Engineering Is Fundamental To Enterprise

Irish engineers are having a fantastic impact in global enterprise but are we nimble and innovative enough to take on the internationals?

Today we find out how engineering is fundamental to the future of enterprise in Ireland and why innovation and sustainability will be vital to our success.

We are delighted to be joined by CEO of Enterprise Ireland, and Fellow of Engineers Ireland, Leo Clancy.

 Listen below or on your podcast player!

Things we spoke about

01:26 Leo’s career from engineering to enterprise 

04:17 What does Enterprise Ireland do?

05:25 Engineering is fundamental to enterprise

08:38 How Ireland stands out in a global market

11:47 What we can learn from international companies

14:28 Adopting an innovation mindset

18:09 How Enterprise Ireland can help start ups

22:58 Opportunities for Irish engineering companies

25:29 Sustainability as an opportunity and as a threat

33:41 Future forecasting and Impact 2030 for engineering

Guest details

Leo Clancy is the Chief Executive Officer of Enterprise Ireland, the State Agency that helps Irish companies to start, scale and grow globally. Leo graduated from Dublin Institute of Technology with a First-Class Honours degree in Electronic and Electrical Engineering and is a Fellow of Engineers Ireland.

Before being appointed as CEO of Enterprise Ireland, Leo was a member of the Executive Committee of IDA Ireland, the State agency for Foreign Direct Investment. There, he led the Technology sector, working extensively at up to C-level with the top global technology and services companies.

Leo spent most of his career in the telecommunications industry, working in senior management, technical and engineering roles. His most recent role was as Service Delivery Director at e|net. Prior to that, he was General Manager, Service Delivery at Ericsson Ireland.


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It was that discipline of learning about something and problem solving that I really appreciated about engineering, and I think gives you a great grounding. I've been a manager effectively now for 20 years. You never lose that engineering mindset in terms of how you approach problems, and I think it really stands to people. - Leo Clancy

Irish companies and people have a get it done mentality. We are flexible, we know how to roll with things and problem solving is at the core of how we think about things. Ireland has always had that little bit of a scrappy edge to us, and that shouldn't be confused with low quality because it's not. Irish people are good at analyzing the problem, working out how to change the process in order to get it done, as well as delivering quality. - Leo Clancy

I think we could certainly bring back more of that cultural respect for engineering. We need to value engineering more. - Leo CLancy

There's some brilliant innovation going on in Ireland. And I think it's not beyond the possibility for Irish companies in various domains who are already strong on services and delivering projects to start innovating solutions within their businesses. - Leo Clancy

We're going to see continued and vastly increasing investment in sustainability. That is certainly something that every company should be looking at, as an opportunity, but also as a threat. If companies don't have sustainability plans, and verifiable ones for their businesses, they will be out of business in three to five years. No one will buy from a company that doesn't have a good ESG plan, and that can't verify their own sustainability credentials. - Leo Clancy

It's an absolute testament to Irish business that 2022 was a record year on exports. Irish business performed very well during the pandemic, so I'd be very optimistic about where we're going in the future. I think notwithstanding what might happen in the global markets, I think we're going to continue to see growth in Irish business exports, and growth and jobs. - Leo Clancy


For your convenience, we include an automated AI transcription

Dusty Rhodes 00:00

Right now on AMPLIFIED, the Engineers Journal podcast, we're about to learn just how important innovation is for success.

Leo Clancy 00:08

Irish engineers would go to sites, and we'd figure out how to get the job done. We wouldn't stand behind. Well, this has never been done before, it needs to go back to the product unit, and needs to be considered for another three months. Ireland has always had that little bit of a scrappy edge to us as well as well as delivering quality.

Dusty Rhodes 00:28

Hello there. My name is Dusty Rhodes and you're very welcome to AMPLIFIED the Engineers Journal podcast. Irish engineers are having a fantastic impact across the globe. But are we nimble and innovative enough to take on the internationals? Could the lack of sustainability credentials put us out of business? And why is engineering so fundamental to Ireland's future? Our guest today is one of the country's most prestigious engineers who works tirelessly to promote Irish enterprise on the international stage and is about to give us some great insight. I'm delighted to be joined today by a fellow of Engineers Ireland and the current Chief Executive Officer of Enterprise Ireland. Leo Clancy, thanks for coming on.

Leo Clancy 01:16

Thanks, Dusty. It's a pleasure to be here.

