Committee Reports::Report No. 15 - Institute for Industrial Research & Standards::01 July, 1986::Appendix

Appendix 1

The present board of the Institute for Industrial Research and Standards was appointed in August 1982. During recent months the Board has reviewed and redefined the Role and Functions of the Institute.

This Statement is a Summary of the Board’s views on the Role and Functions of the Institute, and has been submitted to the Minister for Industry and Energy and to the National Board for Science and Technology (NBST).

May 1983

The principal concern of the Board in issuing this statement is to state cogently and briefly its views on the strategic role of IIRS and to outline what it considers to be the major technical needs or requirements of industry which should be provided by IIRS as the major component of the national industrial technological infrastructure.

The primary objective of IIRS as the principal national agency for industrial technological development is to promote and assist in the optimum utilisation of Science and Technology in Irish Industry. In doing so, it supports national industrial policy and assists in the achievement of the Government’s socio-economic objectives. This objective of the Institute is currently, and will continue to be, implemented by the provision of a wide range of technological services to industry. This objective also includes the publication of Irish Standards and the provision of mechanisms and facilities for Certification and/or Testing for Conformity to such standards. Inevitably, the conditions prevailing in industry at any time influence the nature and the range of the services provided by IIRS.

The Institute’s secondary objective is to provide an authoritative industrial technological consultancy and advisory service and, when required, an operational service, to Government Departments and State Agencies generally, particularly to the Departments of Industry and Energy and Trade, Commerce and Tourism.

The Board is pleased to note that in recent reports and analyses1, 2, 3 there is a growing appreciation of the crucial importance of technology in the development of industry and hopes that this will be adequately recognised in the forthcoming White Paper on Industrial Policy. There is an urgent need to promote a greater awareness of this importance of technology for economic prosperity. In this respect the technical liaison services of IIRS, both at the regional and sectoral level, have an important role not only in getting this message across, but also in providing readily accessible channels for Irish Industry to sources of technology and information in Ireland or abroad. This was clearly recognised in the OECD Review of National Scientific and Technical Information Policy4 in which a substantial increase in the numbers of IIRS Liaison Officers was recommended some 9 years ago. The number of such officers was gradually increased to eleven, but due to resource constraints has now been reduced to six. IIRS must also develop closer contacts with educational institutions, and actively collaborate with them in the identification of educational needs and their subsequent delivery, either through formal courses or through less formal mechanisms of seminars, conferences, study groups etc.

Increased awareness of the need for greater utilisation of technology in industry, reinforced by the available IIRS “package” of technical advice, technical consultancy, testing and analysis, standards, certification and product development, could provide a quantum jump in economic growth through improved utilisation of technology in industry generally.

It is equally important to attain a greater awareness of the economic importance of technology in those Government Departments and their executive agencies which are involved in industrial policy formulation and the delivery of relevant services to industry. In this context the Board recognises the coordinating role of the NBST in achieving the efficient use of science and technology in the execution of industrial policy. However, IIRS is capable of making a positive contribution to industrial policy formulation because it is a multi-functional, multi-disciplinary organisation, whose real strength lies in the actual “hands-on” experience of its staff working directly for Irish industry.

The work of IIRS for Irish industry can be summarised in three phrases:—

— Product Quality and Standards

— Reduction of Production/Processing Costs

— New and Improved Products/Processes

While each of these is important, the concept of product quality has a vitally pervasive influence on all manufacturing activity and industrial development. This is not yet adequately appreciated or comprehended in Ireland. Quality is a characteristic which embraces factors from good design through performance, reliability, ease of maintenance, up to date technology etc. In today’s business world, quality factors are often more important than price factors5 and indeed quality standards are now increasingly demanded for most goods traded internationally. Without a comprehensive understanding and a determined application of the quality ethic, industrial development will be severely retarded.

