Long-term job creation will come from innovative Irish enterprises, according to four of Ireland's leading engineer entrepreneurs
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Taoiseach Enda Kenny has pledged Government support to Ireland’s manufacturing sector in order to grow exports and create jobs. Speaking at last month’s UCD Engineering Graduates Association Autumn Debate, he emphasised that jobs were the Government’s “top priority”.

“We need to build on the 3,000 new jobs that are being added in the private sector each month. A strong manufacturing sector is essential to growing our exports to sustain and create jobs in innovative, home-grown businesses as well as in foreign companies that locate in Ireland,” said Kenny.

“The Government, through our Action Plan for Jobs, will continue to support measures that capitalise on our advantages – our people, our proximity to key markets and our pro-business policies.”

The Autumn Debate featured four leading Irish engineering entrepreneurs – Ian Quinn, founder and chair of Creganna Tactx in Galway; Martin McVicar, founder and MD of Combilift in Clontibret, Co Monaghan; Edmond Harty, technical director and CEO of Dairymaster in Causeland, Co Kerry; and Philip O’Doherty, MD and founder of E&I Engineering in Burnfoot, Co Donegal. Over 200 UCD engineering alumni attended the event.

Ian Quinn said that despite the ongoing recession, Ireland’s manufacturing industry had the potential for strong growth and development. “Short-term jobs will come from small indigenous businesses, while long-term jobs will come from innovative Irish enterprises,” said Quinn, whose company employs some 800 people in the biomedical device business.

Martin McVicar agreed that manufacturing was sustainable in Ireland. He advised, however: “It’s better to be a big company in a small niche market than a small company in a big market. There needs to be a close link between R&D and sales/marketing and we have a relatively short time to market.” Manufacturing long load and specialised forklifts, McVicar has grown employment from 160 in 2009 to 275 in 2013 and hopes to grow to over 400 staff by 2018.

Dairymaster CEO Edmond Harty said that innovation was the key. “We’re about making dairy farming more profitable, more enjoyable and more sustainable” he said. “Universities should be demonstrating the value and validating the performance of products. This would help exports. I can’t get the people with the right skills in Ireland.”

Philip O’Doherty is in the electrical switchgear export business, employing 475 staff in Ireland and 220 staff in Dubai. He promoted lean manufacturing and working with the education sector to produce highly skilled employees, including showing local schools around his factory. O’Doherty said that Ireland must become a “competitive, export-focused economy comprising both small- to medium-sized enterprises and foreign direct investment companies with highly skilled employees led by world-class management”.

The panel discussion was chaired by PJ Rudden, president of the UCD Engineering Graduates Association. He said the evening was a celebration of indigenous Irish manufacturing. “These four engineers have built niche global businesses in Ireland from ground zero and are now creating hundreds of jobs through exporting our products to international market,” Rudden said.

“The foundation of a successful manufacturing nation is our educational system. We need to build more of an entrepreneurial class of innovators who can challenge leading national and international brands in the same way as Coca Cola, VW, Siemens and others who have become household names. In this regard, the German model of industrial training needs serious appraisal and adoption in Ireland.”

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  Taoiseach Enda Kenny has pledged Government support to Ireland’s manufacturing sector in order to grow exports and create jobs. Speaking at last month’s UCD Engineering Graduates Association Autumn Debate, he emphasised that jobs were the Government’s “top priority”. “We need to build on the 3,000 new jobs that are being...