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PolymerConnect to Bolster All-Ireland Collaboration and Innovation of the Polymer Sector

· Polymer sector faces challenges like regulatory pressures and supply chain disruptions, which could hinder growth if unaddressed

  • 9th July 2024

The Advanced Technologies in Manufacturing (ATIM) cluster, based at Technological University of the Shannon (TUS), Athlone Campus, has launched PolymerConnect, a pioneering initiative designed to address critical challenges facing the polymer industry in Ireland and Northern Ireland.

This project, run in partnership with Northern Ireland Polymer Association (NIPA), Polymer Technology Ireland (PTI) and First Polymer Training Skillnet, aims to create a dynamic industry-driven directory of over 350 polymer companies, academic institutions, and key sectoral partners across the island of Ireland.

The polymer industry in Ireland, encompassing over 350 companies, is a crucial driver of innovation in sectors such as MedTech, ICT, biopharma, agri-food, automotive, construction, and aerospace.

However, the sector faces significant challenges, including regulatory pressures, supply chain disruptions, and material production and management issues. These challenges, if unaddressed, could hinder the sector’s growth, impacting both the economy and the environment.

Over the course of 13 months, the PolymerConnect project team will collect vital data from companies to categorise and understand the economic contribution of the polymer sector across the island of Ireland.

Using this data, the project partners will identify untapped collaboration opportunities and foster new projects, support business-to-business and business-academic partnerships, and drive innovation and competitiveness.

Polymer Connect Launches at ATIM, TUS Athlone Campus
Pictured: (L to R) Damien McConville – Project Manager, InterTrade Ireland; Catherine Collins, Network Manager, First Polymer Training Skillnet; Gerry McNally, Manager NIPA (Northern Ireland Polymer Association); Richard Bovill, Director Navico & Chairperson NIPA (Northern Ireland Polymer Association); Caitríona Mordan, Manager ATIM (Advanced Technologies in Manufacturing) Cluster at Technological University of the Shannon, Athlone Campus; Mark McAuley, Director of Polymer Technology Ireland, Ibec; Joanne McEvoy, Project Manager, InterTrade Ireland.

PolymerConnect is funded by InterTradeIreland under the Synergy Programme, which aims to scale cross-border collaboration, using cluster and network development supports to increase the impact of programmes with economic benefit to Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Damien McConville, programme manager for innovation and entrepreneurship at InterTradeIreland, emphasised the importance of the project, stating, “PolymerConnect will play a pivotal role in strengthening the polymer sector across the island. By providing valuable data and fostering collaboration, we can really understand challenges, drive innovation and competitiveness, which will benefit the wider economy and environment.”

Caitríona Mordan, manager of atim Cluster, highlighted the collaborative nature of the initiative: “The PolymerConnect Project marks a significant step forward in addressing the challenges facing the polymer industry in Ireland. By leveraging data-driven insights and fostering collaboration across the island, we aim to build a globally competitive all-island polymer ecosystem.”

Gerry McNally of Northern Ireland Polymer Association (NIPA) added, “PolymerConnect will promote collaboration, networking, and knowledge sharing among businesses in the polymer sector across different regions and industries. In the face of increasing demand, rising costs and labour shortages, such collaboration is vital to tackle these shared challenges and capitalise on potential opportunities.”

Mark McAuley from IBEC emphasised the project’s significance for industry growth: “IBEC’s development of the Plastics Map of Ireland in 2016 laid the groundwork for mapping our polymer sector. The PolymerConnect platform will take this to the next level, significantly enhancing the visibility and recognition of Ireland’s polymer industry on both national and international stages. This project is crucial for supporting businesses in connecting, innovating, and driving the sector forward.’’

Project Implementation and Goals

The PolymerConnect Project will be implemented over 13 months, with key activities including:

• Data collection: Co-creating data fields through workshops with industry and project partners.

• Interactive platform development: Designing and developing a web-based interactive map to display the polymer ecosystem.

• Engagement and promotion: Launching a marketing campaign and hosting in-person and hybrid workshops to raise awareness and encourage engagement.

The project will be hosted on multiple platforms, including the ATIM Cluster website, Polymer Technology Ireland (PTI) website, NIPA website, and InterTradeIreland website.

A Unified Vision for the Future

The PolymerConnect Project aligns with the Northern Ireland 10x Strategy, aiming to foster innovation, increase R&D expenditure, and support the transition to a low-carbon economy.

By strengthening linkages between companies and enhancing cross-industry and cross-technology collaboration, PolymerConnect will drive strategic engagement and innovation, positioning Ireland’s polymer sector for future success.