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Industry growth through collaboration at Limerick Institute of Technology

Reporter:

Industry growth through collaboration at Limerick Institute of Technology

Dr John Cosgrove, Head of Graduate Studies, LIT; Dr Liam Brown, VP RDI , LIT; Dr Jamie Meehan, IDEAM Education and Outreach Manager; Ciaran O’Loughlin, Dept. Mechanical & Automobile Engineering, LIT

LIMERICK Institute of Technology (LIT) has a long and proud track record of supporting industry throughout the region in facing their business challenges and in supplying generations of talent to drive economic success.

LIT has also worked closely with industry partners and stakeholders to improve competitiveness and productivity through research, innovation and skills development. Our focus is on impactful research that can strengthen the country and support the skills needs identified by our industry partners.

As LIT moves to become a Technological University, our aim to support industry in the region will be extended and enhanced through new initiatives and support measures, driven by our Academic Faculties and Research Institutes.

As part of a new European Regional University Network (run-eu.eu), LIT has been awarded a significant Horizon 2020 project due to commence in October 2021 to develop industry-based research degrees at masters and doctoral level. These professional practice-based research projects will be underpinned with a comprehensive skills and competence programme to strengthen the region’s human capital resources in research and innovation.

The RUN-EU project includes the development of ‘Interuniversity Future and Advanced Skills Academies’ and ‘European Innovation Hubs’ that will reinforce our academia-business collaboration in the focus areas of Future Industry and Sustainable Regional Development, the Bio-economy and Social Innovation.

The network will also provide industry in the region with access to a new collective of research and skills expertise from the 8,000 staff and 75,000 students across the eight partner universities.

Dr Liam Brown, Vice-President for Research, Development & Innovation, LIT said: “Research collaboration with LIT has been proven to drive regional economic development performance, due to the significant increases in innovation and technology applications, and commercialisation of these applications. We continue to strive to bring together the key stakeholders from industry, academia, and government to make a real impact on the development of the advanced manufacturing sector in the Mid-West region and Ireland as a whole. The collaboration with the RUN-EU Alliance will bring many new opportunities for industry in the region, and in particular for SMEs, to augment their innovation capacity, digital transformation and business opportunities”.

SMART Manufacturing

The newly formed Research Institute for Design Engineering, Artificial Intelligence and Advanced Manufacturing (IDEAM) is focused on the research and development of data-driven solutions for industry.

With core expertise in engineering, electronics, informatics and manufacturing, IDEAM is a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary institute focussed on the development of excellence in research, collaborative research projects and regional training & skills that can deliver impactful research and innovation.

IDEAM brings together a number of existing research groups and centres (ACORN Research Centre, Computing and Informatics Research (CaIR) Group, Centre for Energy Efficiency and Deep Decarbonisation (CEEDDs)) along with specialist research groups in Electronic, Electrical and Mechanical engineering, to address industry and societal challenges relating to increased digitalisation, sustainability and enterprise resilience.

Some current projects include research partnerships with Cook Medical, Vistamed, Analog Devices and Glynn Technical Diamonds addressing innovations in process and product design.

The IDEAM Research Institute at LIT is also part of a designated European Digital Innovation Hub (EDIH) which will lead the national development of Advanced Digital Skills, Artificial Intelligence, High-Performance Computing and Cyber-security for industry and in particular for SMEs.

Dr John Cosgrove, Director of IDEAM, said: “Collaboratively working and backing industry in the region is one of LIT’s main objectives as we continue to develop initiatives to specifically meet industry needs and to drive excellence in science and engineering in the region.

As well as many industry collaborators, LIT is part of the UL led CONFIRM SFI Research Centre and collaborates with many other RPOs including AIT, MTU, UCD, TCD, NUIG, Tyndall and IMR.

The manufacturing context in Ireland is transforming rapidly and the art of enhanced collaboration through cluster building can provide many benefits for industry productivity, competitiveness, internationalisation and educational engagement. Under the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, the recent SME Taskforce report on ‘SME and Entrepreneurship Growth Plan’ has highlighted clusters as a key pillar for driving the competitiveness of Irish SMEs.

Funded under the Enterprise Ireland Regional Technology Clustering Fund (RTCF), the IDEAM Industry Cluster assists Manufacturing SMEs in digital transformation and Industry 4.0. IDEAM brings together industry, academia and government to support more than 75 Manufacturing SMEs, from the Mid West and all over Ireland on: 

Educational Engagement: Sustainable Supply of Digital & Manufacturing Talent
SME Productivity: Business Growth Promotion & Supporting Cross-Industry Collaboration
SME Competitiveness: Collaborative R&D Strategic Projects between Industry & Academia 
SME Internationalisation: Supporting Irish Advanced Manufacturing SMEs & Start-Ups to Grow & Export

It has been well documented that companies involved in clusters have greater access to resources, skilled labour, talent, capital, knowledge, and institutions.

Dr. Jamie Meehan, Educational and Outreach Manager, IDEAM Cluster stated: “Industry engagement is core to the success of the cluster. Having a diverse group of over 200 smart manufacturing-focused enterprise, from start-ups, micro-enterprises, SMEs and multi-nationals provides the engine of the cluster. Together we can harness the new opportunities enabled by Industry 4.0 technologies and help the region become a global leader in smart and sustainable manufacturing.”

The IDEAM cluster was launched on April 14 by Minister Niall Collins, Deptarment of Further and Higher Education, Research Innovation and Science.

