ESA launch pad for Irish space start-ups unveiled at Tyndall

7 Sep 2016

An Atlas V rocket launches with the Juno spacecraft payload from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Friday, August 5, 2011. Image via NASA/Bill Ingalls

Irish space start-ups now have a new launch pad, with news that the Tyndall National Institute in Cork is to be the site of a European Space Agency (ESA) Space Solutions Centre providing funding to start-ups with big ideas.

While Ireland might be one of the smallest members of the ESA community, it has managed to surpass expectations on a number of occasions by providing valuable technology for projects like the International Space Station (ISS).

Now, the next generation of Irish space start-ups is being offered the chance to take their concepts from the stratosphere and into outer space with the opening of a new ESA Space Solutions Centre in Cork.

Funds both start-ups and established companies

Based in the Tyndall National Institute on the campus of University College Cork (UCC), the centre will be jointly financed by the ESA and Enterprise Ireland to fund the best and brightest space concepts in the country.

This new Irish centre marks the 14th ESA Business Incubation Centre (BIC) in Europe and is also partnered with Athlone Institute of Technology, Maynooth University, and the Irish Maritime and Energy Research Cluster.

While space start-ups are one of the main focuses of the centre, it is also being set up to support established companies with two funding streams.

25 start-ups that apply and are chosen to join the centre will receive €50,000 in seed funding, along with expert technical assistance and opportunities to access other funding mechanisms.


ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano using MobiPV hardware developed by the Irish space company Skytek. Image via NASA

‘Think enterprise, rather than the Starship Enterprise

Additionally, the centre will offer 10 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.

The Minister for Training, Skills and Innovation, John Halligan, TD, has said that the Irish space sector is set to grow substantially in the coming years to more than 80 companies in 2020, generating €150m in annual revenues.

The manager of the Irish ESA centre, David Gibbons, has stressed, however, that the sky is not the limit, as funding is not restricted to companies developing products for use in space.

“This is an open call for companies and entrepreneurs to start talking to us, even if they are not sure whether they fit,” Gibbons said.

“So much technology that we use every day originally came from space programmes. People get hung up on the idea of technology that will be used on satellites or spacecraft, 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.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic