Manufacturing Industry in the Border Region Work Together to Compete on International Market

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A new manufacturing cluster to help develop the industry in the border region to compete on a national and international level was officially launched by Minister Frank Feighan, TD at Atlantic Technological University with President of ATU, Dr Orla Flynn. 

The Border Region Manufacturing Cluster (BORMAC) is an industry led cluster comprising of 20 manufacturing companies spanning both the North and South of the border region in Ireland.  The term ‘cluster’ is sometimes used interchangeably with ‘industry groups’, ‘networks’ and ‘associations’.  However, a key difference is that clusters include academic/research institutions and government agencies, as well as companies, in their membership and this supports a deeper level of engagement and collaboration.

BORMAC, funded through Enterprise Ireland’s Regional Technology Clustering Fund (RTCF), is supported by the Government of Ireland and is hosted by Atlantic Technological University.  It is one of 12 industry-led clusters funded under the same initiative with the Marine Cluster launched in ATU’s Killybegs campus in April.  In addition to industry members, the cluster also includes agencies and academic institutions north and south of the border, namely Intertrade Ireland, DKIT, Southwest College and Queens University

Speaking at the launch, Minister Frank Feighan TD, said the industry needed to work together to future proof itself and prepare for disruptions in the market, especially in light of Brexit and the on-going conflict in Europe:

“Digital transformation will affect future developments in the region’s Industry sector and there is a growing demand for automation, science, engineering and digital skills which are vital to sustaining and growing the region’s manufacturing sector and economy. Additionally with Brexit, the difficulties of disrupted supply chains, cross border workforce mobility and increasing customs/tariff complexities have become a reality, solutions to which, require different thinking.”

The concept of Industry clustering has been around since the 1980’s and has proven to be economically beneficial for companies and regions, showing companies within clusters having higher growth, productivity and innovation than companies that are not in clusters.   Some of the key benefits include access to research and development supports, training and advice and the opportunity to network and collaborate with other companies.

Addressing attendees at the launch, Finola Howe, Head of Enterprise and Engagement at ATU Sligo and manager of BORMAC, said:

“In Ireland we are behind the rest of the world in our adoption of Industry Clustering, we have learned from global cluster success stories that companies in clusters are more productive, innovative and have higher growth rates than companies that are not in clusters. I’m delighted that we are now recognising this, and supports are being put in place to encourage the development of Clustering in Ireland.”

Ms Howe added the cluster has a plan of activity focussed around four workstreams of People, Innovation, Internationalisation & Business Development and Networking & promotion

“In BORMAC, we are in the early stages of our cluster development and are learning from the best practices of successful clusters across Europe, Nordics and Canada. We have focussed on uncovering common ‘pain points’ of our industry members and enabling them to collaborate on solutions together, supported by academic institutions and government agencies. This ‘triple helix’ approach is powerful as it helps companies gain access to the applied research strengths of our academic partners, and the funding and supports from our agencies. We already are seeing successful short term outcomes in BORMAC and we will contribute to the longer terms positive impact for our regional economic growth in the manufacturing sector”

Manufacturing is one of the border region’s largest employment sector (Including NI). In the North West alone it employs 13.7% of the region’s workers and accounts for 6.1% of regional enterprises, compared with 11.4% and 5.6% nationally.  In Northern Ireland, Manufacturing is the 3rd largest employer and the 2nd largest sector in terms of economic output. It accounts for a larger proportion of the economy in Northern Ireland than in the UK as a whole.

Given this landscape within the border region there is an opportunity for BORMAC to help member companies to collaborate on strategic approaches to these challenges, both North and South of the border.  More information on the new manufacturing cluster and how to become a member is available at BORMAC.