Urgent study called for future use of MLE site

18 Jan 2005

Fine Gael MEP Gay Mitchell TD has called for an independent and urgent study to be carried out on the proposed future use of the soon-to-be-closed Media Lab Europe (MLE) facility in Dublin’s Liberties. Mitchell also called for some measure of reassurance for the 40 indigenous technology companies based at the adjacent Digital Hub.

Communications Minister Noel Dempsey TD revealed last Friday that the Government and Massachusetts Institute of Technology-backed (MIT) MLE was to be wound down over a number of months after it failed to attract the levels of investment and funding it was envisaged it could attract from the corporate sector.

The closure of MLE will result in the loss of some 60 jobs. Reports over the weekend suggest that negotiations between the Department of Communications and the head of MIT and MLE founder Nicholas Negroponte broke down over a package for further government funding of the project.

Since its foundation in 2000, it is understood that €35m of government money was pumped into the project. There was an understanding that MLE was to pursue funding from the private sector in the region of €20m a year. Despite attracting investment from companies such as Intel, Ericsson, Eircom and Orange, it failed to raise sufficient annual revenues due to a major change in sentiment driven by a major economic downturn.

However, it appears the Government has no intention of seeing its €35m entirely wasted. On Friday, Dempsey said that there remains a commitment to the principle of digital research and the Government will be setting up a process to select an organisation or consortium, including international partners (if appropriate), to manage and operate a research centre in the Digital Hub location.

Last night, Gay Mitchell TD and MEP for Dublin called for an independent and urgent study to be carried out on the proposed future use of the MLE facilities in order to find the best possible future use for the site.

In a statement, Mitchell said: “Since the announcement on Friday about the impending closure of the MLE, the Government has indicated that it will probably use the facility as a research centre for a third-level institution. This really isn’t good enough.

“A decision on the future of this site can only be made after a proper independent study is carried out. We need to ensure that the future of the entire Digital Hub facility is secure and doesn’t fall apart like the MLE did.

“In addition, 40 smaller technology companies currently work from the Digital Hub and they need to be reassured that their future is secure and that they will have a location to work from in the future,” Mitchell said.

By John Kennedy