Monday, 05 October 2015

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.

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

  • MU 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.