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€50m funding for Irish SMEs 06/07/2018

Online peer-to-peer lender, Linked Finance has has secured backing from one of Portugal’s fastest growing banks, Banco BNI Europa, which will deploy up to €50m over a 2-year period, to lend to Irish SMEs.

Banco BNI Europa is a digital bank and alternative lending investor that has partnered with alternative lending platforms across Europe since 2016. These include leading Market place lending platforms in Germany, Belgium and Finland.

As part of a wider strategy to identify the best Market place lending platforms in key European markets, Banco BNI Europa will deploy its capital alongside Linked Finance’s existing lenders. Linked Finance, connects Irish SMEs who need loans with an online lending community of more than 19,000 users.

That community is made up predominantly of ordinary Irish people who wish to earn attractive returns lending to creditworthy local businesses.

Banco BNI Europa, is one of a growing number of institutional investors who are recognising the potential of FinTech operators like Linked Finance. The agreement will further boost liquidity on linked finance.com, which has already provided more than 1400 loans to Irish SMEs. The company has demonstrated an impressive growth trajectory since its establishment in 2013, lending over €50m to date while recording its strongest quarter in Q1 2018.

Commenting on the news, Niall Dorrian Chief Executive Officer of Linked Finance, said: “Banco BNI Europa decision to deploy capital on the Linked Finance platform is great news for Irish SMEs. It is yet more evidence of how the world is changing and through technology Linked Finance is making it easier for SME’s to borrow money. This arrangement with Banco BNI Europa will allow us to immediately increase lending to local businesses, complementing the funding available from our existing users; ordinary members of the Irish public, who will continue to play a crucial role in helping us to fulfill our mission of providing fast and affordable finance for Ireland’s SME sector.”

Pedro Coelho, Executive Chairman Banco BNI Europa, said: “As a FinTech-driven bank, a partnership with Linked Finance is a natural fit for our business, supporting our strategy of growth and diversification within our European portfolio. Over the past years, we have successfully built a network of strategic partnerships with fast-moving FinTech companies across Europe. Ireland is a market we have been keen to enter and, as the leading Market place lending platform here, Linked Finance is the obvious partner. We are very excited about the potential of this relationship.”

Linked Finance recently celebrated its 5th anniversary hitting the milestone of having lend over €50m to Irish SMEs since its launch in 2013. Notable companies that have raised funding with Linked Finance include Viking Splash Tours, The Rolling Donut, Big Red Cloud, Lolly & Cooks, Murphy’s Ice Cream, Iconic Offices and the Irish Fairy Door Company.

(Image courtesy TaxRebate.org.uk)

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Eirtech Aviation Services opens composites repair centre 02/07/2018

Airtech Aviation Services, headquartered in Shannon Airport, Ireland, has established a new Composites Repair Centre and plans to recruit 124 new jobs over the next four years.

The manufacturing, repair and overhaul business offers a range of professional aviation services to customers globally. The new facility at Queen’s Road, Belfast offers Eirtech’s customers a centre located in the UK that repairs composite parts on commercial aircraft.

Announcing the investment, Invest Northern Ireland CEO Alastair Hamilton said: “Northern Ireland is global leader in aerospace technology and this investment by Eirtech adds a welcome new dynamic to our vibrant aerospace industry.

“The advanced aerospace design and manufacturing capabilities built up over many years has created a strong talent pool, which was a major draw in securing this project.”

Invest NI has offered £992,000 of support towards the new jobs which, once recruited, will contribute over £4.3 million annually in wages to the Northern Ireland economy.

Eirtech Aviation Composites Ltd will offer the repair and overhaul of composite components on commercial aircraft including flight controls, nacelles, wing to body faring and overhead bins.

Speaking about its new Belfast-based repair centre, David Kerr, CEO, Eirtech Aviation Composites said: “The growing use of composite materials in aircraft manufacture creates a huge market opportunity for us in the global aviation sector.

“Northern Ireland has an abundance of people with world-class manufacturing capabilities, a strong aerospace cluster and renowned expertise in composites at NIACE and Ulster University, making it an ideal location for our UK Composite Repair Centre.

“This Belfast facility is part of our strategy to future proof the business, ensuring we have access to the GB marketplace post Brexit. The first phase of recruitment is complete and we will adding to this consistently over the next four years as we scale the business to meet the needs of our customers globally.”

