Ireland needs to invest €42m in advanced manufacturing infrastructure

16 Aug 2018546 Views

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Industry group warns of major innovation and R&D gap that threatens second-greatest employer in Ireland.

The Government has been urged to invest €42m in an advanced discrete manufacturing centre of scale in Budget 2019 to ensure the country keeps its edge in manufacturing.

The Irish Medtech Association (IMA) has warned that the industry is being held back by an R&D and innovation gap in the area of discrete manufacturing. Discrete manufacturing is the production of distinct items such as medical devices.

‘Now is the time for the Irish Government to bridge the innovation gap by investing €42m in an advanced manufacturing centre, or risk Ireland’s reputation as a location of choice for global manufacturing’
– SINEAD KEOGH

The IMA warns that there is significantly less State funding beyond Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 3, where analytical and experimental critical function and/or proof of concept has been established.

It said that more funding is needed at TRL Level 5 to 7, where integrated technological components can undergo testing, notably in a simulated and operational environment, in centres such as Tyndall (ICT), NIBRT (biopharma) and Teagasc (agrifood), but capable of being at the cutting edge in medtech.

UK sees £15 return for every £1 invested in advanced manufacturing

“This R&D gap is a threat to sustainable growth of Ireland’s global medtech hub,” said David Tallon, IMA chair and vice-president in charge of R&D at Stryker’s neuro, spine, ENT and navigation business. “Investing in an advanced manufacturing centre of scale is essential to level the playing field with competitor economies.

“Neighbours with strong manufacturing industries have successful track records with major centres, driving business-to-business collaboration to help companies move from the prototyping and manufacturing to commercialisation in [an] operational environment,” Tallon said.

The Irish manufacturing employs 230,000 people across 4,000 businesses, making it the second-greatest employer in Ireland, said IMA director Sinead Keogh.

“But our nearest competitor, the UK, has already seen the value of investing in advanced manufacturing, with an annual budget of £100m for the Catapult centres already reaping results. For every £1 of government funding, the UK economy is seeing a net benefit of £15 with growth in the industry and jobs added.

“With Brexit jeopardising Britain’s economic stability, manufacturing has become a strategic priority. We already lag behind the US, which invested nearly €100m in 2016, and behind Germany with the Fraunhofer Institutes having a total annual research budget of €2.3bn last year.”

Keogh said that while the newly announced Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund of €500m from Government is expected to foster partnerships between enterprise and research partners, it is no substitute for a physical centre where businesses can collaborate in a cutting-edge demonstrator environment.

“Now is the time for the Irish Government to bridge the innovation gap by investing €42m in an advanced manufacturing centre, or risk Ireland’s reputation as a location of choice for global manufacturing.”

Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com