Of Turbines & the Celtic Tiger:
EMTM's Global Insights in Ireland
On a balmy day in April 2007, 35 EMTM students traveled by boat six miles into the Irish Sea to visit one of seven giant wind turbines that comprise the 25-megawatt Arklow Offshore Wind Power Plant.
While giant 341-foot diameter rotors revolved around nine times a minute in a light breeze, EMTM students listened to a project manager at Arklow, co-owned by GE Energy and Airtricity of Ireland, offer a frank assessment of how the firm overcame technical and business challenges associated with offshore wind energy innovation.
The experience was emblematic of the unusual access and valuable insights obtained in EMTM's Global Experience Program (GEP). This full-credit elective, spanning the 2nd and 3rd terms, culminated in the week-long trip to Ireland. Participants immersed themselves in the challenges and opportunities faced by the multinational and Irish corporations they visited in the pharmaceuticals, biotech, IT, energy and financial services sectors. In prior years, EMTM students traveled to India, Germany, China and Japan.
For the first time this year, the GEP itinerary also included meetings with the nation's economic development authorities. Executives at IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland, which court foreign direct investment and cultivate expansion of Irish-owned companies, respectively, talked about their strategies for overcoming the slowdown of the proverbial 'Celtic tiger' economy as the nation's tax and labor cost advantages erode.
That day at Arklow, Ellen Piper, EMTM'09, pondered the potential market for specialized protective suits for off-shore wind farm installation crews and workers, oil rigs, fishing boats, bridge construction and other weather-exposed work sites. Piper, who is responsible for design and prototyping for the Technical Fabrics Division of W.L. Gore & Associates in Elkton, Maryland, says, "The question is whether the market is large enough to pursue. These 'aha' moments can lead to whole new business lines."
For Garth Jenkins, EMTM'08, of Ventis Technology Partners, a Baltimore-based global advisory service on technology management strategies for investment funds, merchant banks and high network individuals, the Arklow tour was "a great model of the path from technology development to marketplace success. The challenge is to take a new technology, create quality and repeatability at a reasonable price, commercialize it and put together a winning business model. We heard how lessons learned from installation and operational issues were integrated into new turbine designs that will help them generate more megawatts of power at a lower price."
Another vivid experience: EMTM students toured J&J's Centocor Biologics Ireland Ltd. site in Cork, just before this newly-built multi-product monoclonal antibody plant was sealed off from the public to prevent contamination when manufacturing begins. Access was granted thanks to trip participant James Breen, MBA, EMTM'07, vice president of Worldwide Engineering Global Biologics Supply Chain for Johnson & Johnson.
While in Dublin, students also visited the vaccine manufacturing production facility at the Wyeth Biotech Campus at Grange Castle, and a manufacturing plant that makes disposable pin needles for diabetic pen injectors for Becton, Dickinson & Company's BD Medical Diabetes Care division.
Victoria Sanchez, EMTM'06, a director in the Global Pharmaceutical Supply Group (GPSG) for Johnson & Johnson now based in Dublin, participated in the GEP trip and helped coordinate GEP cultural and corporate visits. Newly promoted to a role in new product management, Sanchez leads project teams through the pharmaceutical technology transfer and global commercialization of new products manufactured within the supply chain network of GPSG.
"Most of my experience is on the pharmaceutical side with small molecular entities like a tablet or liquid you can easily swallow and for which you can develop manufacturing capacity in two or three years," says Sanchez. "Our access at Centocor and at Wyeth gave me powerful insights into how biologics are significantly more challenging to optimize. Manufacturing living cells for vaccines takes a whole different time scale, scientific and technical expertise. If you don't adequately forecast how much manufacturing capacity you need for a vaccine five to ten years ahead, the financial and utilization risk is tremendous. It's a science- and capital-intensive process that's significantly more challenging to optimize from a supply chain perspective."
One measure of the value of the GEP experience is repeat trips. Breen, who also traveled to India in 2006 with GEP, says, "I thought I
knew a lot about Ireland and India because I travel there extensively for work, but I learned much more with EMTM. That came as a surprise.
You get a much broader view of a country's economy; and the cross-industry exposure is useful."
Breen strongly recommends the GEP program to other students. You get 'brain dumped' at ten companies in a week, and learn how each business is going, what their issues are and where they're going in the future," he says. "You're exposed to a great deal of information and gain insights that you'd never get in the public domain."
According to Jeffrey Babin, GEP Academic Director and Senior Lecturer in the Penn Engineering Entrepreneurship Program, "It's one thing to focus in a classroom on all of the elements of global decision making, but to actually get out there and see how other companies are incorporating worldwide resources into their day-to-day decisions is extremely valuable."
During the 2007-2008 academic year, the GEP will be offered between the second and third terms. A destination for the trip, planned for late February, 2008, has not yet been selected, says Babin.
EMTM's Global Experience Program visited the following companies and development authorities in Ireland:
AOL Technologies Ireland Ltd
Arklow Offshore Wind Power Plant (co-owned by GE Energy and Airtricity)
Becton, Dickinson & Company's BD Medical-Diabetes Care Division
Centocor Biologics Ireland, Ltd
Intel Ireland Ltd
Wyeth Biotech Campus at Grange Castle