Lift-off for European Space Agency Space Solutions Centre Ireland
ESA partners with Ireland to boost the use of space technology for down-to-earth applications
CORK, Ireland, 7 September– Irish start-ups that use space technology in both terrestrial and space exploration contexts are being invited to apply to the new ESA Space Solutions Centre Ireland for funding and support.
Speaking at the launch of the centre, Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Mary Mitchell O’Connor TD said “I am delighted to launch the ESA Space Solutions Centre Ireland. The centre will give Irish entrepreneurs and start-ups a unique opportunity to access the funding, expertise and networks they need to grow their businesses and create jobs. We are proud of the fact that four of the country’s leading science and technology institutions are at the forefront of such an innovative and exciting initiative. With the support of the European Space Agency, Enterprise Ireland and the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Ireland can look forward to the rapid expansion of the Irish space sector in the coming years.”
The centre, is led by Tyndall National Institute in Cork in partnership with Athlone Institute of Technology, Maynooth University, and Irish Maritime and Energy Research Cluster. Funded by the European Space Agency and Enterprise Ireland, it aims to support the application of technologies developed for space to solve challenges on Earth and beyond. The centre is one of fourteen ESA BICs (ESA Business Incubation Centre) in Europe, which work to inspire entrepreneurs to turn space-connected business ideas into commercial companies.
The centre has two strands, providing enticing opportunities for both new and established companies. Each of the 25 start-ups that successfully apply will receive €50,000 in seed funding, along with expert technical assistance and opportunities to access other funding mechanisms. The centre will also offer ten rounds of €40,000 funding to support technology transfer for established companies that want to develop demonstrators for new products and services using space technology. Companies can work from any of the four host institutions.
“Minister for Training, Skills and Innovation John Halligan T.D. said Ireland’s ESA BIC will have a significant impact on job creation and the Irish business landscape. The number of companies in the space sector in Ireland is expected to expand from 50 to over 80 by 2020, generating annual revenues that are predicted to grow from €76 million in 2015 to over €150 million by 2020.
David Gibbons, Manager of ESA Space Solutions Centre Ireland, emphasises that companies do not necessarily have to develop products for use in space. “SubTeraNDT, an Irish company that has already been through an ESA BIC programme in the United Kingdom, uses sub-terahertz frequencies originally developed for space applications to detect corrosion and defects under layers of paint, insulation, and coatings. This has particular applications in the oil and gas industries. ENBIO, is an example of a company that has benefited hugely from ESA in the development of space and non-space related products. It has used coating materials originally developed for use in artificial hip joints to create ‘sunscreen for satellites’ to protect them from solar radiation. This has since led to other terrestrial uses, including non-stick moulds for tyre-making and ways to cool electronics.
“This is an open call for companies and entrepreneurs to start talking to us, even if they are not sure whether they fit,” says Gibbons. “So much technology that we use every day originally came from space programs. People get hung up on the idea of technology that will be used on satellites or space-craft , but this is about applying space technology more broadly to create good products, good companies and more jobs. Think enterprise, rather than the Starship Enterprise.”
“Companies that successfully apply for the incubation programme will remain in the Centre for two years, and after that would be expected to gain High Potential Start-Up (HPSU) status,” explains Gibbons. “As well as the seed funding of €50,000 the companies will also gain access to a range of ESA space programmes and other funding mechanisms, and be able to take advantage of the brand value of ESA. Being part of the ESA family opens the door to a host of commercial opportunities and ESA resources such as the use of satellite data.”
Julie Sinnamon, Enterprise Ireland CEO, stated that Enterprise Ireland is delighted to be partner with the European Space Agency in supporting the development of high potential start up companies in this emerging sector, through the ESA Space Solutions Centre. Enterprise Ireland will bring its resources to the partnership to assist start- up companies in the development of new products for the global space market, supporting export sales and job creation, with a strong focus on regional entrepreneurship.
The centre will be officially launched on 7 September in Tyndall National Institute, University College Cork. Two related workshops will follow on 8 September, in the Irish Maritime and Energy Research Cluster, and on 9 September, Maynooth University. Interested companies are invited to apply as soon as possible, and more information about the application process is available from http://www.esaspacesolutions.ie