Universities hope merger will create 30,000 jobs


THE NEW research alliance between UCD and Trinity has the potential to create 300 new businesses and up to 30,000 jobs over the next decade, the two colleges said yesterday.

The unprecedented collaboration will be supported by an Innovation Taskforce, chaired by Taoiseach Brian Cowen.

At yesterday’s launch, TCD vice-provost Prof Paddy Prendergast said it was hoped a world-leading company on the scale of telecommunications giant Nokia could emerge from the alliance. The alliance also envisages the establishment of an “IFSC for science and technology” which will be world leading. Both universities hope to establish an “enterprise corridor” along the four miles between them. This will be home to 300 new enterprises with advanced technology centres to support indigenous industry.

The new plan which brings together education, research and enterprise for job creation is modelled on a similar approach, successful in the US, at both Silicon Valley and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and in Finland and Sweden in the 1990s.

The alliance will be supported by €650 million drawn from State, industry and private funding.

Launching the project, Mr Cowen also moved to reassure the other universities that their research activities would not be marginalised.

In a sign of the Government’s strong support for the move, yesterday’s launch was also attended by Tánaiste Mary Coughlan and Minister for Education Batt O’Keeffe. Essentially, the Government believes the merging of science and technology research functions in the State’s two largest universities will give the third-level system the critical mass it has lacked. The hope is this will generate world class research and innovation – which could be translated into jobs.

Mr Cowen said the new merger would attract international interest and establish Ireland as a research base. The new framework has three major components:

The Innovation Task Force will develop the policy, legal and infrastructural elements required to facilitate world-class innovation.

A postgraduate TCD/UCD Innovation Academy will focus on PhD training, positioning innovation centre stage in courses. It will also ensure the expertise and resources at UCD and TCD are available to Ireland’s future entrepreneurs. The universities hope to dramatically increase the number of PhDs in science and technology.

The TCD/UCD Joint Venture in Enterprise Development will build on the universities’ existing technology transfer operations and enterprise facilities. It will include new facilities for research and design, prototyping and process innovation – to help commercialise new ideas, knowledge and inventions.

The two universities say the alliance is a visionary job creation plan. It is, they say, part of the national recovery initiative built around the “Smart Economy” document published by the Government last year.

In a joint statement, TCD provost Dr John Hegarty and UCD president Dr Hugh Brady said: “This is a time of national crisis. Evidence shows that during recession, innovation thrives. New realities bring with them new opportunities. The Government’s Smart Economy framework pinpointed the ingenuity of our people as the way forward for the country.”