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Reliability and maintenance conference kicks off at Old Trafford 22/06/2018

Reliability UK, coming to the Old Trafford Stadium on 26 September 2018,  is one of the first UK conferences of its type, providing a thought-leadership forum for senior managers responsible for critical assets, group maintenance and reliability engineering across industry.

Brought to the UK by TelLab, this event will deliver fresh insights on the cutting-edge technologies, tools and strategies being rolled out by your peers and counterparts in allied industries. 

Key themes will include oil, vibrational, ultrasonic and thermographic analysis; organisational training and change management; and new digital tools to maximise uptime, reduce costs, ensure operational continuity and boost profits.

Getting the event in gear will be keynote speaker, Formula One veteran, broadcaster and CEO of Performance Insights, Mark Gallagher, who will provide insights on reliability in the F1 industry.

Join us at Old Trafford for a packed agenda of industry case studies, presentations and workshops. Network with counterparts and clients across industry. Meet our sponsors and exhibitors, and take away the latest practical, actionable solutions to implement in your organisation.

To reserve your place, or find out more, visit www.reliabilityuk.co.uk

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Futuristic super-thin metal could create ‘solar-panel shirts’ 20/06/2018

New semi-conductor material could be used in clothing to provide solar charging capability.

Work on new super-thin materials could mean front line troops have solar panel shirts and data storage in their combats.

Nicola Townsend is researching the properties of new super-thin materials for a PhD at the University of Exeter with Prof Saverio Russo and Prof Monica Craciun, funded by the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl). This work was carried out with Dr Iddo Amit, a Research Fellow funded through the European Commission Marie Curie Actions.

Originally, Nicola was trying to find magnetic field sensors, but started looking at a layer-structured semiconductor, that can be thinned down to thickness of a few atoms, making it truly two-dimensional.

The material, molybdenum di-telluride, is part of an exciting family of electronic materials that are promising to revolutionise the industry. Since the discovery of graphene, there’s been a push to discover new 2D materials. Most electronic gadgets are based on silicon, which is widely available - it can even be made from sand on the beach! While silicon is very common, there are things – wearable electronics, smart textiles - where silicon, due to its structure, cannot be used. The exciting new family of 2D materials offer transparency and flexibility, making them ideal for wearable tech.

The project was modified to look at the problems with implementing the new materials into our everyday devices – and Nicola discovered that the problems could offer new solutions. Minute imperfections hinder the motion of charges in the material, requiring higher energy to operate them. Surprisingly, the same imperfections can also be utilised for advanced applications, like infrared photo-detectors or memory devices.

Real-world applications for this novel technology include flexible solar panels - on backpacks or integrated into clothes, which wouldn’t add any weight. There is also potential for infrared sensing as part of cameras, which can allow their use in smoke or harsh weather conditions, or to sense organic chemical signatures in real time on packaging. There are also potential uses in communications, or for having data storage in your shirt.

Nicola said:

Graphene was only successfully isolated and measured 14 years ago, and by this sparked global interest in 2D materials. We’re only now starting to scratch the surface by looking into finding and exploiting these new materials. We’re working our way to mass production, but we can already see that this area has a huge potential.

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Ports on board with the latest technologies 22/05/2018

As an island nation, it’s no surprise that the UK relies on its ports to trade with the rest of the world. Charlotte Stonestreet takes a look at the types of technology that lie behind this highly successful sector

According to the Department of Transport’s UK Port Freight Statistics, around 95% of all goods entering and leaving the UK are moved by sea. Little wonder then that the sector contributes £1.7 billion to the UK economy, a figure that is estimated to jump to £5.4 billion per annum once indirect economic factors such as supply chains and the effect of employees of ports and their suppliers spending earnings in the wider economy are considered. When shipping and ship building - activities which rely heavily on ports - are included, this figure rises even more to £7.6 billion.

The recent Transport infrastructure for our global future: a study of England's port connectivity asserts that the English port sector is one of the largest and most
dynamic port sectors in Europe which, as well as handling freight, also facilitates17 million international passenger journeys each year, with Dover alone
accounting for 12 million of these journeys. And this contribution to facilitating trade and passengers as well as driving economic growth is only likely to increase. Indeed, previous forecasts for government predict container traffic will grow by 178% (in terms of twenty foot equivalent units (TEU)) and bulk traffic will increase by 8% over the same time period from 2004-2030, with total port tonnage for the UK forecast to grow by 37%.

