The government looks set to grant €150m towards a new €1.1bn ‘innovation district’ attached to Trinity College Dublin’s city campus.
The new district, which will be located close to Facebook, Google and other high-growth tech multinational firms, aims to replicate the business-friendly campuses of California, London and Paris by co-locating research facilities, startups and international companies in close proximity.
The remainder of the €1.1bn in cash needed to develop the five-acre site at the Grand Canal end of Pearse Street will come from a mixture of industry, philanthropy and borrowing on the college’s part. Last year, TCD embarked on a long term €400m fundraising plan, the largest Irish philanthropy drive on record.
The university claims that the new ten-year, €1.1bn project will substantially enhance Dublin’s standing in research and industry circles, with an economic cost benefit analysis from consultancy firm Indecon suggesting that the completed project could yield an economic benefit of €3.2 billion to the city.
“Ireland’s ability to continue to attract investment and grow its own successful global businesses is intrinsically linked to the amount of research and innovation originating from within the country,” said TCD provost Patrick Prendergast.
Last year, Trinity slipped more than 40 places to 164th in one of the world’s main university ranking tables.
College authorities have consistently warned of relative decline compared to other countries’ top universities because of under-investment by the state.
“We have seen from other cities around the globe that research universities are the key determining factor in ensuring that research and innovation is nurtured and fostered,” said Mr Prendergast.
“Trinity’s new campus will help support Ireland’s indigenous start-ups, drive inward research and industry funding and will help to ensure that Ireland stays ahead of technological advances from AI to robotics.”
At present, the site opposite the Grand Canal Docks consists of a mixture of low rise buildings, including the Lir theatre, which is to be relocated within the campus.
The so-called ‘Grand Canal Innovation District’ will be developed over a 10-year time span with a new ‘innovation hub’ for startup firms, researchers and local community scheduled to open this year.
In the long run, the district hopes to house academic researchers from multiple universities, international companies and venture capitalists.
“The Grand Canal Innovation District will connect the significant assets we already have,” said Dr Diarmuid O’Brien, TCD’s chief innovation and enterprise officer. “It will change Ireland’s story just as Station F has transformed the international view of Paris as a location for start-ups or the Crick Institute has established London as the global leader in life sciences.”
The college intends to see engineering, computer sciences and natural sciences take the lead in the new district, with an emphasis on PhD and Masters level research.