Dusty Rhodes 01:18

So listen, you're an engineer at heart Leo, and a fellow of Engineers Ireland. Tell us a little bit about your career in engineering.

Leo Clancy 01:26

I came to engineering accidentally, actually, which is interesting, because the only reason I picked it was I wanted to be a Vet. But the Leaving Cert points were never going to get me there. So the next best choice was what my two cousins thought, it was electronic engineering, which I knew nothing about. Buzz went for us and came to love. It really enjoyed us. And it was that discipline of learning about something and problem-solving that I really appreciated about engineering and I think gives you a great grounding. Like I've been a manager effectively now for 20 years in one form or another bus. You never lose that engineering mindset in terms of how you approach problems. So I think a really stands to people.

Dusty Rhodes 02:06

Tell me how did all of this engineering work then lead you to work with Enterprise Ireland?

Leo Clancy 02:12

I was working with Ericsson Optics as an ace. And during the summer of 2000, and Asia, we probably had a family choice to make about where we were going to be. I ended up resigning from my 30-year career. With Ericsson. On the day, Lehman Brothers collapsed into designation, to join a loss-making telecom startup patinas. It turned into one of the most amazing experiences I've ever had, I joined as service delivery director and took on engineering. So effectively in the CTO role as Enos did that job for four and a half years, and it was an amazing project, we grew the business, and we made it profitable. And then the business was in the process of being sold. And I met no boss of mine who said that the Ida was looking for a head of ICT, being this about marketing the servos, helping attract the biggest ICT companies to Ireland's that's UN's a bit more interesting. So joined Ida and spent eight years there leading the tech sector. My clients were Amazon, Intel, Facebook, Microsoft, and Google. So that led me to an immensely interesting eight years of seeing that hyper-growth of the tech sector. And then it's always been my ambition to be CEO of a company, private or public. I would have said that we're for a person who's come from industry, there are two super interesting jobs in the public sector ecosystem, the CEO of Ida and the CEO of Enterprise Ireland. So this was the one that came up soonest.

Dusty Rhodes 03:41

And does Enterprise Ireland still have that kind of like problem-solving angle to your life, except on a much bigger national scale?

Leo Clancy 03:48

Every day of the week. We're an organization of over 800 people with a budget of around 400 million euros. We have 40 offices outside Ireland. So it's a big organization. But so involved in the tech ecosystem funding university research, and funding companies, my early stage was an equity investor in nearly 2000 companies, you know, just hugely interesting span 4000 clients across many sectors. So there's something to learn in every hour of every day.

Dusty Rhodes 04:17

I kind of want to chat with you about opportunities abroad for engineering companies and how you would kind of look nationally and internationally at things that engineers are always considering like sustainability and innovation in the future. But first, just to kind of give us a bit of because we all hear about the ITA we all hear about enterprise Ireland but you know we don't pay as much attention to it as maybe you would like us to and apologize here now for that. Can you explain to us what is the IDA and what specifically really is Enterprise Ireland?

Leo Clancy 04:47

The IDA is a sales and marketing machine at its heart, it's focused on bringing foreign direct investment to Ireland's enterprise. Ireland is much more complex, we are focused on Irish companies entirely, and Ida is focused entirely on non-Irish companies. So our portfolio ranges from the very earliest founder who's thinking about starting a business and might want to do an entrepreneurship training course, all the way up to companies like Kerry Group and Icon, clinical trials companies, and others who are very large global leaders in their fields. And every company in between. So we've got over 4000 clients.

Dusty Rhodes 05:25

One of the things that I have seen them, you know, we're looking at various videos and and and articles and reopen and investigating you, Lele essentially, one of the things that you said was that engineering is fundamental to the future of Irish enterprise. What do you mean by that? Why is engineering so key to Irish enterprise?

Leo Clancy 05:43

Engineering is a fundamental building block of any modern economy. You know, and I think this will be increasingly true. So engineers build large parts of our world and engineering has been a huge string for Ireland in terms of how we succeed. So if I look at the industries that are growing fastest in my world, its construction actually is one of our single biggest growing export sectors, companies that have engineered the semiconductor fabs, the farmer plants, and the data centers in Ireland, are now taking what they've learned in Ireland, and they're going global, and all around the world, a huge, huge growth rate in that area. Sustainability Solutions was our fastest-growing job sector last year. And again, depends on good engineers who can include can engineer software solutions, carbon monitoring solutions, put them into insights, and life sciences, reading faster, etc. We have hundreds of innovation, of young life sciences companies that are growing very fast now, I think the scientific community probably wouldn't thank me for not including them, also, in addition to engineers, but I think science and engineering capability is fundamental to the creation of new and defensible IP. If you want to succeed in a very competitive global market, you need products that are unique, defensible in global markets, and give you a competitive edge. And I think Roiland does knowledge economy, we need to re-emphasize the importance that engineering and science at the core of our industrial solutions.

