Friday, 15 July 2011

ASME Board of Governors meet at Powerscourt Co Wicklow

Yesterday John Power, Director General, and myself had the pleasure of welcoming the President, Executive Director and Board of Governors of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers ( to Ireland on the occasion of their Summer Strategy Retreat. This was only the second time in their history that they held this event outside the US.

The ASME President Victoria Rockwell and Executive Director Tom Loughlin very graciously invited us to lunch and to address them on the challenges facing Irish Engineering. They also made us aware of the issues informing their own strategic discussions - Global Energy and Workforce Development.

P J Rudden President of Engineers Ireland Victoria Rockwell President ASME Tom Loughlin Executive Director ASME and John Power Director General Engineers Ireland

ASME  is a global organisation with 120,000 members, and offices outside the US including in Brussels, India and China. The 40 strong Board of Governors had been addressed earlier in the day by speakers from all over the world with different perspectives on global engineering issues. I therefore felt very privileged to have been invited to give the keynote speech of their meeting.

I gave some insights into the trading relationship between the US and Ireland - all of which showed just how critical US investment in Ireland has become. I outlined where Engineers Ireland stood on the issues of Energy Generation and Workforce Development. Finally I outlined some of the challenges facing us in terms of engineering education, professional development, regulation and our policy advice role with Government. 

It is hard to believe that in 2010,  US investment in Ireland actually exceeded combined US investment in China, India, Russia and Brazil. We have 600 US firms in Ireland creating some 100,000 jobs and pumping €20 billion into the Irish economy. 9 of the US top 10 ICT firms ranked by Forbes are in Ireland and we have recently attracted leading US social media firms Google, Facebook and LinkedIn to our shores.

The US is the number one destination for Irish exports, worth €20 billion in 2010. US investment has come a long way since Abbott Pharma first set up in Ireland in 1946 and IBM Computers ten years later in 1956, in a very different Ireland than we have today. Happily both of these companies are still with us and both continue to go from strength to strength. Both have strong local links with Engineers Ireland and with Dublin City Council, in terms of Science and Technology Education and helping to front Innovation Dublin 2011 respectively.

The traffic though is not all one way. 227 Irish firms invest more than €23 billion in the US, which currently creates 82,000 jobs. Its little wonder then why, despite our relative fondness of the EU, that so many Irish people feel closer to Boston than Berlin!

In the informal discussions that followed we realised how happy these friendly Mechanical Engineers were in visiting Ireland. The added fact that they were treading in the footsteps of President Barack Obama and Queen Elizabeth appeared to add extra comfort to their choice of country to visit this year. We can now clearly see that the high cost of security of these visits will be handsomely repaid in increased tourism and trade in the years to come.

We only spent a few hours in the company of Victoria and her colleagues, most of whom were 'first timers' in Ireland. We met there as strangers but parted as firm friends 'who never met before', exchanging email and LinkedIn details. ASME has now joined the 'global network' of Engineers Ireland or perhaps the other way round. In any event we look forward to continued networking and the crossing of ideas to mutual benefit in the years ahead.

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