Dr Siobhan Roche
Director Science for Economy, Science Foundation Ireland
Mechanical, electrical and integrated technologies marked the themes of the three industrial revolutions that have shaped the world, and our lives evolved both socially and economically.
Today, we are on the cusp of a fourth industrial revolution — one that is centred around manufacturing.
What is Industry 4.0?
Industry 4.0. is a result of developments made in digital technologies, computation science and communication. Advances in semiconductor research, biomedical engineering, sustainability and the giant strides made in machine learning and artificial intelligence have resulted in the need for advanced manufacturing practices that engineers on the borders of multiple scientific disciplines.
Industry 4.0 stems from this need and comes with the potential of creating smarter machines, enhanced cloud storage and production systems capable of autonomous collaboration, seamless data distribution and artificial intelligence.
The future of manufacturing in Ireland is
working with industry to advance the
low-cost, low-risk design of new products.
The future of manufacturing
One of the key drivers in helping the Government of Ireland’s objective to hit net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 with a 51% reduction in emissions by 2030 is reducing fossil fuel reliance. This is one of the reasons behind the investment of the SFI’s Research Centre for advanced manufacturing, I-Form.
With a strong emphasis on sustainability, I-Form brings together technological developments across a spectrum of disciplines to improve the competitiveness of Irish manufacturing on the world stage. The future of manufacturing in Ireland is working with industry to advance the low-cost, low-risk design of new products and the manufacture of high-value components exhibiting enhanced material performance through environmentally positive manufacturing practices across the entire value chain.
Opportunities in Ireland’s manufacturing sector
According to the Irish Business and Employer’s Confederation report published in 2021, 29% of the jobs created in the manufacturing sector in Ireland are in the high-technology sectors of medical and pharma; digital and optical systems; and air and spacecraft machinery. This is four times the EU average.
These sectors contribute most to Ireland’s GDP; and with the growing emphasis on sustainability towards a carbon-neutral circular economy, there will be an increased requirement for RD&I in the form of upgrading and developing existing strategies from raw materials and equipment to the final product. This will see a surge in the number of skilled engineers and scientists who work at the intersection of multiple disciplines.
Like all areas of research, change is happening at a fast pace; and discussion across the sector is already starting to move towards Industry 5.0. With the quality of researchers and infrastructure in advanced manufacturing, it won’t be surprising if Ireland can play a leading role.