Responding to the challenges facing manufacturing

New technologies are presenting the sector with substantial choices and opportunities

Manufacturing is one of the most important economic contributors to the Irish economy. “At 35.5 per cent of the total economy value added, its impact to Ireland is well above the EU average of 14.4 per cent,” says Enterprise Ireland Technology Centres programme manager Kevin Flynn. “The sector has exports of almost €80 billion with direct and indirect employment of around 400,000 people.”

The sector is facing seismic changes in the coming years with substantial challenges and opportunities being presented by a group of new technologies, Flynn continues. These technologies include the industrial internet of things (IIot), cobotics, augmented and virtual reality, and additive manufacturing or 3D printing.

“When combined, these technologies represent a new manufacturing paradigm known as manufacturing 4.0,” he adds. “This has the potential for the creation of entirely new markets based on new products and services and goes beyond automation on the factory floor, allowing faster development of new products, better integrated supply chains, and more customised products and services.”

Initiatives

Enterprise Ireland has responded to these challenges through a number of initiatives. In 2014, the organisation came together with Irish manufacturers to form the Irish Manufacturing Research (IMR) Technology Centre with a vision to enable Irish companies to become global leaders in advanced manufacturing.

Based in technological universities and institutes of technology across Ireland, the Enterprise Ireland Technology Gateway network aims to highlight the importance and value of design within the innovation process, the benefits involved in engaging with a design process and the role which design-based innovation can play in the success of Irish businesses.

The sustainability agenda is also being addressed. CIRCULÉIRE was established by Irish Manufacturing Research as an industry-led innovation network dedicated to closing the circular innovation gap and accelerating the net-zero carbon circular economy in Ireland. Other partners include the Department of Climate Action and Environment, the Environmental Protection Agency, and EIT Climate-KIC along with 25 founding industry members.

“Scaling up circular economy strategies across all sectors is not only necessary from a climate change perspective but also represents a significant economic opportunity,” Flynn explains.

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