Updated: Jun 24, 2020
The Irish Wood and Furniture Manufacturing Network (IWFMN) is very pleased to have been selected by Enterprise Ireland for its application for funding within the Border Enterprise Development Fund. This project will see the Network undertake an ambitious Wood Industry & Supplies Development programme across the six counties adjoining Northern Ireland over the next 3 years.
The funding announcement by Minister for Business, Enterprise & Innovation, Heather Humphries, TD took place at the offices of IWFMN at Carrowhatta, Scotstown, Co Monaghan.
The focus of this programme is to set up the first regional network of IWFMN in the Border Region. This will embed a dedicated sectoral resource in the Border Region to sustain and grow the border wood, furniture, joinery and associated industries. The programme, aimed at indigenous enterprises, will have a significant impact on supporting the sector as it emerges from the Covid-19 crisis. The aims of the programme include:
1. Working with companies to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 and Brexit.
2. Growing the competitiveness of the regional industry, through collaborative initiatives
3. Engaging in the transition to a low carbon economy, embracing sustainable design, building knowledge and expertise in Circular Economy
The IWFMN was set up following a Conference in Galway in March 2017 by a group of manufacturers, Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT. Letterfrack) and the Western Regional Skills Forum.
Arising out of that conference it was clear that the wood manufacturing industry, incorporating enterprises such as Joinery, Timber-frame Housing, Fit-out, Shopfitting, Furniture and Wood Crafts, needed a platform and voice to express the latent potential within the sector for growth and development. This sector plays an important role in regional development contributing an estimated €1 billion to the economy and supporting more than 10,000 regionally dispersed jobs.
The structure of the network, embracing a triple helix model to include government agencies, education bodies and industry representatives, has enabled the IWFMN to expand its national reach and nurture an ethos of excellence, innovation, sustainability and collaboration amongst its members.
Since its inception, a voluntary Steering Committee, comprising of managers from a number of leading industries and representatives from GMIT have met frequently to put structures in place to make the IWFMN a live and purposeful tool for the development of the Industry. The IWFMN’s operations are based upon four main pillars: education & training, commercial development, design & innovation and manufacturing excellence
Mr Bill Vernon, Secretariat, says: “The IWFMN are truly delighted to have been selected for this funding. We have an enormous talent and experience amongst our members, many of whom compete for and lead global projects internationally. Across Ireland we see huge potential for the sector for further development. The border Region has a rich tradition of wood and furniture manufacturing and this project can be transformational for companies involved in that region and will provide essential support in preparing for the challenges that lie ahead.
Through the pursuit of excellence and a commitment to its values the IWFMN facilitates its members by acting as a focal point and driver for the transfer of knowledge and best practice. Through the pursuit of common opportunities, we have a global vision and look to add value in an environmentally sustainable manner and to raise the profile of our industry, both nationally and internationally.
Using this grant, the IWFMN plans to demonstrate how carefully planned and implemented inputs can transform an industry’s prospects and move a whole region on to the world stage as an exemplar for best practice. We very much look forward to working with Enterprise Ireland to continue our journey and fulfil that ambition.”
Over the past 3 months, the IWFMN hosted a weekly online forum with industry members. The forum was designed to be open and constructive, where companies learn from each other and share experiences and expertise to help overcome some of the challenges facing the sector. Collaborations with a range of agencies and industry experts ensured excellent participation from companies with more than 50 companies attending each meeting.