As identified in the study, successful ports also attract other businesses to locate nearby: either directly on the port site by having suitable industrial and commercial land available for use and/or development; or by being attractive to linked industries, who benefit from short journeys between their site and the port, and also from the port’s hinterland connections. For example, there are clusters of industries such as logistics, distribution, warehousing, heavy industry, manufacturing and internationally trading firms, operating on or near ports. In particular, in the North of England there is a distinct clustering of advanced manufacturing near northern ports.

successful ports also attract other businesses to locate nearby

The retail and logistics sectors also benefit by a clustering on or around ports – an activity known as port-centric distribution – where the close location allows for swift
processing of cargoes for distribution. Clustering also removes a leg from supply chains where the goods would otherwise have travelled inland for processing. This is better for overall congestion levels and the environment, but not necessarily in the immediate port hinterlands where traffic is initially focussed.

Connectivity

While Transport infrastructure for our global future: a study of England's port connectivity refers primarily to national transport networks, it is clear that digital connectivity is also of growing significance in the port sector. Reflecting this, leader in Kinetic Mesh networks, Rajant Corporation, used the Container Terminal Automation Conference 2018 to highlight its mission-critical connectivity capabilities in the control of moving port assets and driving autonomous applications.

With the charge toward automation and the unrelenting need for a constant flow of goods, Rajant looked at how to successfully manage and eradicate risks such as security, interference and hindered reliability in seaport and terminal environments.

A recognised expert for mission-critical networks in challenging industrial markets, Rajant CEO Robert Schena highlighted the correlation between data security and the quality of the network during his keynote speech, when he addressed industry leaders in a talk titled, ‘How important is your data to you'.

“Ports are using technology to create better situational awareness, reduce losses and damage, and provide a speedy first response when security issues do occur,” Schena commented. “With seaports from Abu Dhabi to Louisiana implementing drones and IP video surveillance devices, the number of interconnected devices, cameras and sensors is fast-growing, but this also increases the need to secure and authenticate the communication traffic moving in, out and around the network.”

Schena explained how, while many are realising the importance of selecting wireless over fixed networks, traditional Wi-Fi networks and LTE suffer from limitations and connectivity challenges which can create several risks. In the event of loss of communication, even for a few microseconds, data sent from personnel or port equipment would be at best delayed, but often completely lost.

traditional Wi-Fi networks and LTE suffer from limitations and connectivity challenges

Rajant Kinetic Mesh networks, said to be the only fully mobile and mission-critical network on the market today, uses InstaMesh in concert with BreadCrumb nodes to dynamically make peer-to-peer connections, leveraging multi-frequency radios. These wireless nodes can be interchangeably fixed or mobile, and dynamically adapt to self-optimize as environmental conditions change, providing a highly reliable and secure network with no single point of failure. By deploying Rajant’s ruggedised multi-radio BreadCrumb nodes, equipped with InstaMesh networking software, directly onto a port asset – be it a vehicle, quay crane, camera pole or drone – it essentially turns the asset into a network node.

Digital solutions

With its recently launched digital application, Pronto, the Port of Rotterdam Authority is looking to improve efficiency for the 30,000 vessels that call on Rotterdam every year by cutting waiting time by an average of 20 percent. The application enables more effective utilisation of capacity at the port terminals, as well as the precise planning and coordination of a range of vessel services, including bunkering, servicing and maintenance and provisioning. In addition, Pronto directly contributes to the reduction of CO2 emissions in the port.

“Pronto is a good example of how the Port Authority uses new digital solutions to raise the efficiency of processes in the port,” says Port Authority CFO Paul Smits, whose responsibilities include digitalisation, one of the organisation’s strategic spearheads. “Pronto is based on international standards and offers shipping companies, agents, service providers and operators a joint platform for the exchange of port call-related information. The application allows all users to optimally plan, execute and monitor activities throughout the entire port call. This yields concrete benefits for all parties involved. The uniform mutual exchange of standardised data allows port calls to be planned more effectively and efficiently and rounded off in a shorter period of time.

“Pronto was extensively tested over the past year during the development phase. We will now be making it available to members of the port community – either in exchange for data or for a fee. In the period ahead, we will be further developing the application and adding a number of new features. We expect more and more terminals in the port to start using Pronto, which in turn will increase the accuracy of the data it generates.”

