According to the Cork Convention Bureau, the Space Studies Programme (SSP17), will be the largest conference ever held in Cork with on-average 200 participants for a period of 9 weeks. It represents over 11,000 bed nightsThis provides a unique opportunity for us as a region and a country to take advantage of this inward investment and by partnering with local and national agencies and businesses we can provide a legacy of economic, education and tourism impact for the country.

SSP17 is the premier global space industry networking event and involves up to 135 participants (who undergo intensive training during the 9 weeks), approximately 30 faculty from the International Space University (ISU) and a further 130 visiting global space leaders who will spend up to a week at a time in Cork.

Being awarded SSP17 is a significant achievement for Ireland (this being the first time an SSP has been held in Ireland or the UK), for Cork and CIT. Every summer the SSP takes place in a different location around the world. Recent sessions have convened in Adelaide, Australia; Graz in Austria: the NASA Ames Research Centre in the United States; Beijing, China; Montreal Canada; Athens, USA and most recently in Haifa, Israel.

SSP17 will be a unique and high-profile event, heavily marketed nationally and internationally. We will employ a PR company to tell our story, the story not just of SSP17 but the region and the people who live, work and are educated to the highest standard here; to the quality of our research base and the availability of talent. The international popularity of the programme is indicated by having attracted over 16 million unique visitors to the social media campaign in Haifa in 2016.

RELEVANCE TO BUSINESSES AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

– The global space industry is worth over €300 billion annually (growing at 9% per annum) and SSP17 will connect businesses and research centres to this market, whilst also showcasing opportunities for companies to relocate to the region as has successfully been done in Northern Ireland. The space industry requires companies of all sizes and across all disciplines and our knowledge-based economy is ideally placed to take advantage of such growth. This is not, however, well understood by the business community who generally consider space to be about rockets only, thereby missing out on extensive commercial opportunities. Downstream activities (e.g., data analytics, data-based applications) represent considerable opportunities for Irish companies and researchers. A key legacy of the event will be a significantly stronger connection between regional enterprise, the research community and the global space industry.

Another unique legacy from SSP17 will be a position paper entitled “A Roadmap for Building a Strong Space Industry” to be presented to Irish Government representatives who will attend the Closing Ceremony along with the Director General of the European Space Agency and a senior NASA official. This legacy document will inform a National Space Strategy and act as a guide for how that might be translated into policy initiatives that support Irish companies, and which helps define the educational and research base that the sector requires. It will explore the potential for SFI Research Centres to connect to become involved in space R&D through targeted meetings between SSP17 participants and research Centre personnel, for example. This position paper will be supplemented by a second paper on how to connect SME companies to the global space industry. Both of these papers will provide independent expertise and will examine the role of PhD’s in the space industry workforce which is exceptionally highly-skilled, requiring individuals with strong critical-thinking capabilities – in the UK 3 in 4 employees working in the space industry hold at least a primary degree – higher than any sector covered by ONS Census data for England and Wales.

The space industry is R&D intensive – with 8.1% of direct GVA invested in R&D – over 6.5 times higher than the UK average. And as clearly shown in the Oct 2016 report from the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation titled “Economic and Enterprise Impacts from Public Investment in R&D in Ireland” companies who are more R&D intensive are more resilient and have shown greater capacity to grow during difficult economic times and thrive when the economic conditions have improved.

RELEVANCE TO STEM EDUCATION

– Space is one of the best ways to get young people interested in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) and with the internationally award-winning Blackrock Castle Observatory coordinating the STEM education elements of SSP17, the event will help to inspire the next generation of STEM workers – a third legacy of SSP17.

RELEVANCE TO THE GENERAL PUBLIC

Includes up to 15 public events, with highlights including an International Astronaut Panel, a Rocket Competition, the Arthur C. Clarke Panel – space meets popular culture – and more. Events will be organised in libraries and other community-based locations, and across Cork City itself.

RELEVANCE TO THE TOURISM SECTOR

The Cork region straddles both the Wild Atlantic Way and Ireland’s Ancient East tourism destination brands. Both experiences are designed to evoke a sense of national pride and identity in the local mind and with tourism operators, while encouraging tourism within the various sectors. As a nation we are famous for our innate ability to be creative and imaginative, making outstanding contributions in literature, music, film-making and beyond. We need to instil an equal sense of excellence and achievement in our global contribution to sciences and we will use SSP17 stories and activities to create a sense of awareness of scientific culture.

– SSP17 showcases Ireland’s rich scientific culture to the discerning visitor looking for a learning experience while visiting the region; this appeals particularly to the tourism segments identified by Failte Ireland as the Culturally Curious and Connected Family segments.

– SSP17 showcases Ireland as a destination for astrotourism or dark sky tourism, taking advantage of our relative lack of light pollution and the increasing market amongst tourists who live in cities and wish to connect to the natural world. With the only Gold Tiered Dark Sky Reserve in the Northern Hemispshere an hour’s drive from Cork, the city is a natural place for tourists to start their journey.