Minister Bruton opens new €20 million Eolas building

Minister Richard Bruton TD, Maynooth University President, Professor Philip Nolan, and Nao robot at the opening of the University’s new enterprise and technology hub.
Monday, October 5, 2015 - 10:30

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton TD today opened the new €20.6 million Eolas building at Maynooth University. The state-of-the art facility will serve as a “research powerhouse” that will drive innovative teaching methods, foster collaboration with industry and deepen a culture of ‘spin-out’ companies, according to Maynooth University President, Professor Philip Nolan.

“As a hub for the fields of information and communication technology,” Prof Nolan said at the opening, “Eolas will break down the boundaries that too often exist between academia and enterprise—and between students and the world of work.”

Eolas houses two of the University’s world-renowned research institutes, the Hamilton Institute and the Innovation Value Institute (IVI); the Maynooth University Departments of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering; MaynoothWorks, the University’s new business incubator; and the University’s own IT Services. The Maynooth University Hamilton Institute has an international reputation for cutting-edge research in ICT, using advance mathematics to solve difficult computing and communications and network problems. The Innovation Value Institute, a joint endeavour with Intel Corp., is a globally unique consortium of researchers and practitioners that examines how enterprises can maximise the business value of ICT.

The building is the latest in a series of campus development projects at Maynooth University, and Prof Nolan called Eolas “the kind of smart development that will only continue to elevate the quality and impact of the research and teaching at Maynooth.”

“Whether it’s inspiring students who pass by conversations about the latest start-up on their way to class, or it’s a new company setting up shop near the students it hopes will one day fill their skills gap, Eolas is about facilitating connections and driving ICT innovation. This kind of magic only happens when people come together. From its functionality and design to the quality of the work going on under its roof, Eolas is becoming a natural hub not only for the University’s ICT academics and industry partners, but for the very robust ICT community within this region,” Prof Nolan said.

Eolas houses the full spectrum of the knowledge transfer experience—from undergraduate and postgraduate teaching through to research (both fundamental and applied), from commercialisation on to spin-out and spin-in companies and partnerships with multinationals.  Maynooth University’s reputation for world-class research is particularly strong and it is the top rated among all Irish universities for the percentage of publications in the elite 1% most cited academic journals.

The launch of MaynoothWorks reflects the strong role the University’s Commercialisation Office plays as an engine of economic growth in Dublin and the Midlands region. Three recent Maynooth University spin-outs alone have raised more than €20 million in investment and created 50 jobs.  MaynoothWorks already has five client companies, including Verifly, the latest venture from Hailo co-founder Jay Bregman which provides web and mobile applications for recreational drone users; Accuplex Diagnostics, an early stage diagnostics company which is already selling product internationally aimed at treating both human and equine conditions; and Avectas, which develops technology in pursuit of in-vivo diagnostic and therapeutic applications with a current focus on oncology.

Minister Richard Bruton said: “Innovation and entrepreneurship have been at the heart of our Action Plan for Jobs, and we have put in place a range of measures to support additional start-up activity right across the country. Two key aspects of this are extra co-working and incubation spaces for entrepreneurs, and measures to derive more commercial outcomes from the excellent research happening in our universities. The opening of MaynoothWorks and the Eolas building in Maynooth University will make a major contribution to this, and I am delighted to warmly welcome today’s developments. Infrastructure like this will make a major contribution to supporting jobs growth in the mid east region, and I wish Philip and his team every success.”

Hailo co-founder Jay Bregman chose to locate his latest company, Verifly,  in MaynoothWorks “because of Maynooth University’s long tradition of research excellence, innovation in data and geographic information systems, which are foundational to our vision of making drones safe and well-mannered.”

MaynoothWorks client company Videobot allows brands and businesses to deploy tailor made videos across devices.  Its CEO, Frédéric Herrera, said the company specifically chose Maynooth because of what Eolas could offer.  “Videobot is expanding rapidly and we need to build a highly skilled team with knowledge across different areas—from computer science, software engineering and digital media to international business, law and languages. Being located here at Maynooth University is ideal for us because we know we have access to top quality graduates across all of these fields,” he said.

