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Research & Innovation

Ireland to gain from three ESA contracts
Pictured at NovaUCD, the Centre for New Ventures and Entrepreneurs at University College Dublin are Nigel Cobbe, Vice-President, Business Development, Enbio and Dr James Carton, Industrial Surfaces Programme Manager, Enbio

The European Space Agency has awarded Ireland with three significant contracts in Cork, Dublin and Galway. The contracts were secured with support from Enterprise Ireland which is the co-ordinating body for ESA in Ireland.

Enbio, an Irish Surface Technology company, signed a €500,000 contract to optimise a proprietary surface treatment for use as a ‘sunscreen’ to better protect satellites as they travel in space. The contract will also enable Enbio to establish its first manufacturing facility at its headquarters at NovaUCD, the Centre for New Ventures and Entrepreneurs, at University College Dublin.

In its new manufacturing facility Enbio will use its patented technology platform, CoBlast, to produce unique ‘black’ surfaces, which it will then deploy on critical internal and external surfaces of satellites.

These ‘black’ surfaces, called ‘SolarBlack(s)’, uniquely combine extreme thermal and ultra-violet radiation stability, robustness and electrical conductivity characteristics. These surfaces will provide satellites with a more robust surface than is currently available to counter the intense solar radiation encountered in space, thus better protecting satellites and their payloads while they journey through space.

TreeMetrics, an Irish based innovator in forestry, data analytics and measurement solutions, has secured a significant €800,000 contract. The funding will support the global roll-out of the company's innovative web-based satellite mapping application for the forestry industry.

The Enterprise Ireland-backed company also plans to recruit a further ten software engineers over the next twelve months to expand its workforce at its Cork facility to 30. The company is receiving significant interest from multinational timber growers to develop its proprietary system. The TreeMetrics’ solution replaces traditional calipers and measuring tape with technology for the first time in over 100 years of forestry measurement. Easy-to-use 3D laser scanners can quickly and accurately measure the shape, size, and straightness of standing trees. The cutting-edge technology uses this information to predict the quantities of log products that each tree can produce, and their potential value. The TreeMetrics’ solution offers a better means of managing forests and determining which areas best match sawmill requirements. Ultimately this leads to a reduction in the quantity of trees that need to be cut, while reducing waste and improving forest profitability.

ESA has invested €2.1 million in an ash cloud detection and forecasting system led by the Norwegian Institute for Air Research (NILU) and involving NUI Galway and the Irish Aviation Authority.

The project, which uses satellites and forecast models to detect ash clouds and forecast their movements, came about following the 2010 Icelandic volcano eruption, which resulted in more than 100,000 flights being cancelled, affecting 10 million passenger journeys during the first week of the eruption alone. 

In total, ESA have invested €2.1 million in the Volcanic Ash Strategic Initiative Team (VAST). VAST is a consortium led by NILU and comprises teams from Finland, Austria and Ireland with NUI Galway being awarded €500,000 to further develop and evaluate their ash forecast model, to develop real-time ash detection software and to conduct the validation of the detection and forecasting aspects of the project.  

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