Archive for the ‘Ireland’ Category

Furniture Cluster – Letterfrack, Ireland

April 5, 2011

Established just over two decades ago with 20 students, the  Furniture College at Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT) in Letterfrack, Ireland now provides 280 students with an internationally renowned education in furniture design, technology, manufacture, restoration and conservation.

 Located in a small village in County Galway, GMIT Letterfrack enjoys a 95-97% completion rate. The college began as a partnership between Connemara West, a community and rural development organization, and a Regional Technical College. It was a development strategy for a community with an unemployment rate of 50% and, with assistance from the Danish Technological Institute, helped rescue a lagging furniture cluster.

The college has since extended its partnerships to include universities and programs throughout the world.

 GMIT Letterfrack’s strong reputation and relationships with employers in and outside Ireland offer its students the chance to apply their education through internships and postgraduate careers. A majority of students are ffrom Ireland and enroll in the college directly from secondary school. About 10-20 percent of students, however, are over 23 years of age. The college has a small number of full-time international students in addition to the six exchange students the college hosted this year.

 Many internships are in training and education, offering technical support for lecturers or trainers. Others include design and product development, project management, production software, and equipment design. Approximately one third of student placements are to positions outside of Ireland, including Canada, Australia, Finland, Germany, England, United States, Zambia and Morocco.

 Instructors of GMIT Letterfrack include lecturers and technicians. Lecturers are in charge of each training module and delivery of the program. Technicians offer technical support through demonstrations in the workshop. Many of the staff members are hired as graduates of the college. Currently, eight of 25 members are GMIT Letterfrack graduates.

 The town of Letterfrack has greatly benefited from the college. Economic conditions have improved enormously via staff relocating to the area, traveling staff members, and 280 students. GMIT Letterfrack has extended its outreach efforts by working with the village of Maamba, Zambia to develop the Woodworking Training Centre. Four students and their lecturer traveled to Africa to set up equipment necessary to teach a class of 18 students. The first classes were held in July 2009, and the first group of students passed their trade exams in the summer of 2010. The Letterfrack students then led an initiative to develop a market for locally produced furniture and began taking commercial orders.

 Contributed by Corinne Cain – go to

(This item was provided by CraftNet Sketches, a network run by Stu Rosenfeld et al in USA. It does a great job in disseminating best practice. We get a huge amount of enquiries on its behalf from African students. The Letterfrack College seems ideally placed to figure in international aid collaboration – Editor)


Irish-China linkages (BEST PRACTICE)

November 12, 2008


The Irish Times reports that Galway-based design and manufacturing company CF Tooling opened a new production facility in the southern Chinese production hub of Dongguan. The €7 million factory will build server racks for the China market for IBM.


CF Tooling’s managing director John Flaherty said “In December last year we picked a greenfield site here and now it’s ready to run…I came here five times in all. This was a building site three weeks ago. We’re planning to make 500 to 600 server racks a week here. We have capacity for 900 and we’re also going to offer the facility to our other customers.”


CF Tooling already has operations in Athenry, Co Galway; the UK, the Czech Republic and the Philippines, and employs 1,000 people. Turnover in 2007 was €63 million and is forecast to rise to €77 million. Its customers include IBM, American Power Conversion, Ingersoll Rand, Linde Carrier, Toshiba, Hitachi and Glen Dimplex. CF makes the same racks in Ireland and the Czech Republic, with the Irish operation supplying Dublin and the Czech plant supplying Hungary. Flaherty said: “IBM asked us to come to China. We made a commitment in December last year to be ready in China – in fact we made a bet, IBM said they’d buy us a dinner if we managed to do it…big companies want global solutions. We couldn’t be a global supplier to IBM if we just had Galway. We wouldn’t be doing any business.”


The factory is in the town of Qingxi, part of the huge manufacturing city of Dongguan. Exports from Qingxi were worth €3.7 billion last year and the town is home to 800 companies. “It was no problem to set up here. People think you can get lost in China, and you can, but if you follow rules and regulations you’ve no problem,” Mr Flaherty added. “It’s like anywhere else, similar to the Philippines in fact for us.”We will be successful here like we are anywhere else – we bring the knowledge of the Irish manufacturing process to the world, and the efficiencies that we’ve built in over the years.”


Contributed by Professor Roy Green.

Facebook lured to Ireland

October 17, 2008


Irish Minister Mary Coughlan announced on 2 October that Facebook, the world’s leading social networking site, is to establish its international headquarters in Dublin.


It will provide a range of online technical, sales and operations support to Facebook’s users and customers across Europe, the Middle East and Africa. 


Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg explained, “After exploring various locations throughout the region, we decided Ireland was the best place to establish our new headquarters. As we grow and strive to make Facebook into a place for people around the world to connect and share information, we need local operations to better advance our efforts. The talent pool in Dublin is world-class…”


(Still no word about the level of subsidies being offered – Editor)

Another big Irish success (BEST PRACTICE)

August 26, 2008


August 5, 2008: Abiomed is to establish a Global Manufacturing facility for its Impella 2.5 cardiac assist device in Athlone, Co Westmeath, creating 250 jobs over five years. Abiomed is the market leader in cardiac-assist technology. Three factors influenced the decision – infrastructural facilities; high number of Irish medical device component supply companies; the quality of living and working environment.


As usual, IDA Ireland has been coy about the assistance it has provided.


The Minister said ‘we faced strong global competition for the investment…the Midlands (Ireland) record of success with companies in the medical technologies industry, the availability of a highly skilled workforce and the proximity to the Athlone Institute of Technology are not just major attractions to Abiomed but to many other innovative-driven multinational companies of the same calibre.” 


Michael R. Minogue, Chairman, then added MORE reasons – “we chose this Ireland location because it simply met our primary criteria – a great building with existing clean room space, a great workforce, and a strong supplier network.”

Singapore is the Big Easy – NZ second!

November 14, 2007

As more nations recognize the importance of entrepreneurship, their governments are reforming rules and regulations to ease the business development process.

The latest edition of the World Bank’s Doing Business report shows that these trends are taking hold. The number of new business starts in Eastern Europe now surpasses the impressive numbers found in East Asia.

Meanwhile, many long-time laggards, like Egypt, Croatia, and Ghana, now appear on the lists as “top reformers” i.e. governments that have implemented major reforms in their business regulation systems.  

Overall, Singapore takes the top spot as the easiest place to do business. Rounding out the top 10 (in order)  are New Zealand, USA, Hong Kong, Denmark, UK, Canada, Ireland, Australia and Iceland.

View the findings of the World Bank’s 2008 Doing Business report at 

Original source: NDOE

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‘Clusters are about relationships – not one night stands’ says UK expert

October 17, 2007

Bill Wicksteed of SQW Limited in Cambridge UK writes to say that he recently had the somewhat daunting task of explaining clusters to a conference of Ireland’s amenity horticulture businesses and consultants. Their lack of familiarity with the concept forced him to go back to first principles and he kindly forwarded overheads of his presentation. Below are some of his main points. 

There is, naturally, a good deal of variation between clusters in the nature and scope of the interconnectedness. The scale of the cluster, and how widely it is dispersed, are variables that impact on this. There are, however, some aspects that typify the ways in which most clusters operate:

  • Clusters are about  relationships rather than one night stands, and reputations count.
  • Collaboration between firms in order to compete more successfully (often in export markets).
  • An emphasis on networking between firms and the supporting infrastructure e.g. educational and training bodies, research institutes, providers/operators of hard infrastructure). 

As a heroic generalization. I suggest that the key drivers towards collaboration within a cluster include:

§          changing customer requirements that challenge established business arrangements.
§          the need/desire to tackle new markets   
§          a recognized opportunity to share the costs of accessing market intelligence.   
§          other issues in which scale is important for competitiveness (e.g. purchasing)
§          challenges from new regulations or rapid advances in Science and Technology.
§          the perceived advantage in building a shared brand (e.g. Scottish food). 

When is a cluster initiative appropriate? Cluster development initiatives are just one of a number of possible approaches to helping improve business competitiveness…Clusters cannot be grounded in aspiration alone – there needs to be substance as well. It is possible to start with very little, but in that case a commensurate level of investment must be committed over a long period of time. 

Singapore is seeking, through government intervention, to build a biotech cluster and may well succeed, but the level of investment devoted to achieve this ambition is staggering.

Moreover, there has to be a strong private sector commitment.  The public sector can provide catalytic resources, but unless leadership soon switches to the private sector (with continuing support from other stakeholders) there must be doubt as to how relevant the cluster approach is to be business success. The key question is whether there are significant benefits to be gained from closer collaboration. 

Bill’s website is

New emphases in aid field

October 16, 2007




The Annual World Bank Conference on Development Economics (ABCDE) in Tokyo in May 2006 highlighted some VERY timely issues worthy of contemplation by economic development practitioners.     

§          A call for new analytical and evaluation tools to help infrastructure choices in energy, transportation, water. ”Our approach to infrastructure must focus not just on economic growth or human growth,” said Bank President Paul Wolfowitz in his opening address “It must also focus on ‘smart’ growth…growth that is economically sound, environmentally friendly, socially acceptable, locally desirable, and most important, growth that makes a difference in people’s lives.

§          Infrastructure investments have often failed the test, said Japanese Finance Minister Tanigaki. “Hasn’t donor support simply left ‘white elephants’ behind? Have we paid enough attention to adverse environmental and social impacts? Have we had sufficient dialogue with stakeholders?”

§          WB Chief Economist Bourguignon argued for better understanding of linkages between infrastructure investments and growth; getting the right balance between public and private involvement; dealing with cross-border issues and externalities – shared road and rail links, shared pollution; establishment of systems to deliver better data and evaluation.

§          JICA will merge with the ODA lender Japan Bank for International Cooperation in 2008, forming “the world’s second-largest integrated development agency after the World Bank.” 

§          Richard Manning (DAC Chairman) noted that “emerging donors” – Russia, Korea, Poland, Turkey, Brazil, China, South Africa, India – are using aid to position themselves to transform their relations with other countries. This could result in a slowdown in developing-country reform efforts.

§          Manning applauded moves by the UK, Ireland, Norway, and Australia to untie 100% of their aid, and Canada’s decision to allow 50% of its food aid to be procured in the beneficiary region.  


ILO report – Norway No. 1 re productivity on hourly basis

August 15, 2007



The International Labour Organisation has released its major biennial report on the world labour market.  §          The gender gap (female and male employment-to-population ratios) in East Asia and Developed Economies (12.9% points) and Middle East, North Africa and South Asia exceeds 40% points!§          Agriculture (36%) now second to the services sector (42%) as the main sector of employment. §          Productivity levels increased fastest in East Asia, where output per worker almost doubled. Considerable increases also in Central & South-Eastern Europe (non-EU) & CIS and South Asia.§          USA continues has the highest labour productivity levels (US$63,885), followed by Ireland (US$55,986) and Luxembourg (US$55,641). But Norway has highest productivity when measured on hourly basis (US$37.99), followed by USA (US$35.63) and France (US$35.08). View the 2007 ILO study, Key Indicators of the Labor Market.

Galway gets to heart of matter

February 17, 2005

From the vantage point of the famous Galway racetrack, it is easy to see how this west of Ireland city is now described as one of Europe’s leading industrial clusters.

“Over there, we’ve got the world’s biggest maker of cardiovascular stents,” says Ian Quinn, who runs a family-owned business supplying the big multinationals with specialist parts. “And on that side, we’ve got the second biggest.” Boston Scientific and Medtronic have Galway factories making stents, the tiny metal device which, when it was invented in the 1980s, revolutionised the treatment of coronary heart disease.
“>Galway boasts three of the top four companies in this field, with Abbott the latest arrival, inheriting a stent plant as part of its 1995 takeover of Bio-Compatibles, a UK company. There are now 28 medical devices companies in Galway, employing more than 5,000 people – 350 in leading-edge research and development.

Cluster theory, which was first described by Michael Porter in his book The Competitive Advantage of Nations, holds that when similar companies locate in the same place, they can achieve economies of scale without losing the flexibilities enjoyed by smaller organisations.