Avectas was co-founded by Maynooth University Senior Lecturer Dr. Shirley O’Dea, who said continuing to locate at MaynoothWorks was a ‘no-brainer’ for the company.  “We also have offices in Dublin and in Cambridge, Massachusetts, but the culture here at Maynooth is so well disposed for start-ups that it makes a brilliant base.  We made our journey from scratch through Maynooth, using SFI and Enterprise Ireland funding in the early stages, towards private funding sources which include a key collaborator Adapt Pharma. We gain from the superb research ongoing here at Maynooth as well as being able to draw from, and give back to, the student and research talent pool,” she added.

The iconic Eolas building is located in Maynooth University’s North Campus and supported more than 300 jobs during its two years of construction.  It is clad in bespoke perforated metal filigree inspired by the design of ‘punch cards.’  The building can accommodate 575 staff with teaching facilities for 350 students in labs and classrooms at any one time. In addition, it has the capacity to facilitate 325 people in the various sized meeting and seminar rooms that are strategically placed throughout the building, together with informal breakout spaces designed to support collaboration between the institutes and departments based in Eolas.

Eolas features state-of-the-art IT facilities, including a highly-available 10 Gbps internet connection, 3,000 network points and WiFi capacity for more than 1,000 simultaneous users.  Its modern lay-out is designed to facilitate interaction and spur new research and commercialisation activities, with 14 ‘hot desks,’ 2 bio wet labs, high-tech conference rooms and classrooms, laboratories and informal conversation spaces.

Also speaking at the launch was Professor Martin Curley, Vice President of Intel Labs and Co-founder of the Innovation Value Institute at Maynooth University, housed in the Eolas building. He said industry would clearly benefit from the approach to third level that Maynooth University was taking. “The relationship between academia and industry is mutually interdependent and beneficial. Maynooth University exemplifies the concept of the entrepreneurial University and the seed capital that Maynooth invested enabled IVI raise more than €6million through industry membership and research contract funding. It is a great example of an industry-business collaboration succeeding internationally and is really what Eolas is all about.”

MaynoothWorks received €1.6 million in funding from Enterprise Ireland.  Enterprise Ireland’s Research & Innovation Manager Gearoid Mooney said co-locating academia and industry is a proven recipe for success.  “The sparks of creativity that come about when entrepreneurs have ready access to research talent and potential employees have been seen the world over.  Enterprise Ireland is committed to developing campus-based incubation centres and MaynoothWorks has all the elements necessary to make a real impact,” he said.

President's speech - Opening of Eolas building 5 October 2015

President Philip Nolan

A Aire, a chomhgleachaite, a chaire ba mhaith liom fáilte ó chroí a chur romhaimh go léir go dtí Ollscoil Mhá Nuad tráthnóna inniu chuig an foirgneahm álainn nua seo, ionad taighde agus oideachais agus gnóthais, a oscailt

Minister, colleagues, friends, it is a great pleasure to welcome you here this afternoon to formally open this beautiful new building, the Eolas building, a centre of research, learning and enterprise dedicated to information and communications technology.

Let me start with research.  If we are not at the cutting edge, internationally, in research, then we are not doing our job, and not only would we be failing in our duty to expand the scope of human knowledge and to contribute to the national research system, we would very quickly find that our teaching programmes would suffer, and our capacity to contribute to economic growth and society’s development would be rapidly impaired.  I am proud to say that this building will host research of international repute and importance in computer science, electronic engineering and the applied mathematics that underpin information and communications technology.  We know the extraordinary changes and benefits that ICT has brought to our lives, our businesses, our society and our economy; we know we are only beginning to realise its transformative potential; and we know that research and innovation are the only pathway to realising that potential. We, at Maynooth University, here in this building, will play our part, so that Ireland, more widely, can play its part, in understanding and exploiting the potential of ICT to enhance all of our lives. 

