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Minister English re-affirms Ireland’s commitment to European Space Agency Programmes with over €125 million investment to 2027, supporting the further expansion of Ireland’s space-active industry

Minister of State for Business, Employment and Retail, Damien English TD, attended the European Space Agency’s (ESA) triennial Ministerial Council meeting, CM22 in Paris. The CM22 agreed future ESA policies and strategies and made decisions on Member States’ investment in future space programmes for the coming years.

During CM22, Minister English confirmed Ireland’s investment in both ESA’s Mandatory Programmes which comprise of ESA’s Scientific Programme and the ESA General Budget and a number of ESA’s Optional Programmes.

Ireland’s investment decisions at CM22 were guided by the National Space Strategy for Enterprise 2019-2025. The national strategy aims to develop a strong and economically sustainable space-active industry in Ireland. In line with the strategy, Ireland invested in Optional Programmes which will generate commercially sustainable business opportunities, including opportunities in the emerging New Space market and in technology transfer, which can support companies to expand into multiple market verticals. Ireland continued its investment in several of ESA’s future space programmes at CM22 including PRODEX, Human Space Flight and Robotic Exploration, Earth Observation, Navigation, Telecommunications and Integrated Applications, Technology and Space Transportation.

Speaking at the ESA Ministerial meeting in Paris, Minister English said:

"This is an exciting time for Ireland as we prepare to launch our first national satellite, EIRSAT-1, in early 2023 which has been built by a team in University College Dublin through ESA’s Fly Your Satellite! Programme. The science, technology and innovation demonstrated by the launch of our first Satellite, provides an opportune moment to highlight to our citizens, students and enterprises why investment in Space technology and activity, through our membership of ESA, is so important and how it can be a catalyst for further growth in our economy.”

The commercial space industry has been estimated to grow to approximately $1 trillion USD by 2040. Ireland’s versatile and adaptive space-active industry is ideally placed to gain a significant share of this growing market and many indigenous enterprises are already rapidly expanding into it. The number of Irish companies engaged with ESA contracts has grown from 70 in 2019 to 97 in 2022. This is an increase of over 39% in 4 years. This further investment committed today in strategic ESA space programmes will put innovative Irish companies and researchers in a position to further seize the opportunities presented by this growing global economy.

Minister English also said,

“Last year saw 14 Irish companies secure their first ESA contract, almost half of which did so having previously worked with our ESA Business Incubation Centre. This demonstrates the important role our investment in the ESA plays in contributing to the growth of Ireland’s space active industry.

Building on that growth will be key for our country as we seek, like other countries, to deal with the challenges and impacts of climate change, the energy crisis, the lasting impact of the pandemic, and the impact of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The Irish Government recognises the potential that space activities, technologies and space-derived data offers to enable us to tackle these challenges now and in the future. The announcement today of €125m of funding to the ESA over the next 5 years shows that we are committed to supporting our enterprises and research organisations to tackle these significant public policy issues.  The investment will also provide opportunities for Irish enterprises to grow and develop their capabilities, thereby sustaining current jobs and creating new ones.”

The Government’s investment in ESA forms part of a wider strategy for Irish industry and research facilities to access opportunities to develop space capabilities under Horizon Europe and other R&D programmes of the European Union.


Notes to editors

The European Space Agency and CM22

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. Member States’ investment in ESA is made on the basis of geographical return, meaning that the amount a Member State invests in ESA is commensurate with the amount that their national industry receives back in contracts.

ESA holds a Ministerial Council Meeting approximately every three years and provides an opportunity for Member States to agree on the future programmes and strategies of the Agency.

More information on ESA

More information on CM22

Ireland’s Membership of ESA

Membership of ESA provides Ireland’s businesses with access to a technology development organisation with a value of over €5billion per year, 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.

ESA plays a critical role in developing a strong European Space programme and space industry and has been fundamental 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 and third-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.
  • Provides 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 to Business Expenditure on R&D and Higher Education Expenditure on R&D, to all metrics and targets in the National Space Strategy for Enterprise 2019-2025, Impact 2030, Enterprise 2025 and EI and IDA Strategies. 

The National Space Strategy for Enterprise 2019-2025

  • The National Space Strategy for Enterprise 2019-2025 was published in June 2019 by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment. The strategy sets out Ireland’s vision for space enterprise - to develop and support an economically sustainable and expanding space-active industry, delivering quality jobs for the economy of tomorrow. More information on the strategy is available here: Minister Halligan launches Ireland’s first National Space Strategy for Enterprise 2019-2025

Enterprise Ireland and ESA

Enterprise Ireland co-ordinates Ireland’s industrial and research participation in the programmes of the ESA in collaboration with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

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.

More information on Enterprise Ireland and ESA