New strategy aims to double employment in space-related technology

Sector worth €500 million a year to get bigger as new opportunities arise

Ireland’s first space strategy  aims to double  space-related revenue and employment in space-active Irish companies and to support 100 companies to benefit from ESA engagement. Photograph: Nasa/New York Times

Ireland’s first space strategy aims to double space-related revenue and employment in space-active Irish companies and to support 100 companies to benefit from ESA engagement. Photograph: Nasa/New York Times

 

Ireland gets between four and eight euros back for every euro it puts into the European Space Agency (ESA), junior minister John Halligan has claimed.

Mr Halligan, the Minister of State for training and skills, anticipates that space-related research and development will generate €500 million next year with 5,000 people employed in companies involved in satellite navigation technology.

He said revenues and numbers employed in the sector have doubled in the last six years.

Mr Halligan has launched Ireland’s first space strategy which will cover the years 2019 to 2025.

The strategy aims to double again the space-related revenue and employment in space-active Irish companies and to support 100 companies to benefit from ESA engagement.

The Government also wants to double the value of contracts won through the EU Horizon programmes in space-related activities.

Ireland was one of the founder members of the European Space Agency in 1975. The State contributes €17.5 million a year to the agency which has a budget of almost €6 billion.

Mr Halligan described it as a “great story for Ireland”. Among the Irish companies which have benefited from being involved in the agency is Curtiss Wright based in Clonskeagh which has won international contracts to develop avionics for launch vehicles.

Mr Halligan told RTÉ Radio 1’s Today with Sean O’Rourke programme: “The issue here is if you can get your technology into space and if you can beat competitors around the world, what can you do on earth?

“And in communications, human medicine, energy and so on, all of our companies are leading companies. Enbio (based in Glasnevin) are developing testing coating materials for commercial satellites, but that technology can also go into automation and cars.”

He affirmed that most of the jobs created in the sector are high end ones including PhD students.

Mr Halligan has long had an interest in the possibility of extraterrestrial life and send out alien-themed Christmas cards for several years in a row.

When asked if he believed there were alien beings elsewhere in the universe, he responded: “There’s a 100 billion stars, 500 billion planets. It would be naive to think that at least on some of those planets there would be life. It is not likely to happen in our lifetime, but it is nice to look up and think we’re not alone.”

He said he has spoken with NASA scientists and scientists from the European Space Agency and met scientists from the Chinese Space Agency.

“They all acknowledged, sooner or later, they’ll find some form of life, it may be bacteria, it might be 50 years away. Look at the universe, at the billions of suns and planets, there must be life on them.”