Scientists converge in Cork to discuss space and maritime sectors

18 Apr 2013

Dr Volker Liebig, director of the European Space Agency's earth observation programmes

The European Space Agency’s (ESA) director of earth observation programmes Dr Volker Liebig is one of the key speakers at a two-day conference that kicked off in Cork this morning to bring policy-makers and scientists together to discuss space technologies in Europe’s maritime sectors.

Speaking this morning, Liebig touched on how Irish researchers and companies are making their mark in ESA programmes to develop new maritime services using satellite-derived data in areas such as marine renewables, fisheries protection and aquaculture.

More than 120 experts, scientists and policy-makers from across Europe are in Cork for the two-day conference dubbed ‘Space Innovation – Powering Blue Growth’.

The goal of the event, which is taking place in the National Maritime College of Ireland, is to explore how space technologies in the maritime area can contribute to Europe’s economic growth and recovery. Organsiers of the event include the ESA and Enterprise Ireland.

Exploiting maritime resources

Outlining the opportunities for Ireland in particular, Liebig pointed to the island’s extensive maritime area in his keynote this morning.

“Data from satellites help identify how our oceans are used and there is a very strong demand from the marine community and operational agencies for this type of information,” he said.

Liebig gave the example of how oil spills and pollution know of no borders and how illegal activities require robust maritime surveillance capabilities.  

He said Ireland’s maritime assets could provide new business opportunities, especially for Irish SMEs.

Ireland’s Minister for Research and Innovation, Sean Sherlock, TD, told delegates that more than 40 Irish companies are currently engaged in ESA programmes to address challenges, such as marine environmental monitoring, climate change and rising sea levels.

“This is a growing industry and one which will guarantee high-quality jobs for Irish people and benefit our economy into the future,” said Sherlock.

Last November, the Irish Government announced that the State would invest more than €17m per year in ESA programmes.

Today, Sherlock projected that Irish exports in the space sector will rise to more than €56m by 2015. He said the sector could be employing 2,000 people by 2015 – an increase from 1,570 jobs in 2011.

Speakers at the conference over the next two days will also be exploring how space can contribute to maritime policy implementation and how the ESA’s space development activities can contribute to economic growth in Europe.

In 2007, the EU adopted an Integrated Maritime Policy, with the aim of enhancing the development of Europe’s maritime economy.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic