Irish companies racked up €11.5m in ESA contracts last year

17 Jun 2021

Rhona Togher, CEO of Lios; Minister Damien English, TD; Eimear O’Carroll, CTO of Lios; and Tom Kelly of Enterprise Ireland. Image: Maxwells Photography

Companies are working with the European Space Agency on tech for space flight, Earth observation and tools to address Covid-19.

Irish companies secured contracts with the European Space Agency (ESA) to the tune of €11.5m last year.

According to figures from Enterprise Ireland, 28 Irish companies secured ESA contracts in 2020, with 13 of those being first-time contracts.

A further €1.5m worth of ESA contracts were won by 10 universities and research institutes in Ireland.

2020 was a particularly busy year as companies sought ways to tackle the Covid-19 and climate crises using technology and data from ESA satellites and other infrastructure.

‘Irish industry is successfully developing an increasing presence in the international space sector’

The ESA launched the ‘Space in response to Covid-19 outbreak’ initiative in April of last year and three Irish companies have taken part.

Dublin’s Skytek developed a platform called React 2, which aimed to provide hospitals, ambulance services and other healthcare providers with data on local Covid-19 outbreaks. Cork’s PMD Solutions built Corona-RS for remote monitoring of respiratory-compromised patients.

BlueBridge Technologies, another Dublin company, worked with US-based Actuate Technologies to develop Respr, a hand-held device that monitors the spread of Covid-19 using real-time satellite data.

Elsewhere, Irish tech companies have worked with the ESA on various other research projects and initiatives that include space transport, human space flight and Earth observation.

One such company is Galway’s Mbryonics, which is developing optical systems for advanced sensing imaging and data management. The technology can be applied to Earth observation.

Meanwhile, Dublin’s Lios is developing advanced acoustic material for space transportation vehicles for protection from noise damage.

“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,” Tom Kelly, divisional manager at Enterprise Ireland, said.

“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.”

This year so far has seen several Irish start-ups continue to land deals and partnerships with the ESA. Most recently, Nitrexo secured €500,000 in funding from the ESA for its AI software, while Cork’s Varadis signed a deal with the agency to design and build modules for satellites.

“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,” Minister of State for Business, Employment and Retail Damien English, TD, added.

Jonathan Keane is a freelance business and technology journalist based in Dublin