Dusty Rhodes 07:14

You say one of the quickest growing areas of the moment is construction and construction internationally. How does construction work on an international basis,

Leo Clancy 07:24

it worked through a number of strands, the primary ones are people making products, whether it's precast, concrete, or electrical monitoring systems, and lots of products like that, you know, partition walls, that are exporters and go into construction products, say, you know, and they might have got their start with an Amazon in Ireland, or with Intel or with or with Pfizer. And once those, once they've proven them, once companies have proven themselves selling products into those companies, the world is their oyster in terms of global supply chains. The other really fast-growing one is people. So the people who built those projects in Ireland, we had a great announcement from h&m B A a few weeks ago, where they were adding 700 jobs around the world, including 400, and Ireland to serve global electrical and data center projects and their mechanical and electrical contractor their core competencies, the people that they provide project manage and install electrical solutions in very large plants. So are people traveling out on a contract basis to be part of the building project? And people that they will hire locally if there's a pipeline to a business that can keep going locally? And complementing those two soaks? Product and people exports are the two elements.

Dusty Rhodes 08:38

And what is it about, like engineering here in Ireland that makes it so appealing abroad?

Leo Clancy 08:44

I guess it's a done mentality. Yeah, if I saw rose, Irish, Irish companies and people are flexible, we know how to roll with things. Problem-solving is at the core of how we think about things. And when I worked at Ericsson, this was also true, Irish engineers would go to sites, and we'd figure out how to get the job done, we wouldn't stand behind. Well, this has never been done before it needs to go back to the product unit needs to be considered for another three months, Ireland has always had that little bit of a scrappy orange to us. And that shouldn't be confused with low quality because it's not Irish people are good at analyzing the problem, working out what needs to be done working out how to change the process in order to get it done, as well as, as well as delivering quality. So I think we can do the two of those together. There are a lot of countries that are good at getting things done the scrappy way and leave you with a mess. And you know, it's not uniformly culture than any country but that that can be true in certain areas. There are other places where the culture is that you follow a process regardless of the difficulty it causes. Ireland threads in between those two were able to change the process and maintain the quality.

Dusty Rhodes 09:55

There's a thing that we have in Ireland that whenever we travel abroad, we automatically assumed People love us. You travel a lot and it's a lot to do with business and enterprise and everything. That surely is not the reality what are the real thoughts of foreigners when they look back at Ireland?

Leo Clancy 10:12

I think they don't love us they really love us just a word.

Leo Clancy 10:19

It's funny, you know, it is a privileged position to be in, but it's generally true. You know, I have traveled all over the world, myself and Ireland, Ireland's an interesting country. First of all, we have a big Global Diaspora. So we've been distributed around the world, we've had people go out and work in every part of the world, and we've never had a colonial history or passage that would color the perception of us in areas. So we are generally welcome where we are, but then we're also good at getting on with people, you know, Irish people are good at understanding cultures, understanding difference, because we've had that Jasper, we've all known people who've traveled too far corners the world and have to have had to make themselves acceptors. And that's permeated its way back into us. We were a nation of migrants. And we've had to be conscious of other cultures, we've had to, we've depended on the kindness of others, to help us succeed as individuals and to help the nation succeed because we had a population that couldn't have been sustained with we were talking this week about the JFK 60 celebrations. The population of Ireland in the 60s was 2.5 million; the population on the island in 1840, was 8 million I believe. So the amount of people who left Ireland or died from the inability because of the inability to leave the country, I think there is a race memory of this and Irish people that makes us more culturally sensitive.

Dusty Rhodes 11:47

I think you're right, because it's something about, you know, us Irish, we have a serious thing for owning our own home. And I always thought that that goes back to the famine when nobody owns their own home, Jeremy is like, you know, it's not a little protection thing that we have. But that's us Irish. And speaking of your international experience, and working with other countries abroad, have you seen stuff in their cultures that you think we should take on board here in Ireland, I would help us with our engineering.

