Enterprise Ireland reports record growth in the number of Irish companies engaging with the European Space Agency, particularly to help with issues such as climate change and Covid-19.

In 2020 the European Space Agency (ESA) placed contracts worth €11.5m with 28 Irish companies, according to Enterprise Ireland.

Among these were 13 Irish companies who secured their first ever contracts with the ESA.

“It is encouraging to see Irish companies use their technologies to assist in the fight against Covid-19”

It is understood that a further €1.5 million in ESA contracts was placed with 10 Irish universities and research institutes involved in a range of strategic research activities.

Ireland has been a member of the European Space Agency (ESA) since 1975. In that time, it has participated in a number of high-profile ESA missions supported by technologies developed by Irish industry and research communities.

Inspirational Irish businesses

In 2020, Irish companies became increasingly active in developing space-based solutions to address a range of global challenges, in particular the response to the Covid-19 crisis and climate change.

“In recent years, the scope of Irish involvement in space-related activities has increased substantially, with over 80 Irish companies and a growing number of research teams actively involved in space-related developments supported by ESA, and by Enterprise Ireland,” said Tom Kelly, divisional manager with Enterprise Ireland.

“It is very inspiring to see client companies at the forefront of this research and innovation. In particular, it is encouraging to see Irish companies use their technologies to assist in the fight against Covid-19.”

In response to the ESA announcement of Opportunity ‘Space in response to Covid-19 outbreak’ three Irish companies secured lead roles in developing solutions based on the use of satellite systems:

  • React 2, developed by Dublin based Skytek, a platform providing information on the current state of local Covid-19 outbreaks to hospitals, ambulance services, and many other healthcare providers, to help coordinate emergency responses
  • Corona-RS, a system for remote monitoring of respiratory compromised patients in the community due to Covid-19 and other respiratory illnesses, developed by Cork-based medical device company PMD Solutions.
  • The Respr device, developed by BlueBridge Technologies, based in Dublin, who in collaboration with American firm Actuate Technologies, have developed a hand-held device to monitor the spread of Covid-19 using real time satellite data to monitor the spread.

Other projects supported by the European Space Agency, in which Irish companies and researchers were involved ranged from ESA science missions, space transportation, human spaceflight and Earth observation.

These include:

  • Lios, a Dublin start-up that develops advanced acoustic material, Soundbounce, for use in the next generation of European space transportation vehicles. Lios’ technology, initially developed to protect people from avoidable earing damage, has been adapted to protect delicate payloads such as satellites from being damaged from too much noise and vibration during launch.
  • Mbryonics, a Galway-based optical communications and photonics company, develops optical systems technologies used for telecommunications, Earth observation and science missions to provide advanced sensing, imaging, positioning, data management and data transport capabilities for data-driven applications.

“Irish industry is successfully developing an increasing presence in the international space sector. Ireland’s membership of the ESA is at the root of this and is very much a springboard for innovation and development of advanced technologies,” said Minister of State for Business, Employment and Retail Damian English, TD.

“Significant new opportunities are emerging for enterprise to use satellite-derived data to develop high-value services which can support policy-making decisions, enterprise development and address global challenges, namely climate change and the Covid-19 emergency.”

Main image at top (from left): Eimear O’Carroll, co-founder and CTO of Lios; Tom Kelly, divisional manager at Enterprise Ireland; Rhona Togher, CEO of Lios; and  Minister of State for Business, Employment and Retail, Damien English, TD

By John Kennedy (john.kennedy3@boi.com)

Published: 18 June 2021