Irish space start-up Nitrexo wins €500,000 in ESA funding

21 Apr 2021

Yannick Melameka, Nitrexo CEO. Image: Nitrexo

Nitrexo is developing an AI smart software robot that will initially act as a ‘study buddy’ for space engineering students at four European universities.

A new AI robot designed by Irish space start-up Nitrexo has received €500,000 in funding from the European Space Agency (ESA).

Nitrexo, which specialises in engineering products and services for the space industry, developed its Digital Engineer in response to an ESA call for Covid-related projects.

The smart software robot is designed for distributed learning and working environments, and uses AI to offer engineers support and guidance when performing analytical work and testing activities.

It aims to bridge the gap between engineering education and industry by providing both students and professionals with a ‘study buddy’ and an AI assistant.

Nitrexo CEO Yannick Melameka said the last year has changed not only how and where we work, but also how and where we learn.

“Students in the space industry can use Digital Engineer to consult an expert engineering knowledge base in seconds via the AI chatbot and smart speaker,” he said.

“Both students and professionals can ask Digital Engineer to execute standard tasks for them, and they can also teach the Digital Engineer new skills, so the AI becomes smarter and faster for each project iteration. It’s like having a lab partner, tutor and study buddy for engineers all in one.”

The space start-up is based at the National Space Centre (NSC) campus in Cork, which is home to more than a dozen Irish space start-ups and EU-headquartered space enterprises.

For the Digital Engineer project, Nitrexo is leading a consortium with NSC and German software company L-One Systems to develop and deliver the smart robot to market over the next nine months.

It is currently beginning trials at four universities across Ireland, Belgium, Spain and the UK. It will be initially offered to colleges and universities and will act as a ‘study buddy’ for space engineering students. Nitrexo is currently scouting partners for the next phase of trials.

Bruce Hannah, CTO of NSC, said Digital Engineer has the potential to revolutionise the academic engineering environment.

“Partnering individual engineers with AI smartbots is the kind of innovation that multiplies human potential and allows democratisation of expertise,” he said.

Jenny Darmody is the editor of Silicon Republic