According to Dr Volker Liebig, ESA Director of Earth Observation Programmes, Irish companies and researchers have distinguished themselves in European Space Agency (ESA) programmes by developing innovative maritime services using satellite derived data in areas as diverse as marine renewables, fisheries protection, aquaculture and tourism.
Opening the conference “Space Innovation - Powering Blue Growth” (National Maritime College of Ireland, Cork: 18 & 19 April) Minister for Research and Innovation, Sean Sherlock, said “There are over 40 Irish companies currently engaged in ESA programmes many of which are directly addressing global challenges such as climate change, sea-level rise, maritime surveillance and marine environmental monitoring. This is a growing industry and one which will guarantee high-quality jobs for Irish people and benefit our economy into the future”.
The conference, jointly organised by the European Space Agency (ESA), the European Commission (DG Maritime Affairs), Enterprise Ireland, University College Cork’s Coastal and Marine Research Centre, the Irish Coast Guard and the Irish Naval Service, focussed on the contribution of Space to maritime policy implementation; showed how new scientific results and innovative services assist in achieving targets set by the Integrated Maritime Policy for the European Union (IMP) and assessed how the European Space Agency (ESA) space development activities and the IMP can contribute to economic growth in Europe.
Geoffrey O’Sullivan, representing Marine Institute CEO, Dr Peter Heffernan, said that “the conference ably demonstrated that Space Remote Sensing had a very positive contribution to make towards developing our Blue Economy”. Examples given included fisheries management, including illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU), environmental assessment, oil spill and harmful algal bloom detection, site survey for offshore renewable energy and aquaculture platforms, search and rescue and Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA). He said that “the Conference validated the SMARTOCEAN (ICT and the Sea) Strategy, being promoted by the Marine Institute, in identifying clear opportunities for Irish researchers and SMEs to harness their significant ICT and marine research skills and drawing on “Big Data” provided by satellite sensors, to develop of range of new products, services and applications relevant to local and global markets”.
Closing the conference, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney, TD, commented that “increasing maritime situational and domain awareness is paramount in promoting a more inclusive approach to maritime development in delivering both the EU Blue Growth Strategy (2012) and Ireland’s Integrated Marine Plan (Harnessing Our Ocean Wealth) launched in 2012. Space based systems”, he said, “are a key component of an integrated and sophisticated maritime surveillance network”.