Minister for Research and Innovation, Mr Sean Sherlock TD represented Ireland at the European Space Agency Ministerial Council which took place in Naples on 20th & 21st November 2012. The Council, which represents 20 European countries, will decide the future strategy for the European Space Programmes and the future direction of the European Space Agency (ESA). Importantly, the Council took major decisions on the development of commercial space launch vehicles, telecommunications and Earth observation satellites, and advanced technologies for human spaceflight and space exploration.
Minister Sherlock, in his presentation to the Council announcing details of Ireland’s strategic investment in ESA Space programmes said, “The Irish priority for the 2012 Ministerial Council is to invest in those ESA programmes that best serve our national strategy. ESA, with the support of the Department of Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation and Enterprise Ireland, is enabling rapid expansion and growth in established Irish space companies, as well as supporting emerging and established high potential start-up technology companies.”
The State will invest over €17 million per annum in ESA Space programmes in the coming years. Exports are projected to double from €27 million in 2011 to over €56 million by 2015. Employment in this sector is projected to rise from 1,570 in 2011 to over 2,000 in 2015. The Minister was keen to point out that “almost every aspect of our lives depend on space products and services – our mobile phones, Sat Nav Systems, weather forecasts, television networks and transport systems – are prime examples.”
This Government’s investment in ESA forms part of a wider strategy for Irish industry and research facilities to access opportunities to develop space capabilities under Horizon 2020 and other R&D programmes of the European Union.”
Ireland’s space strategy as outlined by the Minister to the Council “will ensure that through focussed and intelligent investment of public funds, Ireland’s participation in ESA, co-ordinated by Enterprise Ireland, will continue to support Irish companies in the growing European and global space markets.”
Specific emphasis was placed by the Minister on the role of ESA in stimulating the development of small to medium sized companies in the space market, in fostering increased entrepreneurship in the sector and in facilitating the commercial spin out of space technologies into everyday non-space uses.
Minister Sherlock said: “In the coming months a number of significant ESA R&D contracts are expected to develop innovative technologies for use in space systems with Irish technology companies such as Eirecomposites and Sensl and recent start-up Faztech”.
“Over the past 5 years, in excess of 40 Irish companies, with the support of Enterprise Ireland, have secured ESA contracts with a value in excess of €10 million per year. In the past three years alone, 12 Irish companies have secured their first ESA contract to develop commercial products in a range of technologies including advanced materials, optoelectronics, software and bio-diagnostics. For example, we have seen strong growth in involvement by highly innovative start-up companies such as Treemetrics, Radisens Diagnostics, National Space Centre Ltd and Techworks Marine”.
“In addition to the industrial involvement, a growing number of 3rd level based research teams are actively involved in space research activities including in advanced materials, biomedical research and astrophysics”. Minister Sherlock added.
Commenting on the recent increased involvement by Irish industry in ESA
programmes, Jean-Jacques Dordain, ESA’s Director General said that, “Irish
companies are gaining increased recognition for their technical competence and innovation, in particular in the fields of electronics, optoelectronics software and materials, areas of expertise in which ESA will continue to have a great demand. He
added that, “Space is playing an increasingly pivotal role in society and
economic development. As new fields of space applications emerge additional opportunities for innovative Irish companies will arise.”
Concluding, Minister Sherlock acknowledged the continued positive role and support of the European Space Agency as Ireland develops entrepreneurship and innovation and pushes the boundaries of what it is possible for society to achieve from investment in space for the benefit of all.
Note for information of Editors
Ireland has been a long-standing member of the European Space Agency since 1975 and this has provided an effective means for Irish companies, including SMEs, and the research community to develop opportunities both in space related sectors and other markets. ESA is an intergovernmental organisation that promotes co-operation among European States in space research and technology and their space applications for scientific purposes and for operational space application systems. ESA is Europe’s gateway to space.
During the ESA Ministerial Conference Ministers agreed measures to: direct the European space effort towards growth and competitiveness, maximise value and efficiency and strengthen a rapidly evolving European space sector. The Ministers focused on making strategic investments in pushing the frontiers of knowledge, supporting an innovative and competitive Europe and on enabling services that maximise the benefits of space to society and the wider European Economy.
A growing number of Irish companies are developing products in the commercial space market and transferring technical expertise and capability acquired into a range of other market opportunities, such as medical instrumentation, telecommunications, energy and the wider aerospace market. Irish companies association with ESA and its Research & Development facilities has been an essential element of these companies’ strategies to access new markets in Europe, US and Asia.
Significant investment in ESA Space Programmes has enabled Irish companies, of all sizes, to develop advanced technologies in industrial engineering, meet rigorous quality and reliability demands of space systems engineering, and to become significant and trusted partners in European and global endeavours in space.
The State will invest over €17 million* per annum in the coming years in ESA Space programmes in a strategy that prioritises Ireland’s investment in those ESA programmes which support technology innovation and technology transfer that leads to export, sales and employment generation by Irish industry.
Irish companies, with ESA support, are also developing commercial business opportunities, in using advanced satellite systems to develop innovative solutions for a range of applications including, fisheries protection, coastal pollution monitoring, forestry management, maritime surveillance and detection of illegal land fill sites.
Ireland is witnessing strong, sustainable and rapid growth as a result of continued Government investment in ESA. Irish companies have and will continue to translate the technical skills, reputation and networks, developed over continuous cooperative work with ESA, into increased export sales, growth and employment. Total sales in this sector are projected to more than double in value from €35 million in 2011 to over €75 million by 2015.
Investment in space programmes and associated support to Irish industry yields an economic dividend many times greater than the initial State investment. Analysis of the return on State investment in ESA shows that the multiplier effect on ESA derived turnover (including direct ESA contracts) to be 3.63 in the period 2006 to 2011 and that an acceleration in the multiplier can be projected over time.
* State investment in ESA is subject to approval of the Oireachtas in the context of the annual budgetary process.
For further information on participation in ESA programmes by Irish industry and research community see: http://www.enterprise-ireland.com/ereader/sector/esa/ <http://www.enterprise-ireland.com/ereader/sector/esa/>