France: The smeSpire project has published a study report on the Geo-ICT sector in Europe. The report provides an in-depth analysis and comparison of different Geo-ICT companies in Europe and how they relate to INSPIRE. The study was carried out in four stages and its primary objectives were to assess the market potential for Geo-ICT companies in relation to INSPIRE and characterise obstacles for Geo-ICT companies to enter this market, with focus on knowledge gaps and training needs.
Using published statistics, the state of the SME and ICT sectors in Europe was established. This provided a basis for comparison with the Geo-ICT SME sector. One of the difficulties was there is no clear, agreed definition for Geo-ICT. The definition used in the study was limited to GIS/geo-location activities rather than all activities that could fall within the INSPIRE regulations.
The few studies carried out suggest that Geo-ICT SMEs comprise 1-2% of the overall number of ICT SMEs. Around 299 companies participated in the study. Most of them regarded themselves as ‘ICT’ companies, and most are relatively young, with 90% created between 1988 and 2008. The market of Geo-ICT SMEs appears to be primarily at the national and sub-national level with the public sector the primary customer, at both national and local level. The majority of Geo-ICT SMEs have a turnover of less than €10 million. Approximately a third of companies participated in EU funded projects, with the majority having a budget of less than €500,000.
More than 80% of the annual turnover of Geo-ICT SMEs comes from ‘geospatial activities’. Most of these relate to the use of spatial data, data modelling and development of client applications, although companies are involved in a range of activities in addition to these primary functions. Approximately a third of companies are involved in formal standards certification schemes, and in general, familiarity with standards is relatively low. Conversely, there is a much greater familiarity with
Open Source Software, which reflects its increasing importance across Europe. General awareness of INSPIRE is relatively good with more than two-thirds of companies aware of the overall concept, though conversely 31% had no knowledge. Only 34% of Geo-ICT SMEs have a formal involvement with the INSPIRE process at European level.