Ireland Joins the European Southern Observatory

2 October 2018

IOP welcomed the historic signing of the official entry of Ireland to the European Southern Observatory on Wednesday 26 September, and Ireland will officially join the organisation on 1 October.

Halligan Callanan ESO
John Halligan and Prof Paul Callanan

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.

IOP Ireland’s Policy Adviser, Dr Sheila Gilheany, said:

“This agreement 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 scientists worldwide to understand our universe, and bring the fruits 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.  One person employed in an Irish physics-based industry contributes an average of €138,273 a year in value added. 

IOP Ireland recently supported an ESO Industry Day held at Trinity College Dublin which brought together procurement staff from ESO with businesses, Enterprise Ireland and academics to look at the process of tendering for contracts.

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. This can now 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.
ESO Agreement Document

The signing of the official entry agreement was followed by a reception which included many members of the astronomy community in Ireland who had long campaigned for Ireland’s entry to ESO.



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