The Irish economy has moved beyond the recovery phase, with 4.2 per cent growth forecast for 2018. Growth in 2017 was underpinned by business investment in plant, machinery and equipment (excluding IP and aircraft leasing) of almost €1 billion per month, and the quickest real wage growth in Europe at 1.8 per cent.

But, as we look to the future, identifying strategic areas for growth will be key to ensure the sustainability of this success. Advanced manufacturing provides a unique opportunity to attract investment, create jobs and drive growth.

“Per capita, Ireland is world-renowned for manufacturing.”

Manufacturing in Ireland accounts for a whopping 36.7 per cent of GDP with more than one in ten people in the workforce directly employed by the industry. As the greatest recipient of Shingo Prizes for operational excellence, per capita, Ireland is already world-renowned for manufacturing.

Ireland is well established as a strategic location of choice to expand into Europe’s manufacturing industry with both a strong base of FDI investment and homegrown businesses here. Manufacturing in Europe generates €1,710 billion of value added with nearly 30 million people employed across more than two million enterprises, according to Eurostat.

Ibec’s medtech and engineering sectors have worked with other key stakeholders to advocate for a government-funded, discrete advanced manufacturing centre as a matter of priority to help companies focus on research that is nearer-to-commercialisation of new products and providing greater return on investment for innovation.

The manufacturing sector here currently spends €771 million on R&D annually. But with Ireland ranked 2nd for technological adoption, 9th for availability of scientists and engineers, and 10th for intellectual property protection globally, our model of substance means we’re well positioned to be at the forefront of advanced manufacturing.

With nine of the top ten medtech companies, ten of the top ten ICT companies and ten of the top ten biopharma companies having a base here, we’re uniquely positioned to capitalise on innovation through strategic collaborations in key areas such as digital.

In less than ten years, the value of our digital economy has nearly tripled, growing from €4.3 billion to €12.3 billion (2015 figure). Moreover, our digital-related GDP at six per cent is higher than both the EU’s at 5.7 per cent and G20 at 5.3 per cent averages. These trends reveal the potential to reach €21.4 billion by 2020 and create 56,000 jobs while enhancing productivity.

The digital transformation of manufacturing has arrived, and it’s time to embrace it. Creating smart connected manufacturing with people centred operations will help drive and strengthen Ireland’s global manufacturing competitiveness.

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The 'New thinking in enterprise excellence: Manufacturing Conference' 7 June 2018, in the Galmont Hotel Galway, hosted by Ibec’s Medtech and Engineering Sectors will bring together thought leaders and provide an opportunity for business to showcase best practice with a special poster competition.