NUI Galway Professor Says Ireland's Universities Must Teach Innovation

Thursday, 25 June 2009

An NUI Galway professor has said Ireland needs a new breed of engineering graduate. These new engineering professionals, as well as being properly educated in their technical discipline, would also be provided with a significant exposure to the principles of business and finance, and to the process of innovation and entrepreneurship. Gearóid Ó Laighin, Professor of Electronic Engineering at NUI Galway, said: "Ireland s economic future requires the creation of Irish owned companies, led by engineers who can, through invention and innovation, create economic success. This process is a central pillar of the 'Smart Economy'". While innovation and entrepreneurship are traditionally seen as innate skills, there is plenty of evidence that providing graduates with the correct mix of skills can boost their capabilities as innovators and entrepreneurs. Professor Ó Laighin says a cross-disciplinary approach to engineering education can provide a massive boost to the creation of the entrepreneurial spirit. He commented: "Ireland is perfectly positioned to create the equivalent of Canada's Research In Motion company, creators of the omnipresent BlackBerry. By adopting new methods to educate engineers in our universities and by stepping out beyond traditional programme boundaries, we can produce more adaptable graduates, with the appropriate skill set to create innovative market-led products for worldwide markets". Electronic devices now represent a massive productive sector worldwide with production in 2009 expected to exceed $1 trillion. Electronic engineering knowledge is used to create systems and devices across a broad range of sectors from life saving medical devices, computer hardware, entertainment systems, mobile communications, automotive electronics, industrial automation, consumer electronics, transportation systems and renewable energy systems and devices. Professor Ó Laighin is the driving force behind the new Engineering Innovation – Electronic degree programme at NUI Galway. The four-year bachelors or five-year masters programme is a joint initiative of NUI Galway's Colleges of Engineering & Informatics and Business, Public Policy & Law. The new course will deliver graduates with the skills and capabilities to start up their own company to design niche electronic products for world-wide markets. Established companies will also benefit from the availability of a new type of Electronic Engineer who has the capability to stimulate and support innovation and growth in those organisations. According to Professor Ó Laighin, "From the beginning of their studies, students will build expertise in electronic engineering while at the same be exposed to the principles of business and finance and the process of innovation and entrepreneurship in parallel. We feel that this approach to the education of young electronic engineers will make a powerful difference". The new degree programme from NUI Galway has received endorsements from IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland, Engineers Ireland, Shannon Development, Power Electronics Industry Group, Irish Medical Devices Association and Microelectronic Industry Design Association Ireland. NUI Galway is also offering a new four-year honours degree in Energy Systems Engineering which will have its first intake this September. The programme will produce professional accredited engineers, qualified to drive the emerging energy related industries. Engineering students at NUI Galway will also benefit from the University's new state-of-the-art Engineering Building which is due for completion in 2011.
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