help build UK capabilities in space R&D and support the UK in becoming a world leader in EO technologies. CEOI has awarded 52 projects so far and supports UK companies in applying to European Space Agency (ESA) missions. CEOI will distribute around £17.5m to EO R&D projects between 2023 and 2025.

How are we helping?

RAND Europe, in partnership with know.space and two independent EO experts, Aravind Ravichandran and Luca Budello, were commissioned by the UKSA to evaluate the CEOI programme.

The aim of this evaluation is to assess the impact, delivery and value for money of both the EOIP and EOTP, differentiating between the two programmes where possible. The evaluation will deliver impact, process and economic evaluations across both programmes, aimed at optimising ongoing delivery and making the case for further investment:

  • The project will design, develop and implement a comprehensive monitoring and evaluation framework to underpin UK investment in EOIP and EOTP.
  • The evaluations will be underpinned by extensive primary and secondary research, underpinned by a robust and redeveloped Theory of Change.

This is an important opportunity as there is an increased importance in producing strong evaluations of UKSA programmes to inform operational choices. This project is the first evaluation to occur while the programme is still being delivered, and there is an appetite to use this work as a flagship for evaluation in UKSA going forward. Despite CEOI being a civil programme, opportunity for dual use might arise, as capturing value added for defence will help strengthen the case for the programme.

The potential impact of this evaluation is spread across 3 levels:

  • CEOI programme: A key function of the evaluation is to continuously inform the ongoing delivery of the programme via the quarterly board meetings and close cooperation with CEOI. Insights from the deliverables will contribute to this, in addition to more informal meetings.
  • UKSA: Regular engagements with multiple UKSA stakeholders throughout will help to disseminate the evaluation findings at all points. There will be opportunities for UKSA staff to attend our workshop-style meetings to further discuss findings.
  • Wider sector: The findings of the evaluation will be disseminated in the form of the public reports, poster and additional content derived from intermediate deliverables e.g., the literature review, international comparison and sector capability review. We will aim to engage the wider sector at select EO conferences, as well as space sector forums, such as the Westminster forums.