New Trinity campus in Dublin planned to attract investment

Trinity College-backed project would create city quarter for start-ups and global businesses

Dublin’s docklands area has become a hub for business and innovation.

Dublin’s docklands area has become a hub for business and innovation.

 

A new innovation district planned for the heart of Dublin’s docklands will help Ireland attract talent, investment and jobs, Trinity College said.

The plan, which will include a €1 billion second campus focused on technology and innovation for the historic college, will include a mix of office, retail and living space, and will be modelled on innovation districts in Barcelona, Toronto and Boston. It is expected to significantly strengthen Ireland’s hand when developing new indigenous companies or competing for foreign direct investment.

A major consultation process with businesses based in the Grand Canal area, community representatives, government and state agencies as well as tech and business sector representatives and social and cultural bodies will now get underway. It will result in the development of a masterplan proposal for the innovation district in the coming months.

Although the Grand Canal Innovation District is a proposal from Trinity College, it will need the backing of industry and Government, along with residents of the area, to succeed.

Chief Innovation and Enterprise Officer at Trinity College, Dr Diarmuid O’Brien, said a memorandum of understanding has already been signed among Dublin’s universities, and a special government-led advisory group aimed at developing the new district had been established, chaired by the Secretary General at the Department of An Taoiseach, Martin Fraser.

The area is already home to some of the largest tech companies in the world, including Google and Facebook.

“There is a lot of enterprise co location at the docklands,” Mr O’Brien said. “It has a lot of ingredients you see in world reference points, but it is also missing a lot of ingredients. It’s FDI-heavy in that part of the city.”

Start-ups and shared research facilities would also have a part to play in making the innovation district a success, he said. The innovation district would provide that scale, critical mass and density that would benefit both indigenous firms and international companies.

He said the area was missing a public space where people could come, connect, meet and engage.

“We want to try to create a space down there that allows the group of workers to connect together, with the start-up community, with students in the university,” he said.

“Creating a new university campus in that space - will create that proximity. It will really change the landscape down there, and create an innovation quarter that we’re really missing. We see this as being a city quarter that is going to position Ireland for the innovation cycle that is coming down the road, positioning Ireland for the future. “

The plan was unveiled by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. “[THE PLAN] speaks eloquently to our vision of making Ireland the tech capital of Europe and our plans to ensure that the jobs of the future are created first here in Ireland. The development of the District will also help to ensure the continued balanced development of the area to the benefit of the local community,” he said.

“Many high-tech companies already have their European headquarters here, we have a young and talented workforce, a consistent and competitive corporation tax regime and a strong reputation for attracting and encouraging investment. However, we can’t take this for granted and we always need to look at ways to improve Ireland’s competitive edge.”

Although it will take around five to seven years to build out the new campus, Mr O’Brien said he hoped early activation of some elements of the project would see events hosted in the area in the next 12 months.

The new campus will be financed in collaboration with industry, debt funding entities and other sources of funding.

“The presence of a world class university at the heart of the Grand Canal Innovation District will be the catalyst for collaboration and partnership between industry and universities,” said the Provost of Trinity, Dr Patrick Prendergast. “This 5.5-acre site is ideally suited to the proposed use and will transform the existing area.”

The news was also welcomed by the Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton, who said it would provide a vital link between academia and enterprise, and was a “generational opportunity” for Dublin.