Smart safety

At the 3rd International Congress of Safety in Ports, held in A Coruña, Spain, Siport21 presented a smart system, aimed at improving decision making related to the access and/or the operation of vessels at port.

This smart system for the evaluation and control of maritime safety at terminals is a tool for the optimisation of ship operations, in particular, LNG (liquified natural gas) terminals. The  tool is also intended to improve the control of operational limits, increase the port capacity, define the tug requirements and aids of navigation, and optimise the development of new infrastructures.

The system is based on the improved management of ship operations and safety both in the nautical access to ports and specialised terminals and during the stay and operation of ships at berth, including additional tug assistance or response to oil spills.

The company presented a partial implementation in order to characterise the behaviour of moored ships in the Outer Port of A Coruña. In order to achieve this a sophisticated GPS RTK system was used to measure the motions of moored vessels under the action of waves and wind in six degrees of freedom with a high degree of accuracy. This equipment was developed by Siport21.

The company is working to apply this system on a global level in several ports, both national and international.

Harbour cranes

Konecranes has been selected to supply two Gottwald Model 5 Mobile Harbour Cranes for the Port of Dover’s new cargo facilities as part of the Dover Western Docks Revival (DWDR) development.

The eco-efficient diesel-electric Model 5 mobile harbour cranes will handle mainly containers and palletised fruit at Port of Dover’s new multi-purpose refrigerated cargo terminal, which is scheduled to open in the first quarter of 2019. The cranes will operate with hybrid drive technology to maximise fuel economy, reduce exhaust emissions and help the Port create a quieter operating environment.

The cranes will operate with hybrid drive technology to maximise fuel economy

Dave Herrod, DWDR programme director at the Port of Dover, said: “The new multi-purpose cargo terminal and the ongoing transformation of the Western Docks are perfectly placed to take European logistics to the next level and give businesses a competitive edge. We have opted once more for versatile cranes to help us meet the future demands of the business and deliver a rapid turnaround for a new generation Port of Dover customers.”

The terminal will be served by completely new marine and land infrastructure including two deep-water cargo berths.

Neil Griffiths, regional sales & service director, Konecranes Port Solutions, explains: “UK ports are currently investing in new and more powerful quayside handling equipment to meet ever changing market demands. We are pleased that one of the leading ports has again opted for Konecranes.”

The Model 5 mobile harbour cranes in the G HMK 5506 two-rope variant provide a strong lifting profile with a maximum lifting capacity of 125 t, and an outreach of up to 51 m.

Remote control

Hutchison Ports Thailand, the largest container terminal operator in Thailand, is expanding its handling capacity with the development of Terminal D in Laem Chabang Port.

It has received three super post-panamax quay cranes – among the world’s largest of this type – and eight electric rubber tyred gantry cranes and from Shanghai Zhenhua Heavy Industry Co (ZPMC).

Both types of cranes are equipped with advanced remote control technology and will enable Terminal D to operate safely and more efficiently, which in turn will enable the terminal to achieve higher levels of vessel and yard productivity.

The three super post-panamax quay cranes have an outreach of 24 rows

The three super post-panamax quay cranes have an outreach of 24 rows are capable of handling some of the largest mega-vessels currently in operation. All Terminal D quay and yard cranes will be operated by remote control technology, making it the first terminal of its type in the world to fully install this technology for faster, more accurate and safer handling of containers.

Following the completion of Terminal D’s construction, Hutchison Ports Thailand will be able to increase its handling capacity by 3.5 million TEUs to more than 6 million TEUs, further cementing its position as the largest container terminal operator in Thailand. The arrival of the new cranes will facilitate the growth of Thailand’s container cargo volumes and help underpin the country’s modernisation aligned with the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) project under the Thailand 4.0 scheme.

Portside storage

FTS Eiendom in Norway is set to streamline its flow of goods and expand storage capacity with the help of Rubb fabric structures. Rubb won the order to provide four FXG insulated Thermohall structures measuring 30m (98.4ft) span x 59.25m (184.4ft) long, with 6m (19.7ft) sidewalls.

FTS Eiendom AS is a provider of a range of logistics products within shipping, forwarding, storage and distribution. FTS chose Rubb as its partner to help set up four storage halls (1800m² (19,375ft²) each). The concept includes rental of warehousing space for customers who need space near the growing import port in Fredrikstad.

