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Annual Polymer Conference
Thursday, 18th April 2024

Hodson Bay Hotel, Athlone, Co. Westmeath, Ireland

Stay Ahead of the Industry

The annual Polymer Conference at the Hodson Bay Hotel on Thursday 18th April 2024 brings together Irish and International industry plastics leaders, engineers and scientists to discuss the latest developments and challenges facing the industry through a mix of networking, expert talks and interactive industry displays.

The Conference is held in association with Polymer Technology Ireland and First Polymer Training. 

Booking for Conference Tickets and Gala Dinner below. When booking you will be directed away from our website to a separate payments portal.

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Conference Schedule


KEYNOTE: The 40 Year Polymer Chain Declan O'Rourke, CEO - Irish Life Sciences As the name suggests Declan O’Rourke and many of the Teams he was part of, his Partners, Mentors and Peers have spent all their working lives in the Polymer Industry, adapting and reinventing along the way. Declan has been involved in 5 Successful Start-Ups each one in a different era of the Polymer Industry, which mirrored the evolving Manufacturing Industry in Ireland from the lack lustre 80’s to the 2020’s. Each had its own challenges and opportunities which meant a different business plan for each start-up. One size does not fit all but key milestones had to be met along the way to succeed. The paper goes through each start-up as a frame for the paper, but mainly concentrates on the present Irish Life Science business and the challenges and opportunities involved in setting up a modern, sustainable, circular, technically advanced and profitable business in the now high cost base for manufacturing in Ireland today. This paper takes you on 40 year journey which is educational, thoughtful, humorous, insightful and a masterclass in dealing with the challenges of doing business in a Polymer based business today.
Defined Use of Post Industrial Recyclate in Medical Device Applications. Donough McGrath, Director of Engineering - Johnson & Johnson Vision Care
Smart Moulds - with Conformal Cooling, Sensors and Much More! Christopher O'Hara - an I-Form & SFI funded researcher with PEM Centre in ATU Sligo. Colin Meade - Additive Technologist - Irish Manufacturing Research
Coffee Break.
AI in Plastic Moulding & Manufacturing: Possibilities and Challenges Bob Struijk, European Business Development Manager at FANUC Europe
Consideration of the Economic & Ecological Potential of Hot Runner System using practical examples. Silvio Paesano, Senior Hot Runner Expert - Ewikon
Introduction to AO - Retailer turned Recycler. Chris Caffrey, Business Development Manager - AO Recycling
Polymer Connect. Caitríona Mordan, ATIM Cluster Manager
Polymer Technology Ireland Update. Mark McAuley, Director PTI
Injection Moulding in the Virtual World. Alan Harrington, Technical Training Specialist - First Polymer Training Skillnet
Building a Circular Future for Plastics. Fireside Chat including: Neil Skeffington, CEO - Novelplast Ian Barry, CEO - Greentech Plastics Romina Pezzoli, Applied Packaging Platform Lead - Applied Polymer Technology Chris Caffrey - Business Development Manager - AO Recycling
Solutions for Overcoming the Challenges of Processing Recyclates in Injection Moulding – focusing on 2-stage process Patrick Grüner, BSc – Sales Director Business Development & Key Account Management ENGEL Austria
Building Polymer Research Capacity in TUS Ciara Buckley, Research Scientist at TUS and APT
Summary & Close.

Our Keynote Speaker for the day will be Declan O’Rourke, CEO, Irish Life Sciences.  Declan will discuss his journey and learnings as CEO of a leading supplier to the Medical Devices sector in Ireland.

Defined Use of Post Industrial Recyclate in Medical Device Applications’ Donough McGrath, Director of Engineering at Johnson & Johnson Vision Care. Is this possible??  Donough will share his findings.

Conformal Cooling- Christopher O’ Hara, an I-Form & SFI funded researcher with PEM Centre in ATU Sligo and Colin Meade, Additive Technologist, IMR.  Christopher and Colin between them will discuss the latest in this cutting edge area of cooling.

