Space incubator will let Irish start-ups reach for the stars

6 Jan 2016

Enterprise Ireland has reached an agreement with the European Space Agency (ESA) to set up an incubator in Ireland for start-ups dealing with space.

Aiming to attract, and further, 25 start-ups in Ireland over the next five years, the new Space Business Incubation Centre in Ireland (ESA BIC Ireland) comes at a time of great excitement for the industry.

Last year, Prof Susan McKenna-Lawlor – who has been involved with missions launched by the five main space agencies – announced at Inspirefest that Ireland was planning for its first ever space mission, ultimately named Cumar.

ESA’s own activities in 2015, too – most notably the Rosetta rocket, it’s pet scientist Philae and an unsuspecting comet 67P – have increased interest in the skies above.

Indeed, Irish involvement with ESA (and Rosetta) has been quite significant in recent years, with agency member Laurence O’Rourke sitting down with to talk to us about it last autumn.

The time is right

And now, after a meeting in Europe headed by Taoiseach Enda Kenny, an incubator is in place to capture the next wave of space superstars.

There are more than 45 Irish companies working with ESA already, growing by around five a year, with Irish investment in the agency already providing dividends. According to Enterprise Ireland, this resulted in the generation of €76m last year, with 600 jobs supported by the industry in Ireland.

Julie Sinnamon, CEO of Enterprise Ireland, feels this can “foster increased innovation” across the research realm, with areas like advanced materials, micro-electronics and avionics set to prosper.

“Ireland already has a proud record of building up a cluster of space technology companies,” said Kenny, who hopes this new space incubator will take advantage of state investment, Irish R&D and, ultimately, ESA expertise.

Space image via Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic