This week we speak with Dr Margaret Quinn, ERNACT Programme Manager, about the importance of the DIGITAL REGIONS project in the North & West region and the Border Midland Western region (Ireland), regional stakeholders engagement, lessons learnt and the inspiration obtained from the rest of the project partners.
Why is the project needed in your region?
Manufacturing is an important sector in our region, the North & West region and the Border Midland Western region. It is a sector expected to be significantly impacted by what is termed, the 4th industrial revolution or Industry 4.0, I4.0. It concerns transformation of industry through the intelligent networking and automation of machines and processes through application of digital technology. Unless businesses adapt using industry 4.0 technologies to become more flexible, efficient and innovative, they risk becoming non competitive. It is a real challenge especially for smaller manufacturing enterprises which represent a substantial number of jobs in our region. However, our projects shows that locally awareness and understanding of I4.0 is quite low. Our aim is to impact innovation policies in our region so that more SME’s will engage with innovation, upskill workers and become more resilient and be able to benefit from I4.0.
What have you learnt from project partners?
We have learnt a great deal about the approaches of each partner on Industry 4.0 supports, initiatives and facilities. Though unable to visit facilities in person, our partners have provided virtual site tours which have been extremely valuable. Thematic workshops on skills and SME engagement have also been useful learning vehicles.
Are you inspired by any good practices shared?
Inspiration has been provided on a wide range of very relevant areas for stimulating industry 4.0 uptake: regional strategies, funding supports, I4.0 demonstration centres, co-learning laboratories between university and industry, technology audits on digitalisation.
How are stakeholders engaging in your region?
We have established a regional stakeholder group who are engaging very well. They are a mix of enterprise agency, training centre, research centre, innovation hub and technical institute. Some of the stakeholders are developing new facilities and initiatives around Industry 4.0, so the timing is good to take advantage of learning from other regions.
What are the next steps planned?
The work continues with the DIGITAL REGIONS partners and the local stakeholders to shape a regional action plan which will aim to improve the understanding and awareness of Industry 4.0.