SEVILLE, Spain (Irish Government PR) — Minister of State for Training, Skills, Innovation, Research and Development, John Halligan, T.D., along with Ministers with responsibility for space within the 22 European Space Agency (ESA) Member States and Canada, gathered in Seville, Spain to attend ESA’s Ministerial Council meeting, Space19+. The key purpose of the Ministerial meeting is to determine future ESA policies and strategies and to take decisions on Member States’ investment in future space programmes.
During Space19+, Minister Halligan confirmed Ireland’s investment in a number of ESA’s Optional Programmes. Ireland’s investment decisions at Space19+ have been guided by the National Space Strategy for Enterprise 2019-2025, published earlier this year. The national strategy aims to develop a strong and economically sustainable space-active industry in Ireland.
In line with the strategy, Ireland has invested in Optional Programmes which will generate commercially sustainable business opportunities, especially in the emerging Space 4.0 market and in technology transfer, which can support companies to expand into multiple market verticals.
The space programmes that Ireland invested in at Space19+ include PRODEX, Exploration, Earth Observation, Navigation, Telecommunications and Integrated Applications, Technology and Space Transportation.
Minister Halligan also confirmed Ireland’s investment in ESA’s Mandatory Programmes for the coming years. ESA’s Mandatory Programmes, comprised of ESA’s Scientific Programme and the ESA General Budget, underpin the work and capabilities of the agency.
Speaking at the ESA Ministerial meeting in Seville, Minister Halligan said “This Ministerial Council meeting is very timely for Ireland. Earlier this year I published Ireland’s first National Space Strategy for Enterprise, which sets out the framework for investment and growth between now and 2025”
The Minister continued “Ireland’s investment in ESA will be guided by the priorities identified in the strategy and I am delighted to announce that Ireland’s level of investment in new Optional Programmes at Space19+ is a significant increase when compared to the last Ministerial Council meeting held in 2016.
We hope to see Ireland’s overall investment in space increase above and beyond this level in the coming years through industry co-funding, which is supported through a number of ESA programmes Ireland will be investing in”.
Minister Halligan also said, “Ireland’s investment will focus on programmes that enable Irish companies to become actively engaged in technology transfer, which will support long-term quality employment by providing leading-edge solutions for both the space and complementary markets, thus supporting several of the aims of Future Jobs Ireland, including embracing innovation and technological change, enhancing skills and transitioning to a low-carbon economy”.
Minister Halligan added that he was particularly happy that Ireland is joining ESA’s Climate Change Initiative, in addition to the Global Development Assistance Programme, which will use Earth observation data to assist developing countries in areas such as food security and mitigation of the effects of natural disasters.
Tom Kelly, Divisional Manager, Enterprise Ireland, welcomed the additional investment in ESA supporting increased innovation in Irish industry, technology transfer and developing supply chain opportunities for Irish industry in the global space sector, with a strong focus on SMEs and start-up companies.
The commercial space industry has been estimated to grow to approximately €2.3 trillion [$2.5 trillion] by 2030. Ireland’s versatile and adaptive space-active industry is ideally placed to gain a significant share of this growing market and is already rapidly expanding into it. The number of Irish companies engaged with ESA contracts has grown from 45 in 2014 to 70 in 2019. This is an increase of over 55% in 5 years.
Ireland invested over €100 million [$110.2 million] to 2024 in strategic ESA space programmes which will put innovative Irish companies and researchers in a position to further seize the opportunities presented by the growing global space economy.
The Government’s investment in ESA forms part of a wider strategy for Irish industry and research facilities to access opportunities to develop space capabilities under Horizon 2020 and other R&D programmes of the European Union.