In order to keep costs and rental rates down, FTS Eiendom decided not to build traditional warehouses, and selected insulated Thermohalls provided by Rubb instead. “We could have built an ‘ordinary’ steel building, but it was twice as expensive, and the rental cost per square metre had been too high,” says Jon Børresen, general manager of FTS Eiendom.

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The patchy case of maintenance in the food & drink industry 19/04/2018

In the UK, the food and drink sector employs approximately 900,000 people and has a manufacturing turnover of £20bn a year. However, the penetration of advanced maintenance engineering practices within the sector is patchy, as Andy Pye, contributing editor, explains

In September 2015, UKCES commissioned a consortium of research organisations led by the Institute for Employment Studies and SQW to prepare a series of strategic labour market intelligence reports on the challenges and opportunities for increasing productivity in four sectors including manufacturing and food and drink.

The poor productivity performance of the UK economy, especially since the end of the recession of 2008-09, has become a major concern for economists and policy-makers. Productivity growth has been modest: as a consequence, the UK, which was already some way behind many other major developed economies, has fallen back further. The overall level of productivity in the United States’ economy is now 31% higher than that of the UK, while Germany’s is 28% higher.

The study complemented the work of the Business Leadership Group for food and drink manufacturing through an assessment of the factors driving productivity growth in the sector. In particular, it identified the skills that the sector would need to acquire if the UK were to match productivity levels and growth in countries such as Germany, France and the Netherlands.

An additional difficulty faced by food and drink manufacturing is the skills it needs to drive productivity growth – typically science, engineering, and technology related ones - which are in high demand in other sectors too, and therefore it needs to identify how it can develop talent pipelines if it is to match performance levels in competitor countries.

From reactive to proactive

Much of the food and drink industry still operates a breakdown maintenance system and the available technologies are not being used effectively. Most larger companies take advantage of modern maintenance practices and technologies to improve their production responsiveness and flexibility. However, SMEs have been largely unable to implement such strategies. 

But the price of downtime due to malfunction can be much higher than a good maintenance regime. In many cases, preventative maintenance is the smart economic choice – even small improvements should result in significant benefits. This approach is less time-intensive than a regular inspection regime and can significantly improve the use of maintenance resources. As plants become more automated, monitoring technologies will be ever more integrated into the manufacturing process.

Traditionally, many SMEs are unaware of advances in engineering and maintenance methods and are reluctant to embrace them. Any novel technology or process tends to be well proven before becoming adopted by food companies.

Technologies such as vibration analysis and ultrasound have made it easier to measure the condition of equipment, giving an insight into the probability of failure during any given period. Thermographic imaging – which shows up 'hot-spots' in electrical installations – are also more widely available.

The move away from reactive maintenance to more proactive systems is not without its challenges. Careful consideration needs to be given to scheduling activities strategically and tactically, to ensure maintenance is both effective and efficient.

Good record keeping is essential, so regular record audits are needed to check on quality. Maintenance workers tend to be hands-on people, so they are not always enthusiastic about completing piles of paperwork. 

Preventive maintenance requires advance planning of the ordering of component parts, to ensure they are in place ready for the scheduled work. Delay can be costly and delivery before work can start can have storage costs – getting the balance right is crucial. Though often neglected, the maintenance perspective can also be informative in determining the best choices for new equipment.

Maintenance and cleaning are two areas where there is a great risk of serious injury or fatality. Frequently, it will not be the company’s own staff carrying out maintenance. Contractors often do higher-risk work. A risk assessment method statement (RAMS) is essential, and should be asked for by the food manufacturer where the contractor is working. 

In this context, planned maintenance is better than the unplanned variety. The most obvious reason for this is that it can be scheduled in ‘down’ periods. 

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Unexpected downtime: Reducing the risk 17/03/2018

Few things can damage the financial stability of a manufacturing facility more than unexpected downtime. On average, manufacturers suffer with 30% or more downtime during their scheduled production time. However, there are ways to reduce the risk, as Andy Pye, contributing editor, reports

The automotive industry has long been at the forefront of applying new automation technologies, but the industry is also at the forefront of industrial network modernisation. Downtime can cost up to £17,000 per minute.

Traditionally, industrial maintenance has been done on a fixed schedule, replacing items at constant intervals. Constant intervals do not take into consideration the unique circumstances of a machine being maintained, so although general purpose schedules are convenient from the viewpoint of ordering spares, they risk wasting money by replacing parts that are still operational.

