Ireland to join European Southern Observatory in 2018

18 October 2017 | Source: Ireland to join European Southern Observatory in 2018

Record funding announced today in the Irish Budget 2018 - totalling €871 million for the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation - now allows Ireland to join the European Southern Observatory (ESO) in 2018, it was confirmed today.

The benefits of membership will be significant and include the creation of advanced enterprise skills in areas such as data analytics, software and photonics. Membership will also ensure Irish companies can compete for significant ESO contracts to develop innovative products and services.

Dr Sheila Gilheany, Policy Adviser for the Institute of Physics in Ireland, said:

“This announcement has come after a long campaign from the astrophysics community in Ireland - and telling advocacy from the Institute of Physics.

“Ireland’s membership of ESO will now allow physicists here to work with other cutting edge scientists worldwide to understand our universe, and bring the fruit of that research back to Ireland to support education and develop our business capacity in many high-tech fields.

“Astrophysics, in particular, is a key driver of science interest and innovation. To support this, Irish scientists and engineers need access to the best research facilities, and this access brings with it the benefits of spin-off technology, contracts and jobs.” 

An essential element of the Irish Government’s plans for its economy is to substantially grow its high-tech business sector - and physics is a core component of that base. Ireland’s physics-based sectors contribute €38 bn in gross value added (GVA), supporting the employment of 288,000 people. A person employed in an Irish physics-based industry contributes an average of €138,273 a year in value added.  

The European Southern Observatory (ESO) in Chile is the world-leading facility for observational astronomy, and the astrophysics community in Ireland - led by the IOP - has long called for Irish membership of ESO.  Now, this can bring significant rewards to Ireland including:

Allowing Irish businesses the chance to compete for multi-million Euro contracts across a wide range of technologies, including imaging, detectors, computing and microelectronics

Giving Irish researchers guaranteed access to ESO facilities allowing Ireland to compete at the highest international levels - aligning its research strategies with those of Europe and thus optimising Ireland’s chances of success in Horizon 2020

Providing Irish students outstanding opportunities for training

Greatly enhancing public awareness and understanding of science across a range of disciplines