What We Do

European Space Agency

Overview of Ireland’s investment in the European Space Agency.


Since Ireland joined the European Space Agency in 1975, Irish industry and research groups have been at the heart of Europe’s space missions building a reputation as providers of innovative technologies for use in the European space programme.

From the development of technology for use on board the International Space Station and point of-care diagnostic technology used to assess the impact of space travel on the health of astronauts, to developing highly innovative uses of satellite systems, including connecting isolated forests to communications systems, Irish companies are at the leading edge of innovation and technological development in the space sector.

Ireland’s annual investment in ESA (€17.8m in 2017) is directly aligned with the strategy and objectives of Enterprise Ireland investment in the R&D capability of Irish Industry and with the Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland strategy of supporting high potential start-ups and foreign direct investment.  The State’s investment in the coming years in ESA Space programmes reflects a strategy that prioritises Ireland’s investment in those ESA programmes which support technology innovation and technology transfer that leads to export, sales and employment generation by Irish industry.  

In recent years Ireland is seeing strong and sustainable growth in this sector in Ireland in both established space companies, and in new entrants to the sector with almost 60 Irish companies now working in the development of technologies for the commercial space market and in the development of downstream products and services. It is projected that 80 companies will be operating in the space sector by 2020.

Total employment in ESA participating companies has grown from 1,300 in 2008 to almost 2,000 in 2014 and is projected to exceed 5,500 by 2020.  Irish companies generated €43m in the space economy in 2013 and this is projected to grow to €133m by 2020. This high level of activity and growth in employment reflects the combined efforts of Government in investing significantly in R&D, Enterprise Ireland and IDA working with industry and ESA itself translating the innovation capacity in Irish industry into products, systems and services for the European space programme and the global space market.

Irish companies, scientists and researchers continue to pursue exciting and emerging opportunities through the European Space Agency including most recently involvement in the Rosetta mission. The European spacecraft Rosetta became the first ever to rendezvous with and place a lander on a comet, a landmark for space exploration in a decade-long mission that scientists hope will help unlock some of the secrets of the solar system. A number of Irish companies have built parts of the craft and Irish scientists are also involved in the research and control aspects of the mission.