Predictive maintenance, on the other hand, aims to get the most life out of equipment while minimising the risk of failure. Increasingly, it involves gathering large quantities of data. While some of this will be existing data, such as maintenance or warranty records, adding data sources such as sensors on the equipment will be important to build the big picture.

One of the biggest challenges is gathering and interpreting unstructured data, such as free text in maintenance records, design specs, test data from failed equipment, or even comments on social media or Google searches. The most intelligent data analytical automation software will also provide graphical visualisation of production data and generate customised statistical reports.

Having collected data, the next step involves using data analytics to make sense of it, and then figuring out predictive rules that will become the basis for a predictive maintenance model. Once the model is built, it must be tested and progressively refined. A bad model is better than no model, albeit only marginally – and with progressive refinement via a continuous learning loop, the model can be updated based on on-going results. For example, if a component fails after being used for a specific product run, pattern recognition can identify the stresses that are unique to that run that could have caused the failure.

Inside AWNC, the Toyota transmission plant in North Carolina, a recent upgrade includes a new MES, inventory management, predictive maintenance and quality systems that transmit all data for collection and analysis over a secure, Cisco-enabled Wi-Fi network.

Video data

According to test and measurement company HBM, video use is accelerating in data collection. Video cameras are already used in many test and measurement applications in addition to data collection with traditional tactile sensors.

“There is no longer any question that recording video data in parallel to tactile sensors or digital bus signals is becoming more and more attractive to users,” says Christof Salcher, product manager instrumentation at HBM. “Video supports traditional sensor data and is becoming a valuable source of additional information.”

Maintec 2018: Momentum gathers

Owned and run by IP&E's parent company, Western Business Exhibitions, Maintec is dedicated the to maintenance engineering community.

Like all sectors of industry, it is vital for the maintenance community to embrace the current developments in digitalisation, connectivity, IIoT and Industry 4.0-related technologies. Addressing this, Maintec 2018 aims to move beyond the buzz words and media hype, to provide guidance and insight into how the digital developments can be implemented at a practical level. Of course, there will also be extensive coverage of how traditional maintenance activities are evolving.

Taking place at the NEC, Birmingham, on 6th and 7th November, the event will once again include a comprehensive educational programme, part of which will be the Reliability Dialogue Theatre, hosted by IP&E's sister publication, Controls, Drive & Automation. Examining the changing face of reliability, automation and the impact this has on the future of maintenance engineering, leading experts will discuss and debate a range of key topics.

For further information visit www.maintec.co.uk

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Space strategy for enterprise 21/02/2018

The Minister of State for Training, Skills, Innovation, Research and Development, John Halligan TD, has announced the development of Ireland’s first national Space Strategy for Enterprise by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation. The Strategy will set out how Ireland can maximise the benefit of its investment in the European Space Agency (ESA) and in the European Union’s (EU) flagship space programmes, Copernicus, Galileo and Horizon 2020.

The Minister made this announcement at InnaLabs headquarters in Blanchardstown; the technology company has just announced its biggest contract to date with ESA.

A steering group will be established in the coming weeks to oversee the development of the Space Strategy. This will include a consultation process to seek views from interested parties on how Ireland can best exploit opportunities in the space enterprise sector. Making the announcement, Minister Halligan said: "The space sector is undergoing a significant and rapid transformation. It’s evolving from a sector where activities are funded purely by governments to one that relies more on private investments to fund commercial activities.

"More than sixty Irish companies are currently benefiting from contracts with ESA, with five new companies expected to enter the sector each year between now and 2020. Employment in Irish companies which benefit from ESA contracts is expected to double from 2,000 in 2014 to over 4,500 in 2020. By developing this Strategy, the Department will ensure that companies already working in this sector can expand, and that opportunities for new entrants are identified. The Strategy will also seek to identify and explore potential synergies with other sectors, such as ICT and Aerospace."

One of the Irish companies working in the space sector, InnaLabs, has announced a €2.6m contract with ESA to design, develop, manufacture and test a highly reliable radiation-hardened 3-axis gyroscope used for measuring angular velocity or maintaining orientation of satellites. While the initial opportunity is for science mission applications, the technology will serve a large spectrum of commercial space activities including Earth observation, communications and navigation satellites. InnaLabs’ gyroscope cutting edge technology is also applied in a wide range of terrestrial applications such as air transportation, autonomous vehicles, marine, civil engineering projects, rail transportation systems and the oil and gas industries.

