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Ireland sets out five-year Industry 4.0 strategy to drive digital skills and tech

The Irish government has unveiled a five-year Industry 4.0 strategy to help manufacturing firms to respond to technological change. 

The plan, announced last month, includes €23.5 million of funding for the Irish Manufacturing Research (IMR) Centre, a joint initiative between Enterprise Ireland and the IDA, the government departments responsible, respectively, for economic development and inward investment in the country.

The government said its strategy is geared towards the development of new digital skills and technologies in the country’s manufacturing sector, and to drive collaboration between small, medium and large sized enterprises. 

The IMR funding, a 57 per cent increase on its previous round of funding, covers the period to the start of 2025. It will see the centre leverage further funding in the region of €43 million from industry and competitive sources by 2024, the government said.  

The centre will split funding across a number of research tracks, including digitisation of manufacturing, automation and advanced control, design for manufacturing, and sustainable manufacturing. Its goal is to “triple the number of training days and to increase the number of intellectual property commercialisations by 467 per cent,” the government said.

The IMR Centre, based in Mullingar, County Westmeath, has a number of specialist production capabilities, including in additive manufacturing equipment, augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR), cobotics and “Industry 4.0 demonstration lines”.

It can deliver a “turn-key solution for industry from design to pilot production and test”, the government said.

Heather Humphreys (pictured), minister for business, enterprise and innovation in Ireland, commented: “The IMR Centre plays a pivotal role in ensuring Irish manufacturers are equipped to deal with changes on the horizon. This funding will allow them to scale up their operations in Rathcoole and Mullingar and position Irish manufacturing at the forefront of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.”

The manufacturing sector supports 227,000 jobs in Ireland, with 80 per cent of those based outside of Dublin. 

The government has also established a new group, Future Manufacturing Ireland, to coordinate with government-funded research centres in this space, and make it easier for companies to access expertise. A new Industry 4.0 stakeholder forum, with representatives from the manufacturing sector as well as Industry 4.0 expert has also been convened to oversee implementation of the strategy.

The new strategy is part of Future Jobs Ireland, a cross-sector government framework launched in 2019 to address the skills gap in the country, and notably the increasing demand for science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) related skills.

Humphreys said: “Digital technologies are transforming the sector. This presents challenges but also opportunities and we must embrace the change to sustain the quality employment it creates right across the country.”

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