From the Man on the Moon, To Space for the Mankind: A technological innovation system analysis of how the Copernicus earth observation infrastructure leveraged new applications in the Dutch water management sector
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Ever-increasing challenges are pressing our society, which requires drastic solutions. The Copernicus Programme is an earth observation infrastructure developed by the European Space Agency (ESA) and the European Commission (EC) to provide solutions to such global threats through delivering environmental data, while simultaneously contributing to the European economy by opening up downstream business opportunities and job creation. As one of the most significant impacted areas of climate change, the water sector has highly promising potential to leverage on the Copernicus data and its data-derived applications. The Netherlands is one of the most active in applying the technological promises of Copernicus in the water sector. Nevertheless, the program is facing major challenges to exploit the potential of its earth observation infrastructure. This study therefore aims to identify the success factors and blocking mechanisms that stimulate or hamper the diffusion of the Copernicus applications in the Netherlands. To answer this research question, a qualitative case study has been conducted. Data from desk research and interviews were analyzed through a coding process. Information on the performance of the program and relevant policies were gathered through abductive reasoning, whereby we draw from theoretical insights while allowing for interpretation. In this approach, the Technological Innovation System (TIS) was used, which is a framework to assess the structure and dynamics of a technology, along with insights from innovation policy studies. The results of this study suggest a strong shift in innovation policies that have led to the current performance of the Copernicus program. Currently, governmental policies are aiming to develop a strong space infrastructure, open up downstream economic opportunities by leveraging on this infrastructure (i.e., the development of space-data derived applications), and addressing user needs in solving societal challenges. These can be characterized as moving towards a type-II Mission-oriented Innovation Policy (MIP) approach. However, the high dependency on governmental involvement and the limited legitimacy on the technology are blocking the diffusion of the Copernicus applications. Furthermore, the study identified several challenges innovation policies are facing in order to address these blocking mechanisms. Based on the findings, the present study gives recommendations for the relevant mission-oriented innovation policies on the Copernicus and similar programs aiming to address large societal challenges. By combining insights from literature on innovation systems and MIP, the present novel approach was able to identify the challenges the Copernicus program is facing in order to achieve its ambitious goals.