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Engineers, leaders & innovators gather in Limerick to discuss business growth, innovation and talent

Annual Conference 2018

National and international experts tapped into their bank of knowledge and experience to discuss the resources, techniques, innovation and focus required to stimulate regional growth at the Engineers Ireland’s Annual Conference in Limerick held last Friday, 13 April. The conference was organised in conjunction with the membership body’s Thomond region (Clare, Limerick and North Tipperary). Speakers explained that for the country to meet future challenges and opportunities for growth, that infrastructure development, industry innovation, and ensuring the presence of strong engineering talent within 3rd level institutes to meet industry demands were all essential to drive ambition and business growth within a region.

The speakers addressed 200 delegates who were engineers, planners and those with strategic leadership functions within their organisations, on the day-long conference topic: Engineering a Region: Infrastructure, Industry and Innovation. The conference theme reflected the growing need for collaboration between industry, academia and innovators to create opportunities for regional development and growth.

Addressing delegates gathered at the Conference, Caroline Spillane, Director General of Engineers Ireland said: “Our conference is timely given the publication by our Government in February of the National Planning Framework and the €116 billion National Development Plan both elements of the ambitious Project Ireland 2040 initiative.  Every objective contained in these plans will require the engineering community to play a significant role. It will be engineers like you who will be integral to the delivery of projects that will support communities which are pivotal to Ireland’s prosperity, connectivity and sustainability.”

Barry Lowe, Engineering Manager at Lufthansa Technik Turbine Shannon and Chair of the Thomond region of Engineers Ireland said: “We in Thomond are justifiably proud of our engineering tradition.  We had the electrification of Ireland in the late 1920s which began with the ground-breaking, Ardnacrusha Hydro-electric Scheme.  In the 1930s we became the gateway to Europe – with the establishment of the European terminal for transatlantic air traffic in Foynes on the Shannon Estuary – giving birth of our strong aviation sector. In the 1940’s Shannon airport was built and was the first airport in the world to establish an industrial free trade zone. This has gone on to play an important role in the economic and social development of Ireland – especially the Midwest. The results can be seen in the international and diverse industry base we have today – which includes electronics, biomedical, software, bio-pharma and fin-tech. With the population of Ireland expected to grow by 1 million people by 2040 – requiring an additional 660,000 new jobs – we can look forward to continued and significant growth in our regions.”

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With the Mid-West home to many leading firms working in the areas of engineering, ICT and Life Sciences, the evolution of the region was highlighted by a number of speakers including Dr Pat Daly, Deputy Chief Executive of Limerick City and County Council; Paschal Meehan, Chair of Limerick for Engineering and Dean of Work Based Learning and VP International at Limerick Institute of Technology and Michael Lohan, Head of Lifesciences, Engineering and Industrial Technology Division, IDA Ireland.

Dr Pat Daly described Ireland’s Mid-West as: “The fastest growing investment location in Ireland, home to 500,000 people, contributing €15 billion to the annual economy.” He discussed Limerick 2030, the Economic and Spatial Plan for Limerick including the development of the 8-acre Cleeves Riverside Campus, the 550,000 sq ft Opera site on Rutland Street, Port Economic Park and the Station Plaza.   He said Limerick has a reputation for “making things happen, “and encouraged others hoping to innovate within their regions to plan and “organise around ambition.”

Paschal Meehan discussed the experience he has garnered from his time as Chair of Limerick for Engineering.   He said: “Limerick for Engineering is an industry led initiative which has the support of the education and training providers in the region.” He added that its primary goal is to; “increase the quality and quantity of engineering talent – apprentice, technicians and engineers – available in the region.”

Michael Lohan of IDA Ireland said, that in the past 2.5 years over 23 announcements had happened in the Mid-West region creating 3,500 new jobs.  He said among what investors seek today is “talent, world class infrastructure, competitiveness, certainty and open innovation.”

In addition to the day-long conference, delegates had the opportunity to attend a number of networking events organised by the Thomond Region including a welcome reception on the eve of the conference with a motivational talk by Everest climber, John Burke from Clare.  A black tie gala dinner followed the conference on the eve of 13 April.

Speakers sharing the platform at this day-long conference were:

  • Dr Kieran Feighan, President of Engineers Ireland
  • Éirloop Group
  • Lord Andrew Adonis, Former Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, UK;
  • John Moran, Limerick Economic Forum, Board Member of the European Investment Bank and former Secretary General, Department of Finance;
  • Stephen Blair, Director of the Southern Regional Assembly;
  • Michael Lohan, Head of Life Sciences, Engineering and Industrial Technology Division, IDA Ireland;
  • Mike Quinn, CEO, Ervia;
  • John Cormican, General Manager, Vehicle Engineering, Jaguar Land Rover Ireland
  • Dr Pat Daly, Deputy Chief Executive, and Director of Service, Economic Development and Planning, Limerick City and County Council;
  • Dr Emma Silke, Head of Business Development, ESB ecars;
  • Paschal Meehan, Chair of Limerick for Engineering and Dean of Work Based Learning and VP International at Limerick Institute of Technology
  • Professor Conor McCarthy, Centre Director, Confirm – Smart Manufacturing, A world leading SFI Research Centre