Leo Clancy 12:16

Interesting. I think we're, we're good when we go to places that are just simulating things that are good. They go to somewhere like Israel, or Netherlands to a lesser degree, you know, the level of directness, that that was in those cultures, is something we could probably benefit from at times, you know, I think sometimes Irish people can be a little bit circumspect. And it is that balance of our niceness and, and getting the job done. But the Irish people are more direct than average. But there are little things like that, that we could probably, we shouldn't probably lose what makes us strong, but we could, we could probably still learn some of that. If you look at a society like Germany, you know, where the focus on and value on engineering is so strong and so pervasive. I think we certainly bring back more of that cultural respect for engineering, actually, and not just saying that because among engineers, our podcast today, I actually think it's true that we need to value engineering more, we could, we could certainly learn more about innovation in the way that the United States does it. You know, we looked at commercial numbers this week in various economic reports and the level of innovation in the EU by companies, I think the stats are over 50% of US companies are investing in innovation in some form or other, but only early 30s of European companies are investing in innovation. And if we go back to the construction example that I mentioned earlier, we have companies who are on top of their game in delivering construction projects, I'd like to see more of those companies actually innovating and creating their own products and services that are not the product of the work of the people on a given project. What are new intellectual property-based things that they understand the market will need, in addition to the people effort that we bring, and we probably don't see enough of that, in our industry in various parts of our industry. Some areas were phenomenal. We have amazing startups and scale-up companies that have defensible IP. But I think if more of our services-oriented companies and people who deliver projects for people could start innovating their own products, that would be really interesting. And I think that's very much a US culture.

Dusty Rhodes 14:28

In many ways you're talking about innovation. Have you any kind of particular example in the back of your mind that you're thinking of about somebody abroad that impressed you with innovation?

Leo Clancy 14:38

I'm just trying to think of companies that are analogous to the example he gave no way I'd nearly look locally to some of the innovation being done from the ground up by startups. So if you think of an example, James and extortionate will probably kill me. I keep mentioning exoskeleton if you've come across them, but they're a company in Carlingford the typical way You do Marine Surveying, as you put a big ship in the water with a crew of 10 plus people and it's diesel-powered and you do the marine surveys and cost a fortune to run, and you do it on customer demand. James and his team at x ocean have developed remote control ship that's about the size of an SUV a little bit bigger. Those largely electrically powered such as diesel engines as well, adult surveys controlled by an operator from potentially their kitchen table in Carlingford, or anywhere else in the world, that these chips can be sent and deployed to do marine surveys around the world. So cost differential is huge. The environmental impact is much lower. You know, those are the kinds of solutions that are super interesting for me. I mean, the other big one Combi lifts Mark McVicker and his team and Monahan, which you probably are aware of, they built an incredible facility for with new innovative lifts, you know, there are 14 products, there's some brilliant innovation going on in Ireland. And I think it's not beyond the possibility for Irish companies in various domains, who are already strong on services and delivering projects just start innovating solutions like that within their businesses.

Dusty Rhodes 16:18

So it's kind of from what I hear what you're saying is kind of services are great, but ideas are better. If your current got to take that then because innovation is brilliant from an engineer, thinking of solving solutions and stuff like that, right? How do you get into that kind of innovation area? Because normally, as an engineer, you're told there's a problem with this, we need to fix it. And you've got to but with innovation, it's kind of you're trying to fix a problem that doesn't exist. So what's in your head? Do you see the thought process that people innovate with?

Leo Clancy 16:51

Yeah, I wouldn't say wouldn't read this. It's not. Most of the best innovation is problems that you understand deeply, that do exist. So if you're, if you're a construction company, and you're going to sites every day, and you see those things are done a certain way. And one of the most traditional industries is construction, for instance. So you're going to the site every day, and you see that there's a niche, you want to scratch, actually working out how to start scratching, that itch is probably the hardest part, you know, how do I? How do I put someone on this? So instead of replicating this problem every time and I'm charging my clients, could I have a better business model, where I'm actually eliminating the inefficiency and charging for this product that eliminates that inefficiency. That's an interesting one, that that's hard to do in any business. That's the Kodak moment, you know, Kodak had the digital famously had the digital camera patents an idea in the 80s. But they couldn't bring themselves to not depend on film. And I think we all as engineers need to be thinking about that Kodak moment for all of our businesses. Where do I see something that's a good business today, that I may need to disrupt myself in initially, in order to make myself stronger for the future.

