The Irish Government has launched the country’s first National Space Strategy.
Innovation Minister John Halligan said the 2019-2025 strategy would ultimately benefit “our children’s children’s children”.
Ireland currently pays 18.3 million euro a year in funding to the European Space Agency (ESA), which Mr Halligan has defended as value for money, helping to create jobs and benefiting the economy.
“Our return from the contracts we get have never been below 1-4 – every euro we’ve invested, we’ve made back four euros, there’s been a substantial return for our money,” Mr Halligan said during the launch at Dublin City University.
“The turnover of these companies is around 300 million euro this year alone.
“The aim is to develop a strategy for the many Irish companies who work with the European Space Agency, around 67 companies at present sending hi-tech technology into space.
“The national space strategy also supports the aims of the Future Jobs Ireland framework, embracing innovation and technological change and supporting the development of quality jobs that will be resilient into the future.”
The Minister for Training, Skills, Innovation, Research and Development estimates the plan will help create 1,000 jobs next year.
The Government says 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”, by providing support to Ireland’s expanding space industry and research institutes.
According to the European Investment Bank, the international space sector has grown by an average of 6.7% per annum between 2005 and 2017, almost twice the 3.5% average yearly growth of the global economy.
The capabilities of space-active enterprises in Ireland have progressed significantly in recent years, with the number of companies engaged in contract work with the ESA having grown from 35 in 2008 to 67 in 2018.
The strategy sets out goals to achieve by 2025, including to help double the space-related revenue and employment in space-active Irish companies, to double the value of contracts won through the EU Horizon programmes in space-related activities, and increase industry, public and international awareness of space and Ireland’s activities in space.
Mr Halligan also mentioned he wishes to see Ireland join the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (Cern), the organisation which operates the largest particle physics laboratory in the world.
“My aim has been that I think our researchers should have the same rights and same opportunities as researchers all over the world,” he said.
“We recently joined European Southern Observatory (ESO) – and that was through my driving – we’ve solidly invested in the European Space Agency, and we’ve met with Cern.
“It’s a big ask, it’s substantial money, I’m speaking with the universities and some of our astrophysicists. We’re hoping in the foreseeable future we’ll at least be a part-member, but it’s my opinion that we should join.”
Membership of Cern can cost more than 10 million euro annually.
The Government has previously said it will “decide on Ireland’s membership of other international research organisations, including that of Cern” as part of Project Ireland 2040.