University of Limerick has unveiled ambitious plans to create a "university town" on a 260-acre extension of its campus which could allow for closer links between the college and enterprise.
It wants the new town on the Clare-Limerick border to be designated as a strategic development zone (SDZ) in order to fast-track development and give greater certainty to businesses.
Dr Edward Walsh, founding president of the University of Limerick and deputy chair of the university town project planning board, said the plans are an undertaking of "European scale" and will provide the kind of "sophisticated working, living and learning environment sought by advanced corporate leadership".
The plans would see carefully selected enterprises invited to locate a facility in the new town.
It also provides for the creation of new enterprise-led academies established within individual firms located in a new university town.
“It is intended that students of high achievement (above top 10 per cent) will be given the opportunity to undertake the special academy programme, during years two, three and four of their undergraduate degrees and be based in the enterprise academies. Academy programmes will be developed jointly by enterprise and university,” he said.
These academy programmes will be taught by mentors of the enterprise itself who are accredited by UL as adjunct faculty, he said.
“Students will take core modules from the university and specialist modules from their academy. Students will graduate with both a UL degree and an accredited enterprise mastery award.”
The planning team behind the project estimates that the gross value-added contribution of this project to Irish GDP, if approved, would exceed €1.5 billion annually by 2030.
In addition to advanced facilities created by enterprise, there are plans for homes and spacious apartments, recreation and green infrastructure, including a marina.
“The development will be geared to meet the living and working expectations of a modern internationally-dynamic community,” he said.
" In addition to the provision of upmarket retail outlets of appropriate scale, facilities supporting wellness and wellbeing will emerge. It would be a priority to ensure access to a range of dining places; with at least one restaurant in the high Michelin ratings."
He said consultation with enterprise in two nominated sectors – aviation and life sciences – has already resulted in “much interest”.
“The academy concept is seen as both innovative and attractive. Already five enterprises are in discussion and launch of the first academy is well under way,” he said.
Environmental matters are at the core of the plans, he said. An electric-tram link between the UL campus and the Technological University of the Shannon is under consideration, with onward public transport connections to Shannon Airport.
“The university will be changed radically. Its earliest commitment to relevance will be the core of all it does,” he said.
"It will be Ireland's lead enterprise university. It will make partnership with like-minded universities in Europe and worldwide. These partnerships are already being built."