The microelectronics industry in Ireland goes back to 1976 when Analog Devices established itself in Limerick, with a wafer fabrication facility and a design team making CMOS Digital to Analog Converters.
The next significant milestone was Intel setting up in Leixlip, near Dublin, in 1989.
Over the years, industry growth has been fuelled by a focus on engineering and technology at several universities and IT’s. New indigenous companies became established such as S3, Parthus-Ceva, Cypress, Redmere, Powervation, ChipSensors and FireComms. The industry support infrastructure was greatly enhanced by advanced research at several institutes across Ireland, including the Tyndall National Institute in Cork (established as NMRC in 1981), and the CRANN Institute in Dublin established in 2003.
In recent years several new expert centres were established to further enhance the industry such as MCCI – Microelectronics Circuits Centre, AMBER – Advanced Materials and Bio Engineering, IPIC – Irish Photonics Integration Centre, CONNECT – Centre for Future Networks and Communications, TRIL – Technology Research for Independent living, CLARITY – Centre for Sensor Web Technologies, TSSG – Telecommunications Software & Systems Group, MSSI – Materials & Surface Science Institute and the CTVR – Wireless & Optical Networking Technologies.
Over the years, the availability of experienced engineers and skilled graduates has enabled a constant stream of new business start-ups, as well as multi-national semiconductor, electronics and system solution companies to establish design teams in Ireland. Now Ireland is the home of nine of the ten world leading technology and internet companies.
The main force that is now driving our industry is the Internet of Things (IoT) and is bringing advanced electronic system solutions to healthcare, automotive, RFID, building automation, security, smart metering, robotics, surveillance, consumer sensor hubs, energy, etc. with a worldwide economic value of €2T. The ‘More than Moore’ technology diversification is a major enabler of the IoT. Since 80% of IoT is local in nature, the advancements in RF design, sensors, embedded software and technology are major enablers. Both Irish indigenous and FDI companies are leading many of the worlds developments in IoT. Ireland also scores very well in terms of winning venture capital (VC) funding into Irish indigenous companies. In 2015, overseas investors helped Irish venture capital investments grow by 30%.
So what is happening to support the Industry?
Support for the industry is from two major sources:
(1) an educational system that is highly tuned to the needs of the industry
(2) an attractive Government tax rate and tax credit scheme for R&D.
The tax credit scheme help companies perform more of their R&D in Ireland. This in turn leads to new business activities being added to the company’s presence in Ireland, thus increasing jobs and exports. R&D activities further improve a company’s competitiveness and helps strengthen the anchor for the company in Ireland.
Education, training and skills enhancement is key to development of our industry. We produce a steady stream of highly trained graduates in electronics engineering, computing, and system solutions design. Generally the Irish government is encouraging increased focus on science and engineering through the 3rd level sector, which is beneficial to our industry.
Research is essential to the sector, with funding available from Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), Enterprise Ireland (EI) and the European Union (H2020). MIDAS, encourages a greater percentage of the research money to be directed towards applied research with a high chance of commercialization. This needs to be done in a way that does not squeeze out the commercialization opportunities that companies are ready to take advantage of to grow revenues and employment. A notable initiative of MIDAS was the establishment of MCCI.
So what are some of the things that MIDAS is focused on?
Following the initiative of MIDAS and support from Enterprise Ireland and the Industrial Development Authority, the Microelectronics Circuits Centre Ireland (MCCI) was formed in 2010, to perform applied research on projects which have all been specified and actively supported by Industry. MCCI has proven to be a great success, with far more projects being requested and a wider industry involvement than was anticipated in even the most aggressive plans.
MIDAS are working with the 3rd level education sector to ensure the continued supply of quality engineers into our industry and ensure the content of the engineering courses continues to evolve to support our needs.
MIDAS provide specialised training to engineers within the industry to help them enhance their career and we provide advanced courses to college undergrads in order to help enhance their interest in following a career in our sector. We also perform outreach activities to encourage second level students to follow the STEM pathway.
MIDAS work to position MIDAS as an effective representative body for our industry and work with the various state agencies to facilitate the growth of our industry in Ireland.
MIDAS’s focus over the next few years is on:-
(1) More company ‘matchmaking’ initiatives to promote business relationships between SME’s and FDI’s.
(2) Achieve a greater SME contribution to Ireland’s GDP
(3) Increased European business links through our European clusters interaction
(4) Encourage Irish companies to capitalise on the IoT developments.