The Irish Digital Engineering and Advanced Manufacturing Cluster

The Irish Digital Engineering and Advanced Manufacturing (IDEAM) Cluster is an industry-driven national cluster launched in April 2021 that brings together industry, academia and government to represent the needs of the advanced manufacturing sector in Ireland. IDEAM assists manufacturing small and mid-sized companies (SMEs) in their digital transformation. The cluster’s core aim is to unlock new opportunities for industry by supporting businesses to collaborate, innovate and grow.

The cluster’s vision is to promote a high degree of competitiveness, productivity and internationalisation in the digitalisation and sustainable growth of manufacturing SMEs, contributing to the economic growth of Ireland. The cluster supports SMEs through four key strategic initiatives: (1) Talent and Skills, (2) Research and Development, (3) Internationalisation and Funding, and (4) Business and Community Development.

Industry must be at the pinnacle of what the cluster is trying to achieve with the backing of the three pillars – industry, academia and government. The global industry is growing unprecedentedly and now is the right time to make the Mid-West region and Ireland a world-class one-stop-shop that will assist Manufacturing SMEs in all aspects of digital transformation and Industry 4.0. An advanced manufacturing and IN4.0 digital transformation cluster can pioneer Ireland on an international scale to attract start-ups, investments and develop indigenous SMEs in this sector, but everyone must work more collectively and build trust. The right people at the heart of the cluster will help to ensure its added value, sustainability and impact

Dr Jamie Meehan, IDEAM Cluster Manager

IDEAM Strategic Initiatives

Talent and Skills

Under the Talent and Skills initiative, IDEAM Cluster constitutes a single-point of contact for SMEs interested in acquiring knowledge on digitalisation of manufacturing. This involves the identification of industry needs and knowledge gaps that are addressed through the provision of specific talent and skills programmes, workshops and events that support the upskilling of the industry workforce and equip employees with the necessary skills to drive digital transformation within their companies.

Example activity

IDEAM Cluster in conjunction with the Technological University of the Shannon: Midlands Midwest is delivering a Springboard+ funded Certificate in Leadership in Digitisation of Manufacturing (Level 9).

The 10-week online programme aims to highlight the value and potential of Digitalisation of Manufacturing as well as equip engineers and managers with the knowledge to drive digital transformation in their companies. Each seminar addresses a specific Challenge Topic, such as; Digital Maturity, New Business Models, Data Acquisition and Visualisation, Data Analytics and Artificial Intelligence, Smart Maintenance, Smart Industrial Control Systems, Collaborative Robotic Systems, & Digitalisation of Production. More than 40 companies were involved over two intakes of the programme which will be extended for a third and fourth round due to its impact and success.

Research and Development

Under the Research and Development initiative, IDEAM Cluster supports SMEs to assess their current level of digitalisation and benchmark their performance against industry standards as well as identify opportunities for improvement. This involves the assessment of the digital readiness of companies using online calculators and site-assessments, the collation of relevant white-papers and case studies, support from third level institutions and research centres as well as the development of a strategic action plan which is tailored to the requirements of the individual organisation to implement digitalisation and optimise operations.

Example activity

Digi Manufacturing is a cross-border cluster collaboration project which is supported and funded by the InterTradeIreland Synergy Programme. The InterTradeIreland Synergy Programme is a cross-border initiative that aims to foster North/South collaborative relationships with the aim to increase the competitiveness and growth of businesses across the island of Ireland.

Digi Manufacturing is facilitated through a cross-border partnership between Manufacturing NI and IDEAM Cluster which aims to foster the digital transformation of the manufacturing SMEs by bringing together members of both Manufacturing NI and IDEAM to showcase digital learnings and industry best practices. The overarching objective of the project is to establish collaborative innovation projects between members of IDEAM Cluster and Manufacturing NI fostering the collective digital and green transition of their members.

Internationalisation and Funding

Under the Internationalisation and Funding initiative, IDEAM Cluster supports SMEs to improve their geographical reach and increase their scale through product and process innovations, increased quality of their offering and engagement with research performing organisations across mainland Europe. IDEAM Cluster is involved in several large-scale European projects that support the digital and green transition of SMEs across Europe providing cluster members with access to new markets while fostering cross-industry as well as cross-border collaborations. Furthermore, IDEAM supports SMEs to identify, explore and apply for new funding streams to drive innovation and growth of member companies.

Example activity

IDEAM Cluster is currently involved in three large-scale European projects (ADDTEX, xBUILD-EU, In Transit) as well as one small-scale European partnership project (DI4TEX) which collectively received more than €8 million in funding. These projects aim to support SMEs from various sectors across Europe throughout their digital and green transition as well as increase the resilience of the European Single Market.

Business and Community Development

Under the Business and Community Development initiative, IDEAM Cluster fosters strong relationships and cooperation amongst members to strengthen the resilience and increase the competitiveness of the engineering and advanced manufacturing ecosystem in Ireland on a national and international level. This involves the development of a community of best practice that is built on trust, collaboration and engagement through networking events that facilitate peer-to-peer learning, knowledge exchange and the establishment of sustainable collaborative relationships between our members to collectively address challenges and realise opportunities.

Example activity

Manufacturing Solutions 2022, which was held at the TUS Moylish Campus in Limerick, included the inaugural IDEAM Conference on Digitalisation of Manufacturing Conference, a Manufacturing Technology Zone showcasing €5 Million worth of state-of-the-art advanced manufacturing equipment as well as the traditional manufacturing supply chain roadshow and popular ‘Meet the Manufacturer’ event. The two-day exhibition and conference attracted over 150 exhibitors and more than 1600 visitors from all over the country and abroad.

The IDEAM Conference on Digitalisation of Manufacturing Conference was a new element to the Manufacturing Solutions 2022 event which featured various stakeholders, industry experts and leaders from both, national and international manufacturing ecosystems. Furthermore, EIT Manufacturing, an innovation ecosystem with the mission to bring European manufacturing actors together to accelerate innovation and increase resilience, presented Europe’s vision for the future of manufacturing and outlined European funding mechanism in support of SME innovation.

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