This contract follows the successful completion by InnaLabs of ESA space projects worth €980k that was secured after an Enterprise Ireland trade mission to ESA’s main technology development and test facility, ESTEC, in The Netherlands in 2017.

Welcoming the news Minister Halligan said: “Today’s announcement is yet another example of the growing number of Irish companies benefitting from Ireland’s membership of ESA. Through our continued investment in the European Space Agency and with the support of my Department and Enterprise Ireland, Ireland’s space sector will continue to go from strength to strength.”

Speaking about InnaLabs’ success, CEO of InnaLabs John O’Leary said: “We are delighted to announce this contract with ESA which validates our products internationally and gives us the opportunity to offer our CVG technology to the space market segment. We are also pleased to learn that a national Space Strategy for Enterprise is under development. We believe this will be an invaluable resource for Ireland to continue to succeed in the space sector, but also to facilitate Irish companies to expand into related commercial markets following ESA validation.”

Welcoming the announcement, Gearóid Mooney, Divisional Manager of Enterprise Ireland’s Research and Innovation Business Unit, said “the InnaLabs contract is further evidence of the growing capabilities of Irish firms to develop high performance and high reliability technologies for the global space market, with the support of the European Space Agency”.

The steering group for the Space Strategy for Enterprise will set out details about the process for producing the strategy when it meets in the coming weeks. This will include details about the public consultation that it will organise and which will be accessible on the websites of the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation and Enterprise Ireland.

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FDI calls for exemptions from EU state aid rules post-Brexit 21/02/2018

Food Drink Ireland (FDI), the Ibec group that represents the food and drink sector, has said the economic consequences of a hard and disruptive Brexit, as outlined by the Copenhagen Economics report commissioned by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, would require a series of exemptions from EU state aid rules for the Irish agri-food and drink sector.

FDI called on the Government and the European Commission to put in place a comprehensive package to help viable businesses deal with the fallout of Brexit, the fracture of the EU single market and the massive disruption to our vital export trade.

FDI Director Paul Kelly said: "The Irish agri-food and drink sector and its 230,000 associated jobs is uniquely exposed. €4.5bn of food and drink exports are destined for the UK, with the Copenhagen Economics report highlighting that beef, processed food and dairy are the Irish sectors most at risk. There is a compelling case for exceptional state aid support to minimise the economic fallout and job losses arising from Brexit. Already the Euro-Sterling currency squeeze is putting intense strain on exporters. This pressure is likely to intensify as the challenges and economic costs of a hard Brexit crystallise.

“State aid support should be targeted by Government through measures to help the sector innovate to maintain its competitiveness, diversify export market profile and transform in the face of the dangerous impacts of Brexit.

“In order to support food and drink businesses, funding needs to be provided immediately to help companies prepare for the worst impacts of Brexit. This would be funded from both Government and EU sources to allow the Irish Government to introduce investment aids to support Irish companies invest in enabling technology, plant renewal and expansion, refinancing, market diversification and innovation to regain competitiveness following single market fracture. These resources, where appropriate, should be available to both exporters and smaller Irish producers which risk being displaced by cheaper UK imports in their home market.

"The industry is deeply integrated into the wider economy and its broad geographic footprint means the regions are particularly exposed to any shock to the sector. In the short term, the objective must be to put in place mitigating measures to help companies manage their businesses through on-going currency shifts and during exit negotiations and the transition period. The medium-term focus must be on maintaining market share in the UK, developing international markets and ensuring that in the domestic market, companies remain competitive against imports and the threat of cross-border shopping," concluded Mr. Kelly.

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World first for additive aerospace manufacturing 20/02/2018

Stelia Aerospace has produced a demo metal self-reinforced fuselage panels using 3D printing.

This new technology should, in the long term, eliminate the current added stiffeners, which are attached to the fuselage panels with fixing screws and sometimes welding.

The 1 sq m demo was manufactured by a robotic tool through the deposit of aluminium wire merged by electric arc (WAAM – Wire Arc Additive Manufacturing). It presents a new disruptive design for panel stiffeners, derived from the fuselage topological optimisation studies which have been carried out by Stelia Aerospace and CT Ingénierie for several years.

This new large dimension 3D print technology allows firms to envisage the manufacturing of such concepts in the future, thus freeing production from complex constraints due to the assembly of stiffeners.

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