Tanaiste Frances Fitzgerald was urged this week to sign off on a commitment which will permit Ireland to join the European Southern Observatory (ESO) by top software leaders in Ireland.
The ESO is the intergovernmental science and technology organisation in astronomy and shares a network of powerful ground-based observing facilities for astronomical research. Leading scientists and business leaders believe membership would open up Irish science, astronomy and astrophysics students to a wealth of valuable research data.
They also believe membership will allow Irish companies to compete globally for the research and development contracts that are offered by the ESO, which could add millions of euros to the Irish economy.
The IOP (Institute of Physics ) have highlighted how joining the ESO makes economic sense as membership cost is based on GDP, which is due to rise in Ireland over the coming years. This means that membership will cost far more in the future if the opportunity is not taken now, as GDP is rising, they claim.
The IOP report says that “every euro invested in space technology usually turns out to produce 6-7 euros in overall economic return” and for “every €1 increase in physics-based output, the economy wide increase in output is €2.28.” The IOP further reiterated the case for Ireland joining the ESO saying, “Ireland has already invested significantly in its astrophysics base in Ireland. There is now a large pre-existing cohort of senior staff well placed to take immediate advantage of ESO membership.”
Speaking this week, ESO Nobel Laureate Professor Brian Schmidt said, "It is my view that ESO offers an outstanding opportunity for Ireland. ESO is uniquely able to provide Irish astronomy world-leading astronomical infrastructure, and in that way, to be world leading in astronomical discovery."