Engel – Patrick Grüner, BSc – Sales Director Business Development & Key Account Management ENGEL Austria – will explain their latest technology for a two-stage process on a single machine to incorporate recycled polymers directly into the manufacturing process.

Hot Runners – Silvio Paesano, Senior Hot Runner Expert – Ewikon –  Ewikon who are a leader in hot runner design will be discussing how to make hot runner systems even more financially beneficial.

Introduction to AO- Retailer turned Recycler – Chris Caffrey, Business Development Manager at AO Recycling.  AO are a UK company who have invested hugely to bring the sophisticated recycling of “White Goods” to a reality.  He will explain how they have done this and what we can learn from their experience.

atim  Cluster – Polymer Connect.’ – Caitríona Mordan, atim Cluster Manager.  atim is a lead partner in Intertrade Ireland project, PolymerConnect, in partnership with NIPA (Northern Ireland Polymer Association). PolymerConnect is a dynamic directory of polymer companies, academic institutions and key sectoral partners across the Island of Ireland. This data-driven platform aims to drive strategic engagement, increase resilience and competitiveness of the national polymer sector.

Polymer Technology Ireland Update – Mark McAuley, Director PTI (IBEC).  The latest work and initiatives on behalf of the industry from Polymer Technology Ireland.

First Polymer Training – Virtual Reality for Injection Moulding’.  Bringing 21st century training practices to the polymer industry in Ireland.  Their experience so far.

Panel Discussion – ‘Building a Circular Future for Plastics’. Participants will include Neil Skeffington- CEO Novelplast,  Ian Barry – CEO GreenTech Plastics, and Romina Pezzoli– Applied Packaging Platform Lead at APT.

Fanuc – Bob Struijk, European Business Development Manager at FANUC Europe – AI in Plastic Moulding & Manufacturing: Possibilities and Challenges.

Polymer Research at the Technological University of the Shannon – Ciara Buckley, TUS & APT.  What is the latest – TUS and APT provide real support to collaborative projects with industry.

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The Venue

Hodson Bay Hotel, Athlone, Co. Westmeath

Hodson Bay Hotel has proudly hosted thousands of conferences throughout the years and is known nationally for its warm welcome and attention to detail.  The Hodson Bay Hotel has hosted the annual polymer seminar for over twenty years !

  • Central location just one hour from Dublin or Galway
  • Complimentary WiFi and car parking

Ph: (090) 644 2005

TUS will be sponsoring a Research and Education Marquee at the event which will be available for viewing for the duration of the conference

Our Sponsors

Leading in the Industry


Meet The Speakers

Our List of Conference Speakers


Polymer Conference Speaker

Declan O’Rourke, CEO, Irish Life Sciences

Declan graduated from Athlone RTC in 1981. The foundation of his career was built in sales roles at BASF, API & Tech Group before moving to Tool & Plastic in 2001. Declan is now CEO of Irish Life Sciences, Athlone.

Polymer Conference Speaker

Donough McGrath, Director of Engineering, Johnson & Johnson Vision Care

Donough joined Johnson & Johnson in 1995 and has gained significant experience working in Operations & Quality, having been  directly responsible for the design and development of next-generation injection molding cells, high-speed transfer systems, and Ultra-high cavity mold tooling. He has also completed extensive research on sustainable materials and biodegradable polymer alternatives for medical device manufacture.

Donough holds an MSc in Technology Management, and is a final-year Doctor of Engineering (D-Eng) candidate at the University of Limerick. He is an RJG-certified Master Molder, holds researcher access to the Bernal Institute, and is fully trained in Six Sigma Process Excellence and Statistical Engineering disciplines.

Polymer Conference Speaker

Colin Meade, Additive Technologist, IMR

Colin has a B.Eng in Mechanical Engineering and after graduating worked in the medical devices area. Colin has extensive experience in Concept Generation and Refinement, Prototyping, CAD and Design for Additive Manufacturing and has a number of patents at various states of approval. He is currently exploring the potential for adoption and integration of Additive Manufacturing technology into Irish industry. Colin has extensive experience in designing moulds for medical devices and so brings a great deal of analytical and statistical based design to this project. Colin also lectures in Injection Mould Design at TUS.

