UL launches plan to become research powerhouse

UL to open up commercial and entrepreneurship training for all staff and students

The University of Limerick will more than double the number of PhD candidates it enrols over the coming five years - just one of a number of ambitious targets set in a new research strategy.

Released on Tuesday, the university also plans to increase its publication rate in the top 10 research journals; double its current income from the EU research budget Horizon 2020; increase the number of spin-out companies arising from research, and increase its research income from industry.

“We have a good track record for such a young university, and with this strategy we are refocusing,” said Dr Mary Shire, the university’s vice-president for research. “Our outlook will be international, our ethos will be excellence with impact and our approach will be innovative.”

The strategy aligns closely with the Government's approach to research, innovation and enterprise.


Enterprise ‘boot camp’

This is reflected in the university’s decision to open up commercialisation and entrepreneurship training for all staff and students, and expanded enterprise “boot camp” activities.

The university launched its overall strategy last October and the new document, Excellence & Impact 2020 provided the details of what would happen in the research area, Dr Shire said.

UL has always had an “impact agenda” she said, and the results of this could be seen in the willingness of large companies to undertake research collaborations with the university.

“Is the State getting a return on investment in research at the University of Limerick? It absolutely is,” she insisted.

Research at UL is not only about science and engineering, but covers education, languages, health care and social inclusion, she added.

Skills enhancement

The research agenda also enhances skillsets imparted to graduates coming through the university, she said.

The university was positioning itself close to the needs of the enterprise base in Ireland, Minister of State for Skills, Research and Innovation Damien English said.

It had long been regarded as a “university of enterprise” and the strategy would help it build on that capability, he said.

Dick Ahlstrom

Dick Ahlstrom

Dick Ahlstrom, a contributor to The Irish Times, is the newspaper's former Science Editor.