Industry-led group MIDAS Ireland published new research to coincide with its conference “Microelectronics Sector: We need to educate to innovate” which took place today in RCPI, 6 Kildare Street, Dublin 2.

The findings show that three quarters of respondents have the potential to increase employment if more skilled engineers available. The results, which are based on research conducted among MIDAS Ireland member companies, indicate that good careers are available in the sector with 68% of companies reporting salary increases to staff over the last year. Positively as well 55% of companies believe that Ireland is living up to its stated objective of being an Innovative Island.

John Blake, Chairman, MIDAS Ireland said: “The research shows that over 90% of the companies surveyed invested in new research projects over the past year and 78% anticipate business growth in the coming year. This is a positive sign for the microelectronics sector in Ireland. We currently employ 8,000 in the sector and there’s certainly room to grow that figure. It is because this field is so successful that the skills demand is so strong today, and the increasing earnings of the vast majority of those who work in microelectronics companies reflects that narrative.”

Many companies called for increased investment by government in the education of undergraduate engineers, and I would echo that call highlighting that the investment should be channelled into equipping students with the correct tools as required by microelectronics firms. The sector wants to work closely with the education providers to ensure the best fit between the graduates coming through and the skills needed by industry. Through enabling more people with the right skillset, Ireland can continue to lead the world in the sphere of microelectronics”, he said.

The microelectronics sector is notable for its close connection to academia and the commitment to R&D which is broadly seen in the sector Ireland. 90% reported their companies have invested in research projects into new areas during the past twelve months. Many firms expressed the view that business growth would be aided through a rethink of the tax system to give additional breaks for R&D.

The conference was addressed by Dr Marcel Pelgrom who is a consulting professor at Stanford University and a visiting scientist at Microelectronic Circuits Centre Ireland. In his keynote at the conference he questions the link between universities and innovation.

Addressing the audience Dr Pelgrom said: “With the theme today focused around the area of innovation I wanted to explore that concept in more detail. When we talk about innovation and the need for more at university level we sometimes neglect the role industry has to play in this area. I think a partnership approach is needed to ensure we generate an innovative society. Industry, Government and academia all have to work together to ensure firstly the education system is world class and secondly that it allows for students to develop a skill of independent thinking. If we get the right type of collaboration going between academia, Government and education I think we’ll reap the benefits in the future.”

More information is available at www.midasireland.ie. The conference this year was supported through sponsorship by IDA, Enterprise Ireland and Analog Devices