Date Uploaded: 29/04/2017
Trinity College Dublin is planning to build a technology-focused campus at Grand Canal Dock as part of €1 billion plans to develop the area as an “innovation district”.
The first phase of the new “technology enterprise campus” will cost €250 million, and the university hopes to complete it in the next five years.
The project has the potential to “become the most significant higher education funded project since the beginning of the State”, according to Trinity’s head of research and innovation Diarmuid O’Brien.
However, it depends on securing the backing of the Department of Education and Skills, which has yet to commit any capital funding.
The campus site in Grand Canal Dock was chosen for its proximity to existing multinational tech firms in the area, including Facebook, Twitter and Google.
The university has acquired 100,000sq m of space on Grand Canal Quay, where it plans to move the majority of its research activity and build an enterprise hub in which hundreds of start-up companies could rent office space.
Trinity intends the project to be funded by it along with philanthropic donations, private industry partners, State funding and a loan from the European Investment Bank.
“We can really rapidly achieve something of true international scale that will provide an opportunity post-Brexit to differentiate Dublin as a location of choice for innovation,” said Mr O’Brien, who is heading up the project.
Its first phase will primarily be the development of a new “E3: engineering, energy and environment institute”.
Some 30 per cent of the new campus will be rented out to private commercial partners, including retail outlets and student accommodation developers.
Trinity’s provost Patrick Prendergast met with the Minister for Education and Skills Richard Bruton on September 19th last to discuss the plans.
In a letter sent to Mr Bruton last August, released under the Freedom of Information Act, Prof Prendergast said the second campus “will be one of Trinity’s most ambitious projects”.
The development “will create 1,000 new student places in fields where there are currently significant shortages”, primarily in engineering and computer science, Prof Prendergast wrote.
The campus would also cater for 200 academic researchers.
The combined cost of the research institute, the start-up hub, the private development and student accommodation is estimated at €1 billion, based on the costs of projects of a similar scale in the UK.
The final financial estimates for the development will be drawn up by Trinity in the next six months.
A spokesperson for the Department of Education said while it “acknowledges the benefits of the project in question, there are many competing demands on the higher education capital budget. The distribution of funding must be considered in that context.”
Mr O’Brien said “the project would be challenging to make work unless there’s buy-in from the State”.
“The campus is something we will drive ourselves, but the wider ‘innovation district’ is something that we will need broad support for,” Mr O’Brien said.
Martin Naughton, founder of one of Ireland’s largest manufacturing firms Glen Dimplex, is believed to be a key broker in lobbying the Government to support the project.
Journalist: Jack Power