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Trinity College Dublin submits planning for ‘innovation district’

The college has a ten-year, €1.1bn plan.

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An artist’s rendering of the Grand Canal Innovation District, the first part of a ten-year, €1bn TCD development plan in the docklands.

An artist’s rendering of the Grand Canal Innovation District, the first part of a ten-year, €1bn TCD development plan in the docklands.

An artist’s rendering of the Grand Canal Innovation District, the first part of a ten-year, €1bn TCD development plan in the docklands.

Trinity College Dublin has submitted a planning application for the first phase of an ambitious new €1.1bn ‘innovation district’.

The third level institution hopes to kick off its ten-year development plan for a new city district with an ‘innovation hub’ for entrepreneurs, start-ups and large companies, to be operational in early 2022.

The larger plan is to create a new five-acre city zone that will replicate the business-friendly campuses of California, London and Paris by co-locating research facilities, startups and international companies in close proximity.

The ‘Grand Canal Innovation District’ will be located in the Grand Canal Dock on the former site of the shipping supplies firm, L Connaughton and Sons, which is located close to Facebook, Google and other high-growth tech multinational firms.

At present, the site consists of a mixture of low rise buildings, including the Lir theatre, which is to be relocated within the campus.

Earlier this year, the college said that it hoped to secure €150m from the government to support the €1.1bn campus.

The remainder of the €1.1bn in cash needed to develop the five-acre site at the Grand Canal end of Pearse Street is to 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.

TCD says that the development is supported by two government grants: Enterprise Ireland’s Regional Enterprise Development Fund and the government’s Urban Regeneration Development Fund, a part of its ‘Project Ireland 2040’.

“When the Cabinet approved the project in January, we did so because of the critical role innovation will play in supporting the future of the Irish economy and the opportunity for GCID to position Dublin into the future as a European tech hub,” said Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Leo Varadkar. “It will act as a location for Irish start-up companies with global ambition as well as attracting new sources of foreign direct investment. COVID 19 has challenged our economy and GCID is an example of the kind of investment that will help our economy recover and grow in the years that lie ahead.”

College executives say that the new area will be a venue for organised regular events “to bring together academics, start-ups, the local community and the enterprise community, animating and programming the Grand Canal Innovation District”.

Patrick Prendergast, provost and president of Trinity College Dublin, said: "Trinity College Dublin is spearheading this national project to create an innovation district in the docklands of our capital city. Dublin already has an extraordinary cluster of technology and life science companies, but we now need to bring those companies closer together to create an enterprise culture that encourages entrepreneurs to create new companies that will either become world players themselves or be the basis for expansion of existing companies. This early activation centre will play a critical role in delivering on this vision."

Some of the local technology giants have voiced support for the initiative.

“Ireland is an important part of the Facebook story, and the establishment of the Grand Canal Innovation District is an exciting project which has the potential to further enhance Ireland’s attractiveness as a location for companies to establish and scale their businesses,” said Gareth Lambe, the head of Facebook Ireland and its vice president for international business planning and operations.

Julie Sinnamon, CEO of Enterprise Ireland, said: “investment in innovation is critical to ensure the future competitiveness of the Irish economy and Enterprise Ireland is delighted to support the development of the Grand Canal Innovation District under its Regional Enterprise Development Fund. The District will provide important collaboration space and opportunities for entrepreneurs, researchers, start-ups and corporate innovation teams to develop new research and innovative approaches to overcoming global challenges including urban living and climate change, and identifying new opportunities, for the benefit of society and the economy.”

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