News & Events

Ireland’s investment in European Space Agency expected to double employment in the space sector to over 1,000 high value technology jobs in Irish industry over the next four years.

Minister Mary Mitchell O’ Connor welcomes Johann-Dietrich Woerner – Director General of European Space Agency to Ireland - Immense opportunities for Irish companies in Space Sector

Agreement between The Tyndall National Institute and ESA on the establishment of a Space Business Incubator in Ireland - supporting 25 Irish Start-up companies in space related technologies by 2020 

21 June 2016 

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Mary Mitchell O’Connor TD welcomed the recently appointed Director General of the European Space Agency Jan Woerner to Ireland. On his visit he saw for himself the rapid expansion of the Irish space sector in Ireland and he set out his plans for the European Space Sector and role which Ireland can play. 

Welcoming Mr. Woerner to the Department, Minister for Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation Mary Mitchell O’Connor, TD, said “I am delighted to welcome Mr. Woerner to Ireland today. The European Space Agency plays a critical role in developing the Irish space industry particularly SME and High Potential Start-Up sectors. This is an exciting time for the Irish space industry and with the support of my Department and Enterprise Ireland the Irish space sector is set to expand at an unprecedented rate over the next few years.   ESA has had some remarkable achievements in recent years more recently the Rosetta Mission’s rendevous with Comet 67P last year”. 

The Minister continued “Our investment in ESA will manifest itself through new companies entering the space sector, scaling of existing companies and the development of a strong cohort of high technology start-ups, leading to increased sales, exports and jobs. Investment in ESA space programmes, given the pace of expansion of the Global and European space economies, will put high-tech Irish companies and researchers in a position to exploit this potential to the maximum. ” 

Also welcoming Mr. Woerner to the Department Minister for Training and Skills John Halligan TD said “Ireland is an active and proud member State of ESA for over 40 years. Membership of ESA provides Ireland’s businesses with access to a €5 billion per year technology development organisation that has no equal anywhere outside NASA along with greatly improved access to Global and European institutional space clients, prime contractors and technology supply chains.” I as Minister with responsibility for Innovation will continue to support Ireland’s science sector through the implementation of Innovation 2020 – Ireland’s Strategy for Research and Development, Science and Technology. Investment in the Irish Space Sector will help achieve key targets in the Plan particularly in relation to Business Expenditure on R&D and Ireland’s R&D intensity. 

As part of his visit the European Space Agency and the Tyndall National Institute (as Host in partnership with Maynooth University and Athlone Institute of Technology) signed an agreement establishing a Space Business Incubation Centre in Ireland which will target support for 25 Irish Start-up companies in space related technologies by 2020. 

Speaking during his visit to Ireland Mr Jan Woerner said “Global space economy is undergoing rapid change as more countries enter the 21st century space race.   Given the high level of technology innovation we have seen in Ireland, Irish space companies are ideally placed to gain a significant share of the global space market and are already expanding rapidly into it.” 

Ireland’s investment in ESA has contributed to the development of a highly knowledge-intensive industry sector with a demonstrated direct effect on the participating companies’ ability to generate commercial export sales in the commercial space and non-space market.” He added that “ESA provides a platform to accelerate the significant exploitation of the Global and European space markets and the level of investment represents a fraction of the total economic benefits.” 

The Irish Government's annual investment in ESA is supporting strong growth in the sector in Ireland with the number of companies in the sector expected to expand to over 80 by 2020, generating annual revenues growing from €76 million in 2015 to €135 million by 2020. This investment will also double employment with the creation of over 1,000 high value technology jobs in Irish industry by 2020. Companies involved with ESA are also projected to increase combined turnover from €274 million to over half a billion by 2020. 

He added that “a unique and unprecedented set of economic circumstances and commercial opportunities are available to Ireland and Irish Industry to capitalise on past and future investment in ESA which will generate significant economic impact through new company formation, scaling, new MNCs, increased high value long term employment, rapidly increasing turnover and exports and additional and increasing levels of Business Expenditure on R&D. The Director General expressed the hope that Ireland would continue to increase its level of investment in ESA at the upcoming ESA Ministerial Council in December 2016. 