Dusty Rhodes 18:09

So let me follow that then a little bit, if you are looking at your business, or you see something that is happening over and over again, you come up with a novel and interesting and a new way of tackling that problem and solving that problem. That's what we call innovation. We kind of think, how am I going to turn this from an idea in my brain into reality? Because quite often, it could be something quite big that you need help with. Is it at this stage that you approach Enterprise Ireland, or should you do something else first before we start knocking on your door?

Leo Clancy 18:41

As early as you like, and as early as possible, I would say so if you look as if you look at and I have some examples, my head at all use them because I'm not sure at what stage they're at. We have consultancy companies that have done a number of things they've either come to us for. So one really simple thing we can do. If you have an idea, and you don't have an engineer, if you don't have let's say you're a construction company and you don't have a software person, you can go to a university, we can give you a 5000 Euro voucher to spend with the university to get a prototype built. And that's no cost to you, you own the IEP, you just get the vote for most you get the work done, you guys it's delivered for you. You can go higher than that, once you've done that, you can build that up into an innovation partnership where you can get up to 660 5% of the customer, a much larger project done. And this is before you have to commit any full-time permanent people beyond people who can interact with the university on the idea. If you think you can have people on staff who can do it we can help you with an initial feasibility grant to actually explore that idea in detail and they are very substantial. So you can put a few people on this for a year or two. So that's the scale of where we can help early some companies are juicy where they have a services business. They don't want to distract focus from the core, which is right in many cases, they spin out a company. So they'll create a new entity which we can also get behind As a potential co-founder with equity or other ways, so they're de-risking from the core, but they're also given a better headspace some potential to the people who are in that company, and potentially giving some benefit to the people who go with that idea that they might have returned out of that new business in return for their efforts, folks, there's any amount of ways, but just you, thank you for the question. Because you use that as effectively in your question, come to us, as soon as you have an idea, we really want to see innovation probes, and explored by companies as early as possible.

Dusty Rhodes 20:33

One of the things you think of as a company, because I mean, here we are, we're the home with the international firm, and we're seeing headlines lately, like, you know, those three internationals paid. I can't wait, what was the day that 1/3 of all corporation tax three companies, it's, it's insane. So they're huge. But then you're kind of an engineer listening to this, you kind of think, well, actually, I'm just part of a small little engineering company, maybe we're evolved in technology or something like that. Do you think that small emerging tech companies that Ireland are possibly in better shape than the big multinationals are in a better position to be able to innovate?

Leo Clancy 21:10

I don't think it's as binary as that, actually, I think. But, yes, small companies can pivot their model a lot quicker. You know, that's, that's something that's certainly true. We see it everywhere that by the time you work your way up through the innovation process, and large company, at startup can have delivered a product to the market, you know, and that's just a fact of life, I worked on a very large company, I worked at a very small company, I went from 100,000 person company to a 30 person, company. And to those are nice, and the difference is brilliant. And I think small companies often don't realize that superpower that they have, I think large companies can eventually do whatever they want. We talked about this recently, with Chuck GPT, and GPT. For large language models, large companies own a huge amount of computing power, plus, they will take longer to come to market with solutions, you know, small companies, and we've seen this with open AI can actually move faster, where they will get stuck potentially as on the resource needed to scale up an idea but depends on the domain you're in. If it's large, long language models in AI much harder to scale those up because there's a global scarcity of Nvidia chips at the moment. So you're going to hit a barrier, not to mention the money required. But in most other domains, small companies can move fast, I think it can be a much bigger proportional bet, though. So just understanding what you're getting yourself into planning for is making sure that the financial model behind what you're setting out to do is clear, those are important. And again, that's where we can help. So we have people who can help flesh out. An idea from a technical feasibility point of view can also help you with a financial model, the cash flow analysis, and things like that. So that's where we're keen to help more and more companies.

Dusty Rhodes 22:58

I'm not thinking about all these and you know, kind of the agility of being a smaller company and being able to experiment with ideas. And then there's this port from Enterprise Ireland. And you're thinking about not just doing it in this small little rock on the side of the Atlantic, that there's a market of billions and billions out there. What kind of opportunities, from your point of view are there in the world for Irish engineering companies?

