Minister Sherlock Announces Significant European Space Agency Contract for Irish SME

TechWorks Marine to Lead European Research Project to Monitor Coastal Zones

Minister of State for Research and Innovation, Mr Sean Sherlock TD, today (Thursday 4 October 2012) announced that TechWorks Marine, an Irish SME based in Dun Laoghaire, has secured a contract to lead a European Space Agency (ESA) research project on monitoring coastal outlets.  

Pictured were Mark Doherty from the European Space Agency, Seán Sherlock T.D., Minister for Research & Innovation, Charlotte O’Kelly, Managing Director of TechWorks Marine and Dr. Barry Fennell, Enterprise Ireland.
Pictured were Mark Doherty from the European Space Agency, Seán Sherlock T.D., Minister for Research & Innovation, Charlotte O’Kelly, Managing Director of TechWorks Marine and Dr. Barry Fennell, Enterprise Ireland.

This is the first time an ESA Earth Observation project has been led by an Irish group and is the culmination of four years’ work by TechWorks Marine. The project was secured with support from Enterprise Ireland which is the co-ordinating body for the ESA in Ireland.     

Welcoming the announcement, Seán Sherlock T.D., Minister for Research & Innovation said:

“Driving increased research and innovation in Irish companies is an absolute priority for this Government.  The Action Plan for Jobs 2012 puts innovation and technology at the heart of enterprise and jobs policies and working with the European Space Agency is an integral part of driving innovation and research in Ireland.

“TechWorks Marine is a highly innovative company and their commitment to developing new environmental monitoring techniques is impressive.  This is a significant win for TechWorks Marine and clearly indicates that Irish SME’s have the capability and expertise to lead projects in this highly competitive sector.” 

TechWorks Marine specialises in the development of real-time marine data platforms.  These are used by Governments and businesses to manage the oceans surrounding their countries and business operations. 

This new ESA project involves TechWorks Marine developing a set of satellite earth observation products* for developers and operators of waste water treatment plants and desalination plants to help ensure that environmental impacts are kept at a minimum.  This new ESA project is specifically working on the coastal effect of waste water treatment plants in Ireland, notably in Donegal Bay. 

Charlotte O’Kelly, Managing Director of TechWorks Marine explained:

“The coastal zone is a notoriously complex area to monitor from space due to its proximity to land and also sensor pixel resolution of the images.  However, improvements in sensor technology, mean it is now possible to develop Earth Observation products specifically aimed at areas of coastal activity. These products can be used to analyse the effect of waste water treatment plant outfalls in the coastal environment, or ensure that water close to the intakes of desalination plants does not have harmful algal blooms which could be a health hazard to humans.

“We have been developing the relationship with ESA for the last four years with the help of Enterprise Ireland, which has resulted in this first significant announcement.  In terms of our company growth, this contract has enabled us to recruit new staff with specific Earth Observation expertise and we plan to further grow this team in the coming months. 

“This project also importantly is enabling us to develop a close working relationship with multinationals such as the Veolia group, who manage the three waste-water plants in Donegal, to help them develop products they require for their operations both here and globally.”

*Earth observation is the gathering of information about planet Earth’s physical, chemical and biological systems from satellites orbiting the earth.

Ireland’s membership of ESA is funded by the Irish Government and is managed by Enterprise Ireland. Membership of ESA enables Irish companies’ and research institutes to participate in ESA programmes and secure valuable contracts for technology developments that can be commercially exploited.   Enterprise Ireland’s role is to assist Irish entities to successfully bid for ESA contracts and help them exploit their technologies in the commercial space and non-space markets.  

Dr Barry Fennell, Enterprise Ireland commented:
“Over 80 Irish companies have secured ESA contracts worth in excess of €80M since 2002.  Ireland is currently developing significant expertise in using data collected by satellites orbiting the earth to understand climate change, detection of illegal waste dump sites, prediction of volcanic ash clouds and tracking of vessels to assist in drug interdiction.  An increasing number of Enterprise Ireland clients are now using this data to develop new information services across international markets targeting end-user organisations such as national Coast Guards, Naval Services and Environmental Protection Agencies.

TechWorks Marine’s appointment as coordinator of this latest project, awarded by ESRIN (ESA’s Earth Observation Facility outside Rome), will significantly enhance Ireland’s international standing and reputation within the wider ESA community and beyond.”  


For further information, please contact:

Charlotte O’Kelly
TechWorks Marine
Tel: +353 1 2365990

Ciara Clogher
Enterprise Ireland
Tel. +353 1 7272725

Press Office
Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation
Tel. +353 1 6312200

TechWorks Marine Ltd.

TechWorks Marine was formed in 2002 by Charlotte O’Kelly and Philip Trickett and has been expanding ever since, providing essential services to a broad range of clients within the marine industry, notably in Marine Renewables, Engineering and Statutory Monitoring.

TechWorks Marine specialise in the provision of integrated real-time monitoring platforms based around our range of TechWorks Marine Black Box (TMBB) data acquisition and transmission systems. This fully customizable system has proven its reliability time and time again during deployments in both Ireland and overseas, on key infrastructure projects such as the SmartBay Buoys in Ireland.

Since 2008, TechWorks Marine has been working with the European Space Agency developing value added Earth Observation products for a range of clients, using live in-situ data for validation notably in the area of Jellyfish forecasting and storm surges.

Ireland’s Membership of the European Space Agency

Ireland has been a long-standing participant in European space programmes, particularly through membership of the European Space Agency (ESA), and this has provided an effective means for Irish companies, many of them SME’s, to develop new opportunities both in space-related areas and other markets. 

Ireland became a member of the European Space Agency in 1975. The purpose of Ireland’s membership of ESA is to participate in European space programmes with a focus on facilitating innovative Irish companies to develop leading edge space technologies and to commercially exploit their ESA participation in global space and non-space markets, leading to increased export sales and employment.

Irish industrial and research participation in ESA covers a range of sectors and technology areas including; software, precision mechanical engineering, telecommunications, electronics, optoelectronics and advanced materials and extending to end user equipment, services and applications.

Enterprise Ireland co-ordinates Ireland’s industrial and research participation in the programmes of the European Space Agency (ESA) in collaboration with the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation.

Enterprise Ireland’s role in relation to ESA is to assist Irish companies to successfully bid for ESA contracts, providing expertise for Irish companies and researchers in developing and executing space strategies, as well as being a point of reference for the international space industry when they want to identify relevant sources of space-related expertise within Ireland.