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Ireland’s Industry 4.0 strategy 2020-2025: Supporting the digital transformation of the manufacturing sector and its supply chain

Published on October 16th 2019

A project for Ireland’s Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation (DBEI)

“The study by IfM forms a valuable evidence base which is now being used to inform the development of an Industry 4.0 strategy for Ireland”

Senior Policy Analyst
Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation

The client need

The Government of Ireland’s Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation (DBEI) commissioned a study from Policy Links to take a systematic look at the implications of digital technologies on Ireland’s manufacturing sector and to identify policy options that could support Ireland as it continues on its digitalisation journey. The Policy Links team looked in detail at:

  • What is meant by the term ‘digitalisation’ in the context of manufacturing and why having a clear
    definition is important for framing effective policy interventions
  • The current state of Ireland’s manufacturing sector – how it is organised, why it is distinctive, its ‘digital
    readiness’ and the main opportunities and challenges for both multinational companies and SMEs
  • What other countries are doing to support the digitalisation of manufacturing and what lessons can
    be learned from their approaches
  • The policy priorities for Ireland if it is to support its manufacturing sector on its digitalisation journey.

Our approach

The team developed a framework derived from recent research and used it to inform a broad consultation with more than 50 stakeholders from both the public and private sector as well as a systematic review of international policy approaches.

Interviews with public bodies explored what makes Irish manufacturing distinctive while interviews with businesses elicited insights into how different manufacturing sectors
might be affected by digitalisation. These were complemented by roundtable discussions held in Dublin which looked at cross-sectoral challenges and opportunities both now and in the future, which digital technologies, products or solutions had the most potential and what capabilities Ireland needs to address the challenges and opportunities it faces.

Towards the end of the project, we ran a workshop which brought together representatives from industry associations, public bodies and public research organisations. Participants reviewed the team’s findings, validated the emerging narrative, and reflected on how other countries are shaping their policy agendas around digitalisation and what lessons Ireland can learn from their experiences.

Learning from others

Addressing the opportunities and challenges arising from the digitalisation of manufacturing is a top priority for countries around the world and many of them have already put in place programmes to support it. Understanding the global policy landscape is an important part of developing a policy programme, both to gain insight into what other countries are doing and why and to formulate a distinctive approach that builds on existing strengths and strategies.

For this report, the Policy Links team undertook an extensive review of policy developments around the world and looked in more detail at 19 flagship programmes from countries such as China, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Sweden and Taiwan. We identified the different types of support available for the three core innovation activities – knowledge generation, knowledge diffusion and knowledge deployment – in areas such as research and education, technology demonstration, formation of industrial networks and the provision of financial incentives.

The report

The report identified a number of priority policy themes that the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation and its agencies could focus on to support Ireland’s digitalisation efforts. For each of the priority themes, the report presents a number of practical policy approaches that could be adopted, based on relevant stakeholder inputs and international experience. Overall, the information contained in this report is helping inform the design of practical policy action plans for Ireland.

Read the report here

This project has been used to inform Ireland’s national Industry 4.0 national strategy, published in December 2019. The Irish Government accepted our recommendation that:

“a primary focus for Ireland at this point should be on supporting the diffusion of Industry 4.0 technologies across a large base of firms including those with low absorptive capacity”

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