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Cork to be part of Ireland’s first ever ‘Space Region’

Wednesday, 4th November, 2020 2:56pm

Cork and Waterford are to jointly become Ireland’s first ever ‘Space Region’ - known as the the Society, Economy and Environment (SEE) Space network.

Developed by Cork Institute of Technology (CIT) and Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT), the new partnership hopes to build links to international space organisations such as the European Space Agency.

Research teams at both institutions will use their expertise in areas such as cybersecurity, telecommunications, quantum communications to do this.

The SEE Space Network is a landmark pool of decades of talent, knowledge and expertise and the new team is ideally positioned to take advantage of the educational, economic and societal benefits of the global space industry which is projected to be worth €2 trillion by 2030.

This new era of the evolution of the space sector, known as Space 4.0, is a major focus for companies and institutions from the very small to the very large.

Working together, the new research team headed up by Dr Niall Smith in Cork and Dr Mark White in Waterford, will use space to solve problems that are relevant to the region and the country, building the Irish Space Coast and attracting inward investment from national and international sources.

CIT President, Dr Barry O’Connor, said: “Working together, we will use space to solve problems that are relevant to us in our region and nationally. On our journey, we will engage with leaders in their respective domains and help them to see space as an opportunity to grow their businesses.

“We will work with communities to see how best to use space to solve their issues, to increase their sustainability and improve their competitiveness. We will work to inspire the next generations of scientists and engineers.

“The SEE Space network is built on CIT's and WIT's long track record of achievement in research, innovation and outreach with an annual research expenditure of almost €40m. CIT operates the Blackrock Castle Observatory which has been a leading advocate of Space 4.0 and represented the higher education community in the development of the National Space Strategy for Enterprise, 2019-2024,” he added.

WIT President, Professor Willie Donnelly, highlighted the potential impact that this collaboration will have regional economic development.

“This initiative will create regional expertise, competence and ‘readiness’ for many businesses in the south of Ireland who are looking at the developing space and low-orbital environment and wondering how they will migrate their current operations, products or R&D from or through space. Low orbital operations are rapidly becoming the new business frontier and WIT and CIT want to be at the forefront of all developments.”

Over the course of the initial three-year agreement, the SEE Space Network will focus on education and research in quantum communications and cybersecurity, earth observation and Space 4.0 in general, with low earth orbit satellites (LEOs) a particular area of interest.

They will explore potential areas of cooperation and collaboration such as co-funded PhDs.

The team will also investigate opportunities to collaborate on relevant research activities and to work together to develop a three-year strategic outline and a roadmap of national and regional benefits. They will develop a high level work plan and work streams and identification of potential European grant calls that will be targeted and a high level communications and marketing plan.

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