Leo Clancy 23:20

Huge opportunity, where I'm getting asked all the time these days, do global conditions mean that we should be getting ready for attraction in exports? And should we be worried about the prospects for Irish companies and possibly globalization going to do for us? You know, I think I think those questions are useful to continue asking, but they're not relevant to where we're at at the moment. We have a huge market in front of us for Irish companies. And the optimism is huge. We survey our companies every year on their sentiment about the future of the markets. Companies are telling us in the high 80s and early 90s have optimism about growing their international markets this year. That's a survey we did earlier this year. And it's borne out to be true. If you look at the large globalization concerns that are out there and say they are they're relatively narrow, actually, worse, aimless. You know, things like semiconductor chip battles between large countries and other things around minerals generally don't affect Irish companies in a systemic way. There are companies that will be affected by Chip shortages and by material shortages and other things. But we're not systemically dependent on our existence exposed to some of the key geopolitical things that are going on. And I think we're in enough markets actually, that we should be resilient to whatever might come in terms of financial shocks. So I'm really optimistic about the future. There's any amount of business out there to be done. We said saw the signs in 2022, the US grew to $5 billion of exports from Irish companies for the first time. Eurozone exports grew by 28% Okay, Last year, construction actually was the biggest country research that grew by 50% in the eurozone. And that is companies out building data centers where we know that there's a market fueled by including Chuck GPT and other applications that will continue for another 10 years as a healthy market. There are markets in biopharma for vaccines. You know, I'm the markets were in our resilience to what may call them and financial markets.

Dusty Rhodes 25:29

You've mentioned chat GPT a few times. And AI, of course, is on everybody's mind. And where should Irish engineers be thinking, for the future, with everything changing? So, so fast?

Leo Clancy 25:42

It depends on your domain, I would say, digital is, is huge. And I think engineers need to be thinking about digital models for the delivery of their products. Even in highly traditional industries, like construction soaks natively, digital businesses going to grow substantially as well. So like the AI models and areas like that, so digital is huge. And even if you think digital isn't relevant to you, you should be thinking again, because digital can be delivered easily from Ireland to anywhere in the world which is unlike a physical product. So even if you're in the physical product business, you could add about valuable revenue stream through digital. Digital is also incrementally the cost of a new digital product once you built one zero, popes, you just punch another piece of software out it doesn't cost you anything to do. So to Highmark the margin model. Sustainability is the other one. So it's the other big secular trend at the moment. But it's right, I mean, there is going to be a revolution. Regardless of what happens with financial markets, we're going to see continued and vastly increasing investment in sustainability. So that is certainly something that every company should be looking at, as an opportunity, but also as a Thresh. If companies don't have sustainability plans, and verifiable ones for their businesses, they will be out of business in three to five years' time. No one will buy from a company that doesn't have a good ESG plan. And they can't verify their own sustainability credentials, saying it's only a matter of time.

Dusty Rhodes 27:11

When you say verifying your sustainability credentials, what kind of is this literally a certificate on the wall? Or what do you mean by that,

Leo Clancy 27:20

that won't be good enough. So you can't just achieve a certificate and call it done, you've got to be able to, for instance, be in control of your scope, one, two, and three emission levels, you've got to understand your supply chain in terms of where the products came from, what environmental impact they had both on carbon and on even things like labor conditions, sources, the finance that you use to build your business and all the other aspects on environmental social governance, you've got to be able to prove through your supply chain, that you are not negatively impacting your customers. So the large customers of all of our Irish companies will demand that they can show that they're not negatively affecting their own environmental stance, and they will go deep, if they haven't gone deep so far, they will go deep in order terms into your ESG credentials and will want to see evidence that you can start over. So searching on the wall is a nice start, but it's not going to get you there. Unfortunately, we can help with that we have for instance, a climate and sustainability voucher which we can give companies, two days of consulting that gets fully covered, which helps have a first look at how you stand at this. So 1800 euros, just helps you take a good look at yourself. We then have various stages of green transformation programs that we can bring to bear for companies. So you can get green Start Green plus green transform, which helps you actually bring in consultants into your business and work with you through this entire chain, train your people. So that's an offer we have it's undersubscribed, Dusty, at the moment, people aren't coming to us for this money, and it's either it's a high level of support 100% cover to the wall, vote your level 80% At the next level 50% After that, so and we're not seeing the demand. 

Dusty Rhodes 29:06

First, let me ask you because everybody's telling you about sustainability. But I don't think an awful lot of people really understand it. And you're saying that it's under subscribed, why is it under-subscribed?