Polymer Conference Speaker

Christopher O’ Hara, an I-Form & SFI funded Researcher with PEM Centre in ATU Sligo

Chris’ active research focuses on smart injection mould cavities manufactured through metal Additive Manufacturing, featuring conformal cooling channels and sensors. The project outcomes are the results of an 8-person team. He holds a Master’s in Mechanical Engineering from Queen’s University Belfast, focusing on advanced manufacturing for bio-resorbable polymer bone scaffolds. Additionally, he earned a Bachelor’s in Manufacturing Management from IT Sligo and certifications in project management from the Institute of Project Management and Technological University Dublin. His extensive experience spans designing medical devices, public transport vehicles, and high-volume manufacturing processes in medical device and pharmaceutical sectors through multinational and SME companies.  Currently focused on conducting advanced manufacturing research at ATU.

Polymer Conference Speaker

Patrick Grüner – Engel – Solutions for overcoming the challenges of processing recyclates in injection moulding 

Patrick Grüner is Sales Director Business Development & Key Account Management – ENGEL AUSTRIA.  He has been working at Management Level in Engel on the Development of Circular Economy Solutions, Key Accounts, Market Development & Sales Strategy since 2020.  Prior to that Patrick was a Project Manager for Engel Austria leading and co-ordinating complex turn-key projects.  His academic background includes Mechatronics, a BSc. In Plastics Engineering and an MSc. Management in Polymer Technologies (Focus: Polymer Processing, Sustainability, Cross Cultural and Global Management, Structure Health Monitoring).

Polymer Conference Speaker

Silvio Paesano, Senior Hot Runner Expert, Ewikon

EWIKON Heißkanalsysteme GmbH

Professional career:

Apprenticeship as a toolmaker

Studied mechanical engineering and precision engineering.

Employed at Ewikon since 1999

Among other things, worked as sales manager, production manager and development manager

Today working as a senior hot runner expert

Focusing on further education and training as well as technical problem analysis

Polymer Conference Speaker

Chris Caffrey, Business Development Manager, AO Recycling

After graduating in Chemistry at Manchester University, Chris Caffrey has worked in the waste and recycling industry for more than 30 years, including the paper, metal and now plastics and WEEE sectors. He was been with AO Recycling (part of the internet retailer in Telford, Shropshire since 2018 in a business development role responsible for sourcing and purchasing input feed for both the fridge and plastic recycling plants as well as identifying customers and selling the output materials from both plants. Chris lives in Cheshire with his wife and Bernese Mountain dog and they have two grown up sons.

Polymer Conference Speaker

Caitríona Mordan, ATIM Cluster Manager

Caitríona is Manager for the ATIM (Advanced Technologies in Manufacturing) Cluster where she plays a pivotal role in accelerating industry digital and sustainable transformation of 70+ companies. With a diverse career spanning roles such as EU Project Officer at the ADAPT Centre (The Irish Research Centre for Artificial Intelligence) and Dublin City University, Caitríona boasts a proven track record of facilitating collaborative projects and implementing impact frameworks. She previously worked as Communications and Public Engagement Manager at Engineers Ireland where she led national educational outreach programs and promoted STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) initiatives. Caitríona sits on a number of boards including Applied Polymer Technology (APT), Irish Polymer Group and CircVET (circular economy practical training tools for manufacturing industries).

Polymer Conference Speaker

Mark McAuley, Director of Polymer Technology Ireland (Ibec)

Mark McAuley is Director of Polymer Technology Ireland. PTI is the national representative organisation for the polymer industry within Ibec. PTI supports the entire polymer supply chain and polymer converters. It runs the polymer technology apprenticeship and the First Polymer Skillnet in Athlone. Ibec is Ireland’s largest lobby and business representative group. Our purpose is to help build a better, sustainable future by influencing, supporting and delivering for business success.

