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European Space Agency Applauds Irish Marine Innovations

Enterprise Ireland helping Irish Industry, SMEs and Research Institutes to secure €10 Million Per Annum in European Space Agency Funding

Irish companies and researchers have distinguished themselves in European Space Agency (ESA) programmes by developing innovative maritime services using satellite derived data in areas as diverse as marine renewables, fisheries protection, aquaculture and tourism. That’s according to Dr Volker Liebig, ESA Director of Earth Observation Programmes.

Dr Liebig is a key note speaker at the “Space Innovation - Powering Blue Growth” conference which is taking place in the National Maritime College of Ireland, Cork today and tomorrow - 18 & 19 April. 

Seas, oceans and coasts constitute a rich and often underestimated resource. Increasingly these resources are becoming key drivers of innovation, growth and employment and also provide invaluable ecosystem services and contribute to numerous socio-economic activities. This conference will see 120 experts and specialists from across Europe gather in Cork to discuss how space technologies can contribute to increasing the maritime sectors contribution to Europe’s economic growth and recovery. 

The conference will focus on taking stock of the contribution of Space to maritime policy implementation; investigate how new scientific results and innovative services, can assist in achieving targets of the Integrated Maritime Policy (IMP) and assess how the European Space Agency (ESA) space development activities and the IMP can contribute to economic growth in Europe.

At his opening address to the conference this morning Minister for Research and Innovation, Sean Sherlock, said “There are over 40 Irish companies currently engaged in ESA programmes many of which are directly addressing global challenges such as climate change, sea-level rise, maritime surveillance and marine environmental monitoring. This is a growing industry and one which will guarantee high-quality jobs for Irish people and benefit our economy into the future”.

Minister Sherlock continued “the Government’s priority is to invest in those ESA programmes that best serve our national strategy.  Ireland is investing over €17 million per annum in ESA Space programmes and exports are projected to increase to over €56 million by 2015 with employment projected to rise to over 2,000 in the same period.  Clearly the Space sector is playing its role in Ireland’s economic recovery.

Driving increased research and innovation in Irish companies is an absolute priority for this Government and is at the heart of enterprise and jobs policies.  Ireland’s investment in ESA ensures that Irish companies develop technology innovation leading to export sales and increased employment,”
the Minister added.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney, TD, who will close the two day conference, commented that “increasing maritime situational and domain awareness is paramount in promoting a more inclusive approach to maritime development amongst all actors – in EU and EEA there are over 400 competent national authorities involved in safety, security and environmental protection – space based systems are a key component of an integrated and sophisticated surveillance network .”

Outlining the potential role of space-based systems in seizing future economic opportunities in the Maritime sector, Dr. Liebig remarked “Data from satellites help identify how our oceans are used and there is a very strong demand from the marine community and operational agencies for this type of information. For example, oil spills and pollution know no borders, use of and access to shipping routes is becoming increasingly complex, and illegal activities require robust maritime surveillance capabilities.” In outlining opportunities for Ireland in particular, Dr. Liebig points to Ireland’s extensive maritime area, which makes it one of the EU’s largest member states – “This national asset is a largely untapped source of many new business opportunities for especially for Irish SMEs.



Published: 18th April 2013

For further information please contact:

Ciara Clogher, Communications, Research & Innovation Enterprise Ireland, e: t: +353 1 7272725 m: +353 86 0759268

Caroline Ryan, Press Office, Irish Coast Guard, e: t: +353 1 6041087

Tom McCarthy, Press Office, University College Cork, e: t: +353 21 4902371


The Conference:
The conference is an associated event of the Irish Presidency of the Council of the EU and is jointly organised by the European Space Agency (ESA), the European Commission (DG Maritime Affairs), Enterprise Ireland, University College Cork’s Coastal and Marine Research Centre, the Irish Coast Guard and the Irish Naval Service.


  • To take stock of the contribution of Space within Maritime policy implementation.
  • To investigate how new scientific results and innovative services, notably deriving from ESA’s Earth Observation Programmes and future EU Research Programme (Horizon 2020) can assist in achieving targets of the IMP.
  • To assess how ESA space development activities and the industrial policy elements of the IMP can contribute coherently to expand the national economies in Europe over the next 2-3 years.

European Space Agency
The European Space Agency (ESA) is Europe’s gateway to space. ESA is an intergovernmental organisation created in 1975, with the mission to shape the development of Europe’s space capability and ensure that investment in space delivers benefits to the citizens of Europe and the world.

Ireland is one of 20 Member States of ESA, by co-ordinating the financial and intellectual resources of its members, ESA can undertake programmes and activities far beyond the scope of any single European country.

Ireland’s Membership of the European Space Agency
Ireland has been a long-standing participant in space programmes, particularly through membership of 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’s investment in ESA is funded by the Department of Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation Irish Government and is co-ordinated by Enterprise Ireland. This investment enables Irish companies and research institutes to participate in ESA programmes and secure valuable contracts for technology developments that can be commercially exploited.

Currently, over 40 Irish companies are working with ESA, generating contracts in excess of €10M pa. The level of spin-off export sales from Irish investment in ESA is estimated at €35M per annum and is projected to grow substantially as the number of Irish companies securing ESA contracts continues to expand.

The State is investing over €17 million per annum in ESA Space programmes over 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.  Clearly the Space sector is playing a very important role in Ireland’s economic recovery.

The Government’s priority 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.