Julie Sinnamon, CEO, Enterprise Ireland added: “I am delighted that the Director of ESA is visiting Ireland at this point. Ireland’s investment in ESA programmes will foster increased innovation and business development opportunities within the space industry and research sectors in Ireland and Europe. It will also support Enterprise Ireland client companies who are developing new and innovative technologies for the European Space Programme and the global space market.“ 

Following the signing of the agreement between ESA and the Tyndall National Institute as Host of the ESA Business Incubation Centre Kieran Drain Tyndall CEO said “We are very excited to lead the ESA Business Incubation Centre in partnership with Athlone Institute of Technology, National University of Ireland Maynooth, and Irish Maritime and Energy Resource Cluster. The Centre funded by ESA and Enterprise Ireland will support entrepreneurs and start-ups working in space related technologies that can be applied in both terrestrial and space exploration contexts. The ESA Business Incubation Centre programme is well known for its success in developing innovative stat-ups, products and technologies.” 


Photos to follow from Fennells Photography

For further information please contact:  

Press Office, Department of Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation. P: (01) 631 2200  

Conor O’Donovan, Head of Communications, Enterprise Ireland. P: (01) 7272178 M: +353 (087) 9671342


Innalabs is one of a growing number of highly innovative Irish technology companies securing ESA contracts with the active support of Enterprise Ireland and the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation. The total number of Irish companies currently, or recently, active in ESA programmes is over 50 and growing.  

The European Space Agency

The European Space Agency (ESA) is Europe’s gateway to space. ESA is an intergovernmental organisation, created in 1975, with the mission to shape the development of Europe’s space capability and ensure that investment in space delivers benefits to the citizens of Europe and the world. ESA develops the launchers, spacecraft and ground facilities needed to keep Europe at the forefront of global space activities. Today it launches satellites for Earth observation, navigation, telecommunications and astronomy, sends probes to the far reaches of the Solar System and cooperates in the human exploration of space. 

ESA plays a critical role in developing a strong European Space programme and space industry and has been fundamental to in developing the specialised, highly innovative, industrial capabilities that exist in the Irish space sector. ESA :-

  • Provides a significant capital investment support for in-company & 3rd level RDI in leading edge space technologies for commercial exploitation in the global space and non-space markets for the SME and MNC sector.
  • Supports the Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland strategy of supporting high potential start-ups, company scaling, as well as foreign direct investment.
  • Provides prioritised support for technology innovation and technology transfer that leads to exports, sales and employment generation by Irish industry.  
  • A platform to fully exploit the opportunities of the Global space market and maximise the financial return and economic impacts of Ireland’s financial contributions to the EU space programme budgets.
  • Contributes directly BERD and HERD, to all metrics and targets in Innovation 2020, Enterprise 2025 and EI and IDA Strategies. 


More details on Enterprise Ireland, managing Ireland’s investment in the European Space Agency

Enterprise Ireland co-ordinates Ireland’s industrial and research participation in the programmes of the European Space Agency (ESA) in collaboration with the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation. 

The purpose of Ireland’s membership of ESA is to participate in European space programmes with a focus on facilitating innovative Irish companies to develop leading edge space technologies and to commercially exploit their ESA participation in global space and non-space markets, leading to increased export sales and employment. 

Enterprise Ireland’s role in relation to ESA is to assist Irish companies to successfully bid for ESA contracts, providing expertise for Irish companies and researchers in developing and executing space strategies, as well as being a point of reference for the international space industry when they want to identify relevant sources of space-related expertise within Ireland. 

Irish industrial and research participation in ESA covers a range of sectors and technology areas including; software, precision mechanical engineering, telecommunications, electronics, optoelectronics and advanced materials and extending to end user equipment, services and applications. 

The Director General will also visit TCD in the afternoon to set out his vision and ambitions for a United Space in Europe and Ireland’s role in the global space economy. 

Later in the day he will visits an Irish space technology company Innalabs – based in Blanchardstown as an example of one of a number of high technology Irish firms entering the space market.