Space presents new frontiers to Irish industry – Minister Sherlock

“Future looks bright for Irish companies” – Franco Ongaro, European Space Agency

25 May, 2012: Irish companies have distinguished themselves in European Space Agency (ESA) programmes by developing innovative technologies capable of performing in the extreme environment of space.

That’s according to Dr. Franco Ongaro, director of technical and quality management at ESA and head of the European Space Research and Technology Centre in Noordwijk, Holland.  

Dr. Ongaro is the guest speaker at Enterprise Ireland’s forum on the benefits of Irish membership of ESA which is taking place in CIT Blackrock Castle Observatory, Cork today (25 May, 2012).

Sean Sherlock T.D. Minister for Research and Innovation launched a report on the impact of Irish research and innovation in Space technologies titled “Ireland’s Space Endeavours’ at the forum. Published by Enterprise Ireland it features 19 case studies on companies that have successfully engaged in European Space Agency programmes.

Speaking to the companies and researchers who are at the forefront of Ireland’s space endeavours, Minister Sherlock said "the overall objective of the Government’s Action Plan for Jobs is to get the Irish economy back on the right path to sustainable, export-driven, innovative and enterprise-led growth. Ireland’s participation in the ESA space programmes can be seen in the context of an ongoing industrial stimulus and has provided an effective means for Irish researchers and companies, many of them SMEs, to develop new opportunities in space related and other markets.”

Minister Sherlock said that engaging with ESA has provided Irish companies with very real commercial benefits.  “The most recent figures show that the level of spin-off export sales* from Irish investment in ESA was €35million per annum and is projected to grow substantially as the number of Irish companies securing ESA contracts continues to expand” he said.

Ireland’s membership of ESA is funded by the Irish Government and is managed by Enterprise Ireland. Membership of ESA enables Irish research institutes and companies to participate in ESA programmes and secure valuable contracts for technology developments that can be commercially exploited

ESA is Europe’s gateway to space and Enterprise Ireland manages Irish participation in ESA programmes. Tony McDonald, Enterprise Ireland said, “Over the past 10 years, 80 Irish companies have secured contracts with ESA that have exceeded €80M in value. But the real value has been created through the application of space technologies to non-space markets. This ability to innovate and convert technologies to terrestrial applications such as healthcare, emergency response, and environmental monitoring is where Irish companies excel”.

One example of the industrial benefit of Ireland’s contribution to ESA is the role of an Irish company in today’s planned docking of the first ever commercial flight to the International Space Station.   SpaceX launched its Dragon spacecraft aboard its Falcon 9 rocket from their Cape Canaveral launch site on Tuesday morning and at lunchtime today the European astronaut André Kuipers will use the International Space Station’s robotic arm to guide this first commercial cargo ship to berth at the station with millimetre precision while travelling at 25,000 km/h around the Earth.  The equipment used to monitor the systems and performance on board the Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 launcher during this historic mission were developed and supplied by the Dublin based Curtiss Wright Controls Avionics & Electronics. The specialised data handling electronics were developed and characterised for use in space with the assistance of Irish ESA funding through Enterprise Ireland and are being exported for use in many other European and US space missions.

Outlining future opportunities for Irish companies in the space industry Dr. Ongaro said, “Irish companies have distinguished themselves, particularly in the fields of electronics, software, materials and propulsion,” adding that the areas where Irish companies are active right now are those which are likely to continue to grow.

Mr Ongaro sees Irish companies playing a key role in the space agency’s busy schedule ahead – including rolling out the Galileo satellite navigation system, supplying human spaceflight missions and a range of telecommunication and science missions.

“Space has been growing very rapidly in the past few years and it is really becoming part of every citizen’s daily life. I'm sure that Ireland will be more and more involved due to the innovation and competence of its companies. There are certainly new and more important fields of space applications that we can expect Irish companies to contribute to,” he concluded.


*sales resulting from products developed with ESA support in both commercial space and non space markets.


Contact/more information

Grace Labanyi
Communications Officer
Enterprise Ireland
Tel. +353 87 3286404

Bryan Rodgers
Enterprise Ireland
Tel. +353877521550


Additional information

‘Ireland’s Space Endeavours’ is an Enterprise Ireland report on the impact of Irish research and innovation in Space technologies. It features 19 case studies on companies that have successfully engaged in European Space Agency programmes. Examples of the stories included in this publication include;

TechWorks Marine – a Dublin based company that uses the Earth Observation Data to forecast jellyfish blooms which have significant impacts on tourism and fishery industries.

TreeMetrics – a Cork company that won a ESA contract to develop software that will give the GPS position of every tree being harvested. It has economic and environmental benefits as well as saving forestry companies money, it means that trees that are too small for harvesting will now be left behind by the cutting machines to grow whereas before this software, which enables the measurement of each tree, these saplings were cut down and wasted.

Skytek – a Dublin-based company that developed software for use onboard the International Space Station. Since then they have applied this space technology to terrestrial applications and are currently involved with the Dublin Fire service and the Irish Navy in developing security and crisis management systems.

Radisens Diagnostics – a Cork company located in the Enterprise Ireland-funded incubator at CIT, they developed a point-of-care blood testing device initially for use on the International Space Station but are now working on developing the device for use in GPs surgeries. The key advantage of the device is that GPs will be able to test for a range of ailments from prostate cancer to diabetes without having to send the bloods off to a lab, saving time, money and stress for the patient.

ÉireComposites – a Connemara company that is involved in the Future Launchers Preparatory Programme, developing the next generation of European launchers. Company credits its expansion from 7 employees to 50 to their winning of ESA contracts.