“>Fifteen years ago, Digital, the US computer company, was Galway’s biggest employer. It closed in 1993, moving to Scotland. “Everyone said that when Digital closed, Galway was finished,” says Bernard Collins, a well-known figure in Galway’s medical devices industry. “Quite the opposite was the case.”

“Many of the Digital engineers are now working for US medical device companies. In the 1990s they were expanding abroad, overcoming concerns about quality control and lack of protection for inventions. “What was happening was that many of the new medical device products were coming from Europe.

“>Maybe it was the lower risk of litigation. Maybe doctors here are more adventurous. But US companies felt they had to capture that,” says Mr Collins, who set up Boston Scientific’s Galway operation in 1994, in a factory vacated by Digital, which a decade earlier had made tennis rackets for Wilson, the US sports company.

“Creganna, Mr Quinn’s company, was originally set up to supply the local electronics industry. In 1997, it was persuaded by Boston Scientific to start making catheters. Now the world’s largest catheter manufacturer (sales of €26m), employs 270 people in Galway and has a new design/development centre in Boston.”

“In the early days, one of the missing ingredients was the lack of R&D facilities. But in March 2004, Boston Scientific’s Galway facility launched the company’s latest innovation – a drug-coated stent that reduces unwanted patient reactions and inhibits the return of plaque to the arteries.

“Galway University works closely with the companies in areas such as materials testing. Last year, it was given a €19m government grant to set up a regenerative medicine institute, which is part funded by Medtronic and is looking to develop a new generation of devices that can deliver stem cells to rebuild damaged organs inside the body.

“Roy Green, the university’s dean of commerce, who is studying the Galway medical devices cluster, suggests that the Galway phenomenon is likely to continue. This is because the R&D operations of multinational companies need to be closer to their customers than to their corporate headquarters.

“The days when you had one centre for R&D are over,” he says. “With the life cycles of medical devices products so short, it is vital to be close to your customers to keep ahead of competitors.”

Ireland – new focus on commercialisation

January 17, 2005

Last month, Dr. Roy Green, Head of the Department of Management, National University of Ireland, Galway gave an interview on Melbourne radio. Excerpts follow. 

In the 1980s, Ireland was essentially a basket case in Europe – 17% unemployment, 20% inflation, national debt higher than annual GDP.


It was really in a serious predicament. It therefore developed a social partnership involving government, unions and business, and a framework in which new economic policies and an emphasis on education and research could take effect.

It opened itself to the international economy, looked for international investment – any investment, anything that would create jobs. This led to large companies setting up to manufacture (with cheap labour, low corporate taxes) for the EC market, especially in computer hardware, pharmaceuticals etc.

By the mid 1990s, Ireland was the world’s biggest software exporter, and also exporting PCs. But it was becoming evident that Ireland was not a technology maker, it was a technology taker.

Thus in the mid 1990s economic policy became more discriminating. Within the context of the social partnership, some very far-sighted civil servants, with leaders of business and unions, formulated policies that targeted areas of global growth that were not simply dependent on duplication of American software for the EC market or the production of PCs.  

There is a high degree of government intervention in Ireland in the context of making firms competitive in global markets. While there is a healthy respect for the market environment in which Ireland operates, they’re not going to leave their industry policy to chance.

The Irish government set up the most significant review of industrial policy since the Telesis and Culliton Reports of the late 1980s/early 1990s, which established such very effective institutions as Enterprise Ireland, which has developed supply chains and industry clusters and identified areas of growth for Irish industry. The new review, released in 2004, concluded that Ireland had not done so well in developing its own R&D and innovative capacity. It is suggesting very large increases in funding on top of previous funding in basic and applied research (this level of investment is huge for a small economy).

However a weakness in the Irish economy (and in Australia) is the lack of the ability of institutions to translate successful research into commercial products and processes. Again, the Irish government is not leaving this to the market. It is intending to bring the universities together to cooperate. It doesn’t necessarily have the critical mass of big research-intensive universities in the US like MIT and Princeton – so it’s bringing the universities together via a pooled approach to technology transfer and commercialisation of research. It sees this as the key to competitiveness over the next ten years.

More info –