Ours will not be a modest contribution.  The following facts might surprise you

  • We are the highest ranked Irish University in 2012, 2013, and 2014 in the percentage of publications in the top 1% most cited academic journals; that is, a greater proportion of our published work makes it into the elite journals than any other Irish university
  • We are ranked second only to TCD in terms of the number of PhD graduates per 10 academic staff positions.
  • 3 of our recent spin-outs along have now secured investments totalling €20m and have created 50 new jobs.
  • Between 2006 and 2014 we had 267 industry contracts; 135 invention disclosures; 52 patents filed; 56 licensing agreements; 16 spin-outs

We may be Ireland’s smallest university, but we are its fastest growing, and we are more productive, generating higher-quality outcomes and are more effective in ensuring our research translates into innovation and meaningful change within society. This is particularly true of our focused and important effort in ICT, now housed in this magnificent facility.

It is important to highlight the diversity of research that is conducted in this building. We often hear of concerns that we are failing to apply or exploit enough of our ‘academic’ research.  What is interesting about the research programme here is it’s scope – from fundamental basic research in mathematics, computer science and electronics, applied in software and radio and energy, through the unique engaged research of the Innovation Value Institute, where the research is conducted in partnership with enterprise and IT professionals, we span the full spectrum of research activity, and it is this unique capacity that allows us on the one hand to research on the frontiers of knowledge in a way that has global impact, yet at the same time be the most successful university in the state in terms of applying and exploiting our research.

This building is inspired by a singular vision: that it is not enough to be excellent in research in isolation. Our research must be connected. Connected to that in other disciplines, so that together we may confront the real challenges that face us as a society. Connected to our teaching, so that our graduates can make a real contribution throughout their working lives.  And connected to innovation, so society can realise the full benefits of the new knowledge we generate.

It is for this reason we chose to bring together our academic departments in Computer Science and Electronic Engineering, our world-leading research institutes, the Hamilton Institute and the Innovation Value Institute, our IT Services department and our business incubator MaynoothWorks, into one building, to create one community.  The potential for interdisciplinary work is immense. Research teaching and innovation are going on, side-by-side.  What I am most excited by is the potential for our students – first, this building allows us to increase our capacity in ICT education by over 50%, addressing a critical skills gap. This in itself will be an important contribution to regional and national growth. But we are offering a unique experience: our students, from the day they enter to the day they graduate, are learning in an environment, will see on a day-to-day basis, how research happens and how new businesses are formed from that research.  If this inspires even a modest number of graduates to do research, to form a business or to do both we will first have made a huge difference to the lives of those students, but we will also make an enormous contribution to the development of this region and this country.

This is not empty rhetoric

  • Maynooth University spin-out Neuromod just announced last week it has raised €5.5 million to fund clinical trials for a device that targets millions of people suffering from chronic tinnitus.
  • MaynoothWorks tenant Videobot CEO Frédéric Herrera says he specifically chose to locate here as a means to recruit students:

“Videobot is expanding rapidly and we need to build a highly skilled team with knowledge across different areas—from computer science, software engineering and digital media to international business, law and languages. Being located here at Maynooth University is ideal for us as we know we have access to top quality graduates across all of these fields.”

This building, at 8,000 m2 and €20.6 million, which will house 575 staff, required the support of many, and it is appropriate that I would conclude with thanks:

  • Building: EU Structural Funds; European Regional Development Fund (ERDF); HEA through PRTLI; Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation; Enterprise Ireland
  • Research: Science Foundation Ireland, especially funding those researchers who are part of the SFI Centres LERO and CONNECT, the Irish Research Council (IRC), and the Enterprise Ireland Technology Centre programme (IVI), EU
  • Knowledge Transfer:  Knowledge Transfer Ireland and Enterprise Ireland who have been instrumental in establishing MaynoothWorks business incubator.

I have to say that one special aspect of opening this building is how happy each and every occupant is with the design and execution.  I want to thank and pay tribute to the architects, professional team and contractors who are responsible for this success.

Finally, and very importantly, I want to thank and congratulate the artist Clare Langan; two of her works Waterfall and River, commissioned for and installed here, make a beautiful environment exceptional.