WIT and CIT researchers combine to help build ‘Irish space coast’

30 Oct 2020

The ‘Big Bertha’ telescope at Blackrock Observatory, Co Cork. Image: CIT

Researchers from WIT and CIT are aiming to forge stronger links with ESA and NASA with the creation of a ‘space region’.

A new partnership has been formed with the aim of tapping into a global space industry that could be worth an estimated $1trn by 2040. The Society, Economy and Environment (SEE) Space network comprises research teams from Waterford IT (WIT) and Cork IT (CIT).

It aims to build links to international space organisations, such as the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA. Headed up by Dr Niall Smith in Cork and Dr Mark White in Waterford, the network will look to use space to solve problems that are relevant to the region and the country.

This will culminate with the building of an Irish ‘space coast’ and attracting inward investment from national and international sources. The SEE Space Network will span over three years and will focus on education and research in quantum communications, cybersecurity and Earth observation with a particular interest in low-Earth orbit satellites.

With two co-funded PhDs already formed under the partnership, both WIT and CIT aim to co-fund more PhDs and investigate options for applications to existing scholarship programmes, including internal competitive scholarship programmes.

Inspiring future scientists

“Working together, we will use space to solve problems that are relevant to us in our region and nationally, building the Irish space coast and attracting inward investment from national and international sources,” said CIT president, Dr Barry O’Connor.

“On our journey, we will engage with leaders in their respective domains and help them to see space as an opportunity to grow their businesses. We will work with communities to see how best to use space to solve their issues, to increase their sustainability and improve their competitiveness. We will work to inspire the next generations of scientists and engineers.”

WIT president, Prof Willie Donnelly, stressed the partnership’s efforts to target low-Earth orbit satellite research.

“Low-orbital operations are rapidly becoming the new business frontier and WIT and CIT want to be at the forefront of all developments,” he said.

“Breaking ground in this domain will serve both WIT and CIT extremely well as we both separately mature into our respective technological universities.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic