Geoscience Ireland (GI) is pleased to welcome Ground Investigation Ireland (GII) to the business cluster. GII is a specialist geotechnical, environmental and ground investigation contractor servicing economic infrastructure and environmental engineering projects. They are leading experts in assessment of pyrite in underfloor materials and mica in blocks.
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https://www.geoscience.ie/wp-content/uploads/FTC.jpg 284 840 Stephen Walsh https://www.geoscience.ie/wp-content/themes/master/images/geoscience-logo-v1.png Stephen Walsh2020-10-28 14:14:472020-10-28 14:36:28Geoscience: the Foundation for Infrastructure | Business Post 25th October
The article below was published in the Business Post on the 25th of October 2020.
Irish geoscience companies and the wider construction sector have the capacity and ability to deliver key infrastructure, both in Ireland and overseas
Geoscience is the understanding of the earth beneath us and that understanding is crucial in how we design and deliver all manner of infrastructure. It informs the foundations for buildings; the construction of roads, railways and pipelines; the provision of water supplies; the safe treatment of wastewater and the development of minerals needed for society.
Geoscience draws on several skills and disciplines including geology, geochemistry, the engineering properties of rocks and soils, groundwater and its interaction with surface water. And it uses many methods of investigation to gather the data which underpins it; these include satellite imagery, mapping, geophysical surveys using aircraft, drones and/or ground surveys, soil sampling and drilling. The careful and accurate collection of this data provides the basis for successful design and delivery of infrastructure projects.
Geoscience Ireland (GI) is a network of 41 companies which provide surveying, data collection and analysis, design and contracting services to projects in over 80 countries.
Launched in 2012 in response to the global economic crisis, it is a programme of Geological Survey Ireland, part of the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications and is focused on helping Irish-based companies win business in overseas markets and works closely with Enterprise Ireland, the Department of Business Enterprise and Innovation and the Department of Foreign Affairs.
The network of companies employs over 4,500 highly skilled graduates, mainly scientists and engineers, which between them had a turnover of €1.23 billion in 2019, 41 per cent of which was derived from overseas markets. And during the past eight years, the GI network has created 1,300 net new jobs.
The role of international financial institutions (IFI) in infrastructure
IFIs are crucial to the funding of infrastructure across the globe, but in particular in less developed economies. They include the World Bank Group, the African Development Bank, the European Investment Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the Asian Development Bank.
The UN and the EU operate major investment programmes, as do the governments of most advanced economies. Most IFIs are focused on reducing poverty, improving living conditions, supporting sustainable economic and institutional development and promoting regional cooperation.
Indeed, the UN’s Sustainability Development Goals include several which are focused on sectors which involve geoscience – clean water, clean energy, basic infrastructure, renewable energy and climate action. And the shift from fossil fuels to green energy will require the increased use of critical raw material minerals such as lithium, cobalt, copper and zinc, which in turn need to be sourced by environmentally and socially acceptable methods.
The IMF estimates that the Covid-19 pandemic will result in an additional 110 million people being driven below the poverty line. In contrast to the 2008-2010 recession, IMF policy is focused on economic recovery by investment in infrastructure.
The IMF estimates that a spending increase of 1 per cent on infrastructure raises economic output by 1.5 per cent over four years. This view is shared by governments throughout the world and is evidenced by the Irish government in its recent budget which allocated €10 billion to capital spending in 2021.
Geoscience Ireland (GI): meet our team
Geoscience Ireland (GI) has a small secretariat of four which supports its member companies in network support, including by tracking the tenders placed by the IFIs, the UN and the EU. It provides information on markets and market entry; promotes collaboration between member companies and with third-level research institutions. Many infrastructure projects are procured directly by the private sector, and GI’s Secretariat also tracks these opportunities.
Sean Finlay is the Director of Business Development for GI.
Andrew Gaynor is the Manager of Business Development and liaises with other business clusters at national and international levels; GI is one of only five Irish business clusters registered with the European Cluster Platform.
Stephen Walsh is a senior Market Advisor with GI and manages GI’s involvement in a new apprenticeship it has created for the Geo Drilling industry. The apprenticeship is delivered by Institute of Technology Carlow. Stephen coordinates a European Commission-funded business development project for small and medium-sized enterprises called Geo Energy Europe which focuses on geothermal energy.
Jessica Allen is a Market Advisor tasked with tracking and coordinating tenders form multiple portals.
Brexit and Infrastructure
Over 50 per cent of GI members are active in the UK and remain concerned as to the potential impacts of Brexit. One hopeful sign is that the UK government has reiterated its commitment to infrastructure spending and this policy has all-party support.
The Programme for Government in Ireland envisages a number of North-South infrastructure initiatives such as upgrading the Belfast-Dublin rail line and the North-South electricity interconnector. The progression of these projects will be a key source of commissions for GI’s member companies.
Another is that bilateral agreements between Irish and British professional bodies for engineers and geoscientists should ease any problems relating to mutual recognition of qualifications.
In summary, the team at Geoscience Ireland believes that, despite the problems presented by Covid-19 and Brexit, the strong focus by governments, transnational and multilateral financial organisations on infrastructure spending will be an essential element in meeting these challenges.
Irish geoscience companies and the wider construction sector have the capacity and ability in delivering key infrastructure, both in Ireland and overseas. The development of green energy sources, particularly offshore wind and geothermal energy also provides a distinct opportunity for Ireland and Irish companies.
To view the article on the Business Post website, please click here.
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The 2020 Association of Consulting Engineers of Ireland (ACEI) awards ceremony took place on 30 September. GI members were well-represented at the annual event.
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The European Commission launched the European Raw Materials Alliance (ERMA) on Tuesday, 29 Sept. ERMA comprises the various stakeholders required to achieve the Commission’s objective to make Europe’s raw materials supply more secure and sustainable. Speakers at the launch included Ministers from Poland, Finland, Austria and Canada, along with the representatives from the Commission, the European Parliament, the European Investment Bank, trade unions, civil society and industry.
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Cork-based environmental company Cuthbert Environmental has joined the ByrneLooby Group.
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On 22nd August, the Government published its “Focus on Sectors” series of reports which present concise overviews of 16 key sectors of the economy, encompassing both exporting and locally trading activities; the reports further outlines some initial indications of the impact of COVID-19 on these sectors.
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The Sunday Business Post published an interview with Sean Finlay on the Geo Drilling apprenticeship on the 23rd of August. A link to the interview is available here.
The text of this article is provided below.
Geoscience apprenticeship drills down to opportunity
The two-year Geo Drilling Apprenticeship gives a new generation of drillers the formal qualifications that will help Irish firms to win international tenders.
Most of us go about our daily lives without giving a thought to what the world is made of or what lies beneath the ground we walk on.
But this is something Geoscience Ireland (GI) is very interested in. The business network of 40 companies specialises in the design, construction, and deployment of equipment to drill beneath the surface to discover exactly what the subsurface of the earth around us is made up of. What lies beneath the ground can have major implications for what can take place on the surface.
“We need to understand the nature of the soils, rocks, water and minerals in the earth,” said Sean Finlay, business development director for GI. “These are our natural resources and we need geoscience in order to use them, build on or with them and to protect them.
“A key element in understanding the subsurface is geo drilling, the skilled use of a drill rig to advance holes for subsurface investigation work. And it is used to support critically important sectors of the Irish economy including mining, mineral exploration, quarrying, groundwater research and abstraction, geothermal energy development, site investigation for housing and infrastructure projects and directional drilling for utilities.”
In order to ensure the next generation will have sufficient reserves for the future, it is essential to encourage young people to develop an interest in geoscience; and to this end, an apprenticeship programme was established in 2017 in collaboration with the Irish Mining & Quarrying Society (IMQS) and Institute of Technology Carlow to develop a formal apprenticeship for drillers.
A steering committee drawn from industry, trade unions, Geoscience Ireland, Geological Survey Ireland, Irish Water, the National Federation of Group Water Schemes and IMQS worked with Institute of Technology Carlow’s Engineering Faculty to develop the curriculum for a drilling apprenticeship, which was validated in June 2019 and formally launched by Minister Damien English in October 2019. And the first class of 16 apprentices started in January 2020.
“Drilling is a crucial element in geoscience and Ireland has some of the best drillers in the world,” said Finlay, who is chair of the steering committee. “Until now they have had no formal recognition, but the Geo Drilling apprenticeship will remedy that.
“A key GI objective is to assist Irish companies win business in overseas markets. In the past, the absence of a formal qualification for drillers hindered GI member companies in winning international tenders where such qualifications are essential.”
The Geo Drilling Apprenticeship is a two-year programme combining work experience with academic study. Apprentices will be paid while in training and the course is open to existing drillers as well as school leavers with the aim of becoming new entrants into the profession.
“Trainees will work with employers for 41 weeks per year and attend classes four days a week for 11 weeks per year,” said Stephen Walsh, who acts as Industry Liaison for the Geo-Drilling Apprenticeship. “But due to COVID-19, the apprentices commencing on the programme in September 2020 will be completing their academic training through online lectures.
“Apprentices will receive practical training in the use of drilling equipment and operating procedures as well as classroom training in drilling equipment & operations, sample retrieval and processing, environmental management & stakeholder engagement, geology, geo-informatics, health & safety and communications.”
The Geo Drilling Apprenticeship provides training and recognition of an important range of activities vital to the development of natural resources and infrastructure. It enables successful apprenticeships to advance to further third level qualifications.
But it is also beneficial to employers.
“The Geo Drilling Apprenticeship provides a formal recognition of skills obtained by experienced drillers and enables employers to show independent verification of its employees skills,” said Finlay. “It also provides a new entrant with a combination of college-based and on-the-job training, along with a validated career path.
“And the July jobs stimulus measures announced last month by Government include supports for apprenticeship employers who take on apprentices on all national apprenticeship programmes. So employers will be eligible for a €3,000 payment for each new apprentice who is registered between the period between March 1 and December 31, 2020. A sum of €2,000 per apprentice is payable at the point of registration. A further €1,000 is payable in 2021 for each apprentice retained on their apprenticeship.
“Investing in employees is key to companies retaining their staff, as the labour market is competitive for individuals with niche skills.”
Stephen Walsh would encourage anyone who is interested in this career path, to find out some more information.
“The first step would be to do some research into the drilling profession,” he advised. “Drilling encompasses a wide range of activities in diverse settings, so it is therefore important for new entrants into the profession to know what area in which they would like to start their career.”
For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org. The course brochure can be found at apprenticeship.ie/en/apprentice/Pages/Geo-Driller.aspx
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For many years, GI has benefited from connections with British Water, participating in conferences and networking events arranged by British Water, a well-established trade association covering all sectors of the water and waste water industries in the UK.
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On the 6th of August, Geoscience Ireland (GI), on behalf of the Geo Energy Europe (GEE) meta-cluster of companies, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Ethiopian Ministry of Mines and Petroleum and Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Energy. The purpose of the MoU is to assist GI/GEE’s Ethiopian colleagues with capacity building in the field of geothermal energy.