Engenuity, a member-led network and engineering cluster in the Midlands, has been pivotal in empowering its members to survive and thrive despite the Covid-19 pandemic through collaboration and knowledge-sharing.
The network, which is led by LEO Westmeath, and supported by Offaly, Longford, and Laois Local Enterprise Offices, initially aspired to growing members’ presence at international shows but had to pivot resourcing their business needs at home due to Covid-19.
Engenuity was founded in the belief that engineering microenterprises and SMEs needed to come together as a cluster to share knowledge and have their voices heard.
The network was the brainchild of Tracey Tallon, Senior Enterprise Development Officer at LEO Westmeath, who believed that businesses that were experiencing the same problems could help each other.
After the pandemic began, Engenuity focused its budget on strengthening the network, aligning standards, explaining, and helping with funding applications, promotions, recruitment, and helping members to help each other.
The shift in focus has been successful in helping the companies to work through common business problems as well as undertaking joint commercial activity.
Twice-monthly video meetings help members share experiences and learn from each other about the aspects of running a business that they all have in common. In addition, to peer-learning, guest speakers and experts help them to identify and tackle complex issues.
Meetings address issues such as business development, attendance at national and international trade shows, supply chain development, industry standards and certification, supports and finance, and recruitment and team development.
Engenuity also enables access to support by facilitating workshops, networking events, guest speakers and member presentations – all of which currently happen online.
The network represented Ireland and came in the top three out of 27 countries in the European Enterprise Promotion Awards 2020. The network has upwards of 60 members including stakeholders.
Theresa Mulvihill, network manager for Engenuity, says: “We’re driving an agenda towards collaborative business development, collaborative internationalisation and collaborative R&D. We also help our members to engage with stakeholders. Irish business is very well supported by our government through various agencies and supports. Many owner managers focus on driving business and getting business done – this can result in missed opportunities for our indigenous companies to grow across. At Engenuity, our member case studies, and peer learning bring some of the advanced supports to reality, showcasing how a support which may seem unattainable can make a real difference to a company’s bottom line.
“Initially, Tracey Tallon, Senior Enterprise Development Officer at LEO Westmeath came up with the idea of setting up Engenuity so businesses that were experiencing the same problems could help each other. There’s strength in numbers. it’s about power, it’s about strength, it’s about being seen, and it’s about being heard in recruitment, in business development and in standards. Engenuity gives that voice collectively and it will grow over time as relationships between member companies develop.”
Engenuity member Enhance Acoustics is based in Rhode, Co. Offaly and has recently completed a project for the world-famous Steinway & Sons piano company in New York. Founder Derek McCreanor, says: “Engenuity allowed me to get into a sector that was driven by people the same as myself, small microenterprises that had a vision for their company and what their company wanted to do and steer it in that direction. Being with Engenuity, I am working with people that are looking at my progression. I’ve a responsibility to the people who have put me forward for these applications, to make sure that I follow through.”
John O’Reilly, managing director of Strikebox Engineering, in Mullingar, Co Westmeath, says: “Years ago, you would have been watching your competitors and what has happened with Engenuity has been really quite interesting. You’ve guys who never talked to each other, beginning to talk to each other. Now you have a network who can share knowledge and experience. It’s become a very amicable and helpful place to do business.”
Dani Kavanagh, director of Longford-based Fabworx Engineering, says the company has benefited from being a member of Engenuity – turnover has increased by more than 25pc in the last 12 months.
“We joined Engenuity a year ago, contributing via online meetings. We have had a 25% increase in turnover this year and our expanding portfolio in stainless steel fabrications is linked to networking within the Engenuity group.
“We have obtained CE certification which allows us to supply and fabricate certified steel structures. This qualifies us to work with larger scale construction companies and produce structural steel products certified to the highest industry standards.
“Our focus is on architectural feature elements such as stairs and balconies – it was through the group that we explored avenues for funding and gained confidence in our capability to achieve this. We also now have a team of six and have received an expansion grant from Longford LEO for creating local employment.”
Christine Charlton, Head of Enterprise, LEO Westmeath, says: “We are delighted to support the Engenuity network of engineering companies and the member companies as they strive to innovate and grow. Collaboration is an immensely powerful tool and clustering knowledge, and expertise has proven to be a great benefit as these Midlands-based employers seek to grow and scale.”