University College Dublin-Led Space Project Secures over €7.9 million in Funding

David McKeown UCD

Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Simon Coveney TD, Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris TD and the Minister of State for Trade Promotion, Digital and Company Regulation, Dara Calleary TD, recently announced a total of €58.8 million in funding for 12 new projects under Call 6 of the Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund (DTIF).

A University College Dublin (UCD)-led space project entitled National Space Subsystems and Payloads Initiative (NSSPI) has secured just over €7.9 million in funding, the largest single amount awarded to a project by the Government in this latest DTIF funding round. The project will support the development of an economically sustainable and expanding space industry in three initial clusters, optical communications for space, autonomous smart satellites and spacecraft and payload modelling, simulation, assembly, integration and test research support.

The NSSPI project is led by Dr David McKeown, a lecturer in Applied Dynamics at the UCD School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, and the theme lead for Spacecraft Structures, Dynamics and Control at the UCD Centre for Space Research. Dr McKeown is also the Engineering Manager of EIRSAT-1 (Educational Irish Research Satellite-1), Ireland’s first-ever satellite. Other UCD researchers who will be involved in this project are; Professor Lorraine Hanlon, and Professor Sheila McBreen, UCD School of Physics along with Associate Professor Brian Mac Namee and Dr Nima Afraz, UCD School of Computer Science.

In addition to UCD the other NSSPI project consortium members are; Realtime Technologies Ltd; Ubotica Technologies Ltd; Mbryonics Ltd; Intel; ÉireComposites Teoranta and Equal1 Laboratories Ireland Ltd. Equal1, a UCD spin-out, is a pioneering silicon quantum computing company and is headquartered at NexusUCD in Dublin, with facilities in Silicon Valley, California; Romania and Canada.

Dr David McKeown, UCD School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering and NSSPI project-lead said, “The project is a fantastic example of how university led research can naturally support the development of disruptive technologies by Irish space companies. It is a clear backing of the importance of space technology research to Ireland and comes at a very exciting time at UCD.”

Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Simon Coveney TD said, “I am delighted to announce this significant new funding of almost €60m from the Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund which underlines our commitment to advancing pioneering technology development in Ireland. The projects are diverse and some are potentially life-changing, such as providing a new minimally invasive and targeted treatment for metastatic lung cancer or using AI to detect abnormal brain activity in infants at birth.

“These disruptive projects will also ensure that Ireland’s research and innovation ecosystem is well placed to capitalise on emerging growth sectors while delivering on net zero commitments, decarbonisation and digital transformation, in line with the objectives of the White Paper for Enterprise.”

DTIF projects are utilising industrial research and experimental development to create products and services that have the potential to alter markets and the way that businesses operate.  The strong industry-academia collaboration which is required under DTIF is key to ensuring that Government investment through this fund is impactful for both the economy and society. The Research Performing Organisations awarded funding in DTIF Calls to date ensures the expertise, training and knowledge necessary to help make the projects a success. This latest funding announcement means €364 million has to date been awarded to 103 projects across the six DTIF Calls.

Pictured: Dr David McKeown, UCD School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering and NSSPI project-lead

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Sarah Brooks

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