Leo Clancy 29:15

I think people are people are very busy. And I know that sounds like a terrible excuse. But we've had braces. We've had COVID-19 We've had the Ukraine crisis, we have more breaks of coming with globalization and supply chain shortages and shocks, inflation and pricing, and all those things. So companies like mine have huge empathy and sympathy for SMEs in the middle of all that because most do not have a big superstructure of admin people who can take on loads of extra stuff, they're struggling to survive. So I think there's a real risk that this has been to deprioritize because the time as well as understanding and I think that's where we can help though we can help with some of that light touch consultancy that can come in and help with some of the explanations, but that's why it was so forceful, really in my description of what will happen to people in their markets, if we don't do this, right, because this is an existential threat, you know, the day will come when you receive a tender that you won't be able to respond to that might be fundamental to the future of your business, and the day is coming.

Dusty Rhodes 30:20

It's like having a tax clear insert, if you can't rustle one up for 24 hours, you're dead, they're gonna go away. So you need to have something along the same way with sustainability. So I get what you're saying in that it's a threat. If you don't look after this, well, then that's gonna cause you big problems in the next 235 years. If you do look after it, it's opening up a huge amount of opportunities, but what is the actual impact? When we look at sustainability from an engineering point of view or within an engineering? Business? What impact is that actually having on real-world sustainability?

Leo Clancy 30:58

Yep. So depends. Like generally, for businesses, if you have a sustainability plan that will make you better insurance, how you do your work, nevermind meeting your customer's expectations, it's generally a good thing to do that you would look at the emissions from your business that, you know, generally leads you to efficiency, actually, you know, so if you have this good sustainability plan, it should improve and enhance your business, it shouldn't be a cost, you know, look at all the people who scramble to put solar panels in in the last year, when there were more expensive to procure and to deploy, because the business case became immediately obvious when electricity prices went through the roof. That's, that's what if they had done it sooner, it would have cost them less to do and they would have had an immediate buffer against those electricity bills. It's hard to make the capital argument for them, though, unless thing unless things get very expensive. But I think taking those decisions earlier will help offer you because essentially, sustainability is about reducing your consumption and improving circularity. Those are all things that actually reduce costs as well. Ultimately, in the long term. Now, the InVEST ability of them is a challenge. And government is working on a number of measures around ensuring that there's more loan and scram capital available for businesses to invest in sustainability. So that's good. The other thing though, is, in that marketplace, your customers will want to buy from companies that have high sustainability credentials, and that will increasingly be the case you will do better in your markets as well as being more efficient. And the way to do it, and this is where engineering is crucial. Sustainability depends, particularly for a product company, you know, the design cycle is so important when you when you're an engineer, you sit down with a blank sheet, we don't use drawing boards much anymore. But you know, it's the turn it's drawing board to design a product, rather than just sketching out the most optimal engineering design with, whatever the most efficient products are, you now need to be asking yourself, what efficient way the sustainability credentials of those components are. So you might put a component into your design, that is the most efficient. But if it's made using questionable materials, or questionable labor practices, or if it doesn't have a future sustainability plan itself, using that component is going to compromise you with your customers. In the end, it's also going to compromise your potential in terms of costs, it's not sustainable. So these are really good questions to ask generically, even if, even if they're hard once you get your head or under a yawn. And engineers are vital to this, the design process and ensuring the childhood that you have this thought or so in advance is probably fundamental.

Dusty Rhodes 33:41

I think that's kind of going back to a lot of what you have been saying is that you know, you take a small idea, and a smaller dn or a small chain somewhere like that can grow. And it can grow your business here in Ireland, and it can grow internationally and as good. Can I ask you just kind of about the future because the engineer is a very curious kind of people like to look at the big picture. And you had said that 2022 was it was a record year for Enterprise Ireland, do you think we're going to be able to keep up that momentum over the next three, five years?

Leo Clancy 34:14

What's the cause? I hate making predictions, especially about the future. Yeah, so I suppose just one clarification, I always rushed to clarify, this 2022 was a record year for our clients. We don't have record years our clients do. And you know, we're here to support and serve. So. So I think it's an absolute testament to Irish business this, that we've had that record year and we had a record during 21 as well and exports. So Irish businesses performed so well during the pandemic. I'd be very optimistic about where we're going in the future. I think notwithstanding what may happen in the global markets, I think we're going to continue to see growth in Irish business exports, and growth and jobs.