Polymer Conference Speaker

Alan Harrington, Technical Training Specialist at First Polymer Training Skillnet

Alan’s key objective is to develop and deliver training to industry members. He graduated from Athlone I.T. in 1998 with a Diploma in Plastics Engineering and then went onto North London University and graduated with a B.Eng. in Polymer Engineering.

In 2000 he joined Solplax in Tralee Co. Kerry as R & D technician developing water soluble plastic solutions. In 2003 he joined Medtronic (formally Covidien) as an Injection Moulding Technician, within this role Alan was involved in process improvements, new machine/equipment installations and managing tooling repairs/upgrades and project management for new mould builds and injection moulding machine replacements.

Polymer Conference Speaker

Panelist, Romina Pezzoli, Applied Packaging Platform Lead at APT

Dr Romina Pezzoli, Research Fellow at the Polymer, Recycling, industrial, Sustainability and Manufacturing Research Institute (PRISM), Technological University of the Shannon (TUS). Dr Pezzoli’s work is dedicated to the development of sustainable packaging solutions. She leads the Applied Packaging Platform (APP) at the Applied Polymer Technologies Gateway, delivering industry-focused packaging innovation projects including national and European-funded projects in reusable packaging, biodegradable packaging, flexible packaging manufacturing, and waste management. Her research focuses on progressing the evolution of packaging materials and manufacturing technologies toward the transition to a sustainable circular economy.

Polymer Conference Speaker

Panelist, Neil Skeffington, CEO Novelplast

Neil is the CEO and Founder of Novelplast. Based in the Gaeltacht in Co Meath since 2019, Novelplast have grown to be the largest PET manufacturing company in Ireland, supplying products into the packaging and fiber markets in Ireland, UK and Europe. Having graduated with a B.Eng in Polymer Engineering from Athlone IT in 2002, Neil has amassed over 20 years experience working mainly in the PET and Polyester value chains, dedicating the last 7 years to recycling. Neil was a finalist in the 2023 EY Entrepreneur of the Year, and has big plans for expansion outside of Ireland over the coming years.

Polymer Conference Speaker

Panelist, Ian Barry, CEO GreenTech Plastics

Ian is an experienced industry executive, having founded and lead his first startup in 1994. Since then he has grown, and successfully sold, a number of businesses, most notably in the Plastics Industry. He has a passion for challenging accepted norms to deliver outstanding results in his chosen endeavours.

Greentech is one such passion and, together with a committed team, Greentech has becoming the leading supplier of FDA approved, food contact safe, post consumer plastics.

Ian is convinced that the momentum from a policy and regulatory shift makes this a time of unprecedented opportunity for the plastics industry in Ireland and beyond. He is looking forward to being part of this opportunity both in Ireland and beyond.

Polymer Conference Speaker

Bob Struijk, Vice President Business Development Europe,

FANUC Europe Corp SA.

Bob Struijk is currently FANUC’s European Business Development Manager. He also holds a General Management role for FANUC in Israel. A 25-year veteran in FANUC Europe, he originated in the robotics field and later added the numerical control, machine tool and moulding machine fields as well.  Bob holds a PhD from the University of Budapest, Hungary, as well as an MBA from the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium. He has an engineering degree as technical business engineer and started his career in electronics. For FANUC Bob established many of the Eastern European subsidiaries, as well he founding FANUC companies in Portugal, Finland, Denmark and the Middle East.

Polymer Conference Speaker

Ciara Buckley, TUS & APT

Dr Ciara Buckley is a leading research scientist within Applied Polymer Technologies (APT) and the Polymer, Recycling, Industrial, Sustainability and Manufacturing (PRISM) Research Institute, based on the Midlands campus of the Technological University of the Shannon. The APT Technology Gateway is co-funded by the Government of Ireland and the European Union through the ERDF Southern, Eastern & Midland Regional Programme 2021-27.

Dr Buckley is leading industrial applied research with high performing industrial clients along with developing & building on key niche capabilities within PRISM and APT. Dr Buckley graduated from AIT with a first-class honours degree in Biotechnology, before completing a PhD in Polymer Engineering lending her to drive and develop multidisciplinary research within TUS.


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