Evaluation of the Centre for Earth Observation Instrumentation (CEOI)

Research Questions

  1. What does the existing literature reveal about the evaluation of space-related R&D programmes? What are the benefits and drawbacks of the different approaches?
  2. How do other publicly-funded EO R&D programmes compare to the CEOI, and what are the key themes in evaluation recommendations for these programmes?
  3. What was the state of the UK EO sector in 2007, immediately prior to the inception of the CEOI programme?
  4. What is our proposed plan for evaluating the CEOI programme, and what methodologies and metrics will we employ in this evaluation?

Earth Observation (EO) science is fundamental to humanity’s understanding of our planet and its climate and natural processes. EO services support an estimated £100bn (4.7 per cent) of the UK’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The UK Space Agency launched its Centre for EO Instrumentation (CEOI) programme in 2007 to deliver an EO Instrumentation Programme (EOIP) to maintain and grow UK capability in low Technology-Readiness-Level (TRL) EO instrumentation. The EOIP was later expanded into the EO Technology Programme (EOTP) with an additional £15m up to March 2025 to develop innovative EO satellite instrumentation to maintain the UK’s position at the forefront of EO capability and expertise.

This report represents an interim deliverable within the CEOI Programme evaluation. It includes a literature review on EO intervention evaluation and processes, stakeholder mappings of the CEOI programme and a baseline assessment of the 2007 EO sector. It also contains an elaborated CEOI Theory of Change (ToC) alongside indicator frameworks, data collection tools and detailed evaluation methods. The evaluation’s next phase will collect data against the evaluation questions and indicators to provide an interim assessment of the CEOI programme’s delivery and effectiveness. This deliverable will be submitted in May 2024, followed by a final programme assessment in 2025.

Key Findings

Navigating the Complex EO R&D Ecosystem in the UK

  • The fast-evolving landscape of space activities and the complexity of public and private actors involved in project funding in EO R&D sector present persistent challenges in measuring the space economy.
  • In terms of evaluation approaches, the literature often uses theory-based evaluation of programmes. The reviewed EO evaluations can be roughly divided into six thematic focuses. These themes include the development of EO technologies and innovations, capabilities and skills, EO sector growth, end-user benefits, EO support to public policy, and programme design and delivery.
  • The EO R&D programmes reviewed generally delivered their objectives positively. Economic impact assessments of particular programmes demonstrate impressive value for money.

The state of the UK EO sector prior to the Inception of the CEOI

  • Prior to the inception of the CEOI programme, EO received the largest proportion of UK space sector funding, reflecting the government’s commitment to EO innovation. During this time, a significant restructuring of research councils involved in EO R&D occurred.
  • Despite participation in international EO programs, primarily through ESA, the UK often faced unsuccessful bids due to immaturity of proposed technologies. To address this, the UK government established specific national EO programmes and EO Centres of Excellence.
  • In 2007, the UK EO sector faced challenges that needed addressing to stimulate innovation, including the need for improved cross-government data sharing, increased investment levels and heightened awareness of the EO sector.

Recommendations

  • Ensure the evaluation designs consider robust data management assessment, alignment with other EO programs, a review of the programme’s accessibility to industrial partners and the wide variety of possible benefits to the EO industrial base.
  • Use a select number of prioritised indicators that do not increase the administrative burden and correspond to the standard framework established by other evaluations.

Research conducted by

This report was prepared for the UK Space Agency and conducted within RAND Europe.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation Research report series. RAND reports present research findings and objective analysis that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND reports undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

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