Dusty Rhodes 34:57

Another big thing that's being talked about at the moment is the impact To 2030. It's the government's Research and Innovation Strategy, how's that being implemented?

Leo Clancy 35:05

I'm not very close to us in terms of the day-by-day implementation, but the ambition is very strong. And we're working very closely with our colleagues and Science Foundation Ireland, in the higher education authority in the universities, where we are a research funder as well, NASA, lots of people know this. Enterprise Ireland has a research and innovation team that is 70 People and has a very large budget, and that we deployed into more industry near pipe research applications than Science Foundation, Ireland. So we are part of that an intrinsic part of agenda respectable out of the things we do so going well, I think there's lots of things that we can continue to do better. But that's true in every research ecosystem in the world. I met colleagues from South Africa yesterday, and we compared notes about the things we like to boast about how we're doing and the things we don't like about how we're doing was, I think Ireland has a wonderful research ecosystem. And I think it's something we can build on. For me the priority is getting more industry more engaged, more industry players more engaged with academic institutions. That's, that's the core, I think we need to go to

Dusty Rhodes 36:14

Al, how would you see that then applying to engineering?

Leo Clancy 36:18

Engineering, many, a huge number of the projects that are done in the research ecosystem are done on behalf of engineering companies on our edge projects themselves. So it's, it's intrinsic to engineering. I think bringing out more university-based IP into how companies do their business is going to be a large part of that. But I think it companies guesses so actually, I was speaking to an engineer yesterday morning, he was in the biotech industry, actually telecommunications, but he was he's an IP leader in a telecoms company. And he had a wonderful experience of having done his PhD, which was partly funded by Enterprise Ireland funding way back in the day, in the early noughties, and was able to take some of that IP and create a spin-out company and, and bring that into an industrial environment and create global products. And that's the path you know, we have wonderful people and intellectual property in our universities, where we need to find increasing ways to unlock that and to follow that journey and to get that IP out into the wild and create value and profit for Irish companies.

Dusty Rhodes 37:23

Finally, just from your own perspective, and kind of looking towards 2030, as, as I just mentioned a good number. It's seven years away, seven years is a good number, isn't it? What vision do you have for this little country?

Leo Clancy 37:40

Ireland Inc, in 2031, of all government has said a white paper for enterprise. And if people haven't read us, I'd encourage them to do so it was published last December. It's government's vision for 2030. Actually, in terms of, in many respects. So we've two or three key things, I'd say. First, I think we are aiming that we will have 50% more large Irish companies by that point than we had last year. So and that's, that's ambition, too many Irish companies fail to a certain point and then are sold to global players are, you know, otherwise, leave our shores, we want to keep more of those companies Irish for longer and grow them to a global scale, they believe that's achievable. And seven years of 50% growth from we counted 104 last year to over 150 is a big jump. But I think the momentum is there if we can get behind such as Enterprise Ireland. The other big target that we have for 2030 is a 35% reduction in carbon emissions in respect to Irish enterprise on data is going to be hugely challenging 35% reduction in the context of a growing economy in particular, it's 35%, from the baseline that we would add early this decade, back down NASA have any growth that we see. So that's a serious ambition. But we have to achieve those as part of the government's plan. So we'll be pushing very hard on that as well, folks, I think more scalars companies and significantly reduced carbon emissions from ocean enterprise are probably the two that are top of mind there's adding a bunch of smaller ones,

Dusty Rhodes 39:16

Leo Clancy, It's a huge pleasure, honor, and brilliant to be able to see your point of view on the world, especially in relation to engineering and the amount of ideas and information and ways of looking at things that you've just given to us in is one podcast is absolutely phenomenal. I can't thank you enough for joining us today.


Thanks, Dusty. And thanks to the team at Engineers Ireland it's a privilege to be here. Really appreciate the partnership and congratulate you all on the work you're doing.

Dusty Rhodes 39:46

If you'd like to find out more about Leo and some of the topics that we spoke about today, you'll find notes and link details in the show notes area on your podcast player right now. And of course, you'll find more information and exclusive advanced episodes of our Engineers Ireland AMPLIFIED podcast on our website at Our podcast today was produced by for Engineers Ireland. If you'd like more episodes do click the Follow button on your podcast player to get access to all of our past and the future shows automatically. Until then, from myself, Dusty Rhodes. Thank you for listening.