The Institute has recently redefined its major functions6 as follows:—

(a)Technical Advice/Information/Liaison

(b)Product and Process Development

(c)Technical Consultancy

(d)Testing and Analysis

(e)Standards, Certification, Metrology

All of these functions, in their execution, are strongly inter-related and inter-dependent. Without a single cohesive vehicle for the development and performance of all these activities, and against the background of existing severe financial constraints extending into the immediate future, it would have been impossible to provide the multi-functional, multi-disciplinary and multi-sectoral services now offered by IIRS This position must be compared with the large or more developed countries, each of which has many national organisations and/or research institutes dealing with various industrial technological functions and sectors. These other research and development systems could not either in the past or in the foreseeable future be matched in Ireland in terms of the necessary resources of human expertise and finance, including capital equipment, and buildings.

Technical Advice/Information/Liaison

At the minimum, any technological support infrastructure for industry must provide easy access for industry to technical advice and information on a day-to-day basis. This activity is part of the technology transfer process and depends not only upon the written word but also on the specialist industrial technical experience of the Institute staff and of others in the higher education sector and private organisations.

To make such technical information/advice as accessible as possible requires an enhanced technical liaison activity in the regions as well as in some of the major industrial sectors so that a person to person relationship can be built up between Institute staff and contacts in the industries of the region or the sector in question. Such advice/information must also provide knowledge on technology trends and facilitate technology transfer from abroad through product search using such mechanisms as licensing, joint ventures, know-how agreements etc.

Product and Process Development

This function of the Institute is the industrial application of basic technologies rather than research in basic sciences and technologies. This has been referred to elsewhere as the adaptation of foreign technology and engineering developments rather than research. It has always been the Institute’s policy (a) to encourage companies to establish their own in-house research and development and (b) to regard the Institute’s work as a stimulus and support to it but not a substitute for it. The IIRS document on the Role of IIRS in Product Development/Diversification7 illustrates this supportive element very well in that the many aspects involved in the development of a new product/process can be provided separately by IIRS as well as the central core of design and development itself. One of the interesting features of this document, which is not emphasised in it, is the number of firms which the Institute has encouraged to become involved in R & D work for the first time at a reasonable cost. Moreover, it should be noted that 60% of the 200 plus companies involved in development projects with IIRS in recent years were companies with less than 50 employees. The Institute does not expect to be technology companies as such companies themselves, but it does have many types of expertise which, even if peripheral to the core technology, are often essential for the successful development of a viable commercial product.

Technical Consultancy

Technical consultancy, as performed by IIRS, is an in-depth advisory service, usually involving some investigatory or testing activity, for a company to enable it to overcome a problem or difficulty or improve its product quality or reduce its production costs. This service involves the transfer of the best technical practice into the company, thus enabling it to become technically competitive. It is closely related to the main features spelled out on pages 1 and 2 of the NBST paper on “Technology and Irish Industrial Policy”3 in that IIRS has the capability of carrying out technology appraisals and providing technical development plans for indigenous traded industry as outlined in the IIRS document on “Technology Appraisal and Development”8

Testing and Analysis

Testing and analysis are necessary to find solutions to the day-to-day production problems of industry and also to facilitate domestic and international trade. Particularly in international trading, it is becoming more and more essential that a national organisation such as IIRS has laboratories and staff qualified to inspect the testing procedures and approve the quality of the products of industry to internationally accepted specifications. There is also the need to authorise IIRS to accredit/approve private test-houses and laboratories for the same purpose.

Testing and analysis is a key function of the Institute. It must be emphasised that by far the greater part of the testing and analysis carried out by the Institute is non-routine and specialised. It is mainly concerned with investigations into, for example, production failures and processing problems, specifications of new and substitute materials, and is also an essential element in product and process development. The tests are often especially devised for a particular purpose. Moreover, as a result of such tests and analyses, the Institute is often expected to give expert advice on appropriate remedial action or on improved specifications for material performance, or confirmation or otherwise of the suitability of a certain line of approach in a product/process development project. When this investigative nature of much of the testing and analysis is understood, it can then be appreciated how this function is closely related to the functions of technical consultancy and product/process development. Furthermore, materials specification and materials substitution to improve product quality and reduce product costs is an area of increasingly urgent importance to industry. The Institute’s role here can be an important factor in the stability of a manufacturing firm.