Speaking at the (virtual) launch, Mr Tomás Ó Síocháin, CEO of Western Development Commission, said: “The cluster is hugely important in improving the awareness and accessibility of supports for the digital transformation – it’s a learning process for all. The Western Development Commission, as the lead agency for the National Hubs Network welcomes the opportunity to work with IDEAM to engage with as many SMEs as possible and, in particular with those in more rural and regional areas, to ensure that they have access to cutting edge manufacturing developments across the EU”.

Professor Vincent Cunnane, President of Limerick Institute of Technology commented: “The IDEAM cluster will enable LIT to connect and engage further with SMEs providing a means to increase their educational and research remit in all aspects of digital transformation and Industry 4.0. The Regional Technology Clustering Fund, which is supporting the cluster, was designed to help strengthen collaboration between industry leaders and Higher Education Institutions with a view to enhanced balanced regional development.”

Prof Cunnane added: “Working and supporting industry in the region is already one of LIT’s key priorities as we continue to develop courses to meet industry needs and educate our students to a work ready standard. It is the success of this partnership that paves the way for three quarters of LIT’s graduates to remain in the Mid West region, working primarily in counties Limerick, Clare and Tipperary.”

Join the IDEAM Cluster, its team and learn how its business model can benefit your productivity, competitiveness, and growth: Contact jamie.meehan@ideam.ie or see ideamcluster.weebly.com. 

(Some of the attendees at the IDEAM launch including Dr Liam Brown, VP RDI, LIT; Dr Jamie Meehan, IDEAM Education and Outreach Manager, LIT; Minister Niall Collins, Deptartment of Further and Higher Education, Research Innovation and Science; Joe Leddin, Regional Skills Manager; Professor Vincent Cunnane, President LIT & Vivian Farrell, CEO Modular Automation).

Digital Champions for Advanced Manufacturing Facilities

The Masters of Engineering (Digitalisation of Manufacturing) is a practice-based professional award for experienced employees in advanced manufacturing facilities.

The programme aims to upskill the next generation of ‘Digital Champions’ to drive innovation and competitiveness through the application of advanced digital technologies, such as data analytics, machine learning, industrial IoT, industrial automation and virtualisation.

Developed in conjunction with an expert working group and the Irish MedTech Skillsnet (IBEC), the programme currently supports 18 industry-based research projects in digitalisation of manufacturing in factories across Ireland, including companies such as; Boston Scientific, Stryker, Johnson & Johnson Visioncare, Cook Medical, Zimmer and EI Electronics.

Programme lead, Frank Doyle, said: “Through this programme, LIT takes a ‘hands on’ approach to enhance the theoretical understanding, to identify added-value through the industry-based research projects and to enable the employees to grasp new opportunities in the rapidly evolving manufacturing sector.”

The programme learning outcomes are strongly work-based, supported by a programme of masterclasses, delivered through a blend of physical bootcamps, online workshops and tutorials and expert guest lecturers. The industry-based research project focuses on the identification of manufacturing challenges, the data-driven analysis of key performance indicators and the design of an optimised and integrated digital solution to demonstrate the opportunities and added value for the business.

The programme is aimed at existing manufacturing, mechanical or engineering professionals, and those migrating from associated disciplines, who have a deep knowledge of manufacturing environments and are interested in exploring the potential benefits and challenges facing manufacturing from digitalisation.

Masters of Engineering graduate Eamonn O’Dea from Lufthansa Technik Turbine Shannon (LTTS), said: “The information and knowledge I have gained from the masters has helped with identifying areas where the company could benefit from digitalisation and also how to investigate these areas further to realize the potential benefits”.

Gerry Cronin, Senior Manufacturing Engineer, Stryker, said: “We are starting to kick off projects associated with assessing OEE of equipment and using real-time data to display on our shop floor. With the knowledge gained in the course, I can assist in getting these projects over the line”.

Registrations are currently open for the next programme starting in October 2021 and further information is available here.

Health and Biosciences Research

LIFE, the Health and Biosciences Research Institute, at LIT has developed an integrated approach to understanding the connection between health and bioscience and applies new knowledge to improving health and wellness. The research focus includes ‘Lifelong Health’ addressing the mechanistic basis of healthy ageing, using our research expertise in human, microbial and cellular systems to develop novel products and approaches to improve lifestyle and health.

The LIFE Research Institute also focuses on ‘Nutrition for Health’ in understanding how foods, nutrients and diet influence cellular processes and affect overall health. ‘Biotechnology for Societal Health’ and the development of innovative enabling biotechnology approaches to translate basic bioscience to society is key.

The ethos of the LIFE research community will be to conduct ethical research with the pillars of sustainability at the forefront of our research design. LIT’s flagship Technology Gateway, Shannon ABC, in collaboration with the MTU is an integral industry facing initiative of LIFE.

“By ‘Delivering Today while Preparing for Tomorrow’, our Institute strategy is to meet the current health challenges and to position ourselves to take advantage of future opportunities. We promote an open science approach, broadening inclusivity and ensuring our discoveries are accessible to all,” said Dr Paudie Murray, Head of Research & Technology Transfers at LIT.

Research in Sustainable Development

The aim of the Sustainable Development Research Institute (SDRI) is to maximise the impact of LIT, and the TU, on the sustainable development of the region through high quality, applied research informed and aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s).

As a multi and inter-disciplinary research institute, producing high quality, impactful outputs through funded R&D projects, postgraduate research and publications is key to the Institute’s success.

This re-enforces LIT’s position as a leading actor in the sustainable development sector, both nationally and across Europe. The institute aligns its interdisciplinary research within the themes of the nature, economy, society and wellness.

Future Industries

LIT and our component research institutes are experienced and focussed on providing support to industry in addressing their current and future challenges in talent development, digitalisation and sustainability, leading to resilient operations and significant contributions to the economic and societal wellbeing of the region.