Standards, Certification, Metrology

In the IIRS documents on the role of Standards in Industrial Development9 and “The Significance of Standards for Quality”10, the philosophy of standards specifications in terms of quality is discussed. In this context, it is important to appreciate that “knowledge intensive” products, incorporating not only technological innovation, but also high levels of skills in the workforce, can fill niches in the market which sell more on the basis of their quality than their price. The essential feature of these non-price factors is quality, embracing such characteristics as good design, reliability, safety, ease of maintenance, consistency, up to date technology and, where appropriate, characteristics relating to energy consumption or environmental considerations. Consequently, standards specifications have a key role in industrial development and are inextricably linked with the other IIRS functions of product design, product quality and reduction in product costs.

Certification is the practical application and the ultimate guarantee of the implementation of the quality ethic in factory production and this is also becoming of increasing importance in both domestic and international trading.

Import substitution is now being recognised as an important requirement in present national economic circumstances because of its beneficial impact on job maintenance, job creation and the balance of payments. If import substitution is to be successful, the products involved must have the relevant quality factors to compete with internationally traded products. The Institute’s role in standards and quality (and also in technical consultancy) is critical for success in this area and IIRS activities in this connection must be strongly linked to these Departments and Agencies who have been given the responsibility to promote import substitution. IIRS can also assist in the preparation of lists of qualified manufacturers for public procurement as may be required by Government.

Metrology, the science of precision measurement, includes Legal and Industrial Metrology. Legal Metrology is the responsibility of Government and is concerned with measurements to ensure trading protection for buyers. IIRS is, and can be, of considerable assistance to Government in fulfilling this responsibility because of its competence in Industrial Metrology. In IIRS, Industrial Metrology is concerned with the provision of calibration standards and their application in industry. Metrology has an important relationship with quality because it deals with very accurate, precise measurements, including dimensional and electrical, which in turn are the basis for all other calibration, measurement, testing and analysis. It is a specialist laboratory and workshop-based activity which is a technical support service to industry, particularly in testing and analysis, and is also a necessary requirement for testing for conformity to Irish Standard Specifications.


IIRS is the national Industrial Technological Institute. It is, and must continue to be, a unique and major component of the national industrial technological infrastructure. It has a crucial role in fostering and assisting technical innovation in Irish industry and this role will assume even greater importance in the future. IIRS will fulfil this role by implementing two strategies to assist Irish manufacturing firms to expand the volume of marketable Irish products: viz

(1)increase the competitiveness of Irish products by improving —

(a)their quality (design, specification, performance, reliability, safety)

(b)the efficiency, productivity and safety of manufacturing processes


(2)assist in the expansion of the range of medium to high technology products made in Ireland.


Major Reference Documents

1. Telesis Report.

2.NESC Comments on Telesis Report.

3.Technology and Industrial Policy, NBST — February 1983.

4.Review of National Scientific and Technical Information Policy, Ireland — OECD, Paris, 1974, p. 35.

5.Coras Trachtala — Export Competitiveness Surveys.

6.IIRS Five-Year Plan 1982-1986 — Printed Summary.

7.Industrial Development: Role of IIRS in Product Development/Diversification. F. Moran and T. Quinn. IIRS — December 1982.

8.Industrial Development: Technology Appraisal and Development Pilot Scheme, F. Moran and T. Quinn. IIRS — January 1983.

9.Standards Specification, Quality and Industrial Development, G.P. Sweeney, IIRS — November 1982.

10.The Significance of Standards for Quality. M.J. Cranley. IIRS - November 1982.

Other References

1.IIRS Comments on NESC/Telesis Reports.

2.IIRS Annual Report 1981.