Stanford president to advise the ‘IFSC of R&D’

13 May 2010

The president of Stanford University – one of the acknowledged major wealth creation centres of Silicon Valley – is to be the first international adviser to guide the Innovation Alliance between Trinity and UCD, which if successful, could generate 40,000 research jobs.

Stanford president Dr John L Hennessy is to take on the role of the alliance’s first international adviser. Hennessy’s acceptance builds on a joint visit by the alliance partners to Stanford University earlier this year.

The Innovation Alliance, which will cost €350m over seven years, will involve the establishment of a new fourth-level Innovation Academy and a joint venture in enterprise development.

A visit to Stanford

Visiting the Stanford School of Engineering and its internationally renowned ‘D-School’ programme, as part of an official trade mission to California, TCD Provost Dr John Hegarty and UCD President Dr Hugh Brady met with Hennessy to update him on the progress of their partnership to mainstream innovation in both Irish institutions.

A pioneer in computer architecture, in 1981 Hennessy drew together researchers to focus on a computer architecture known as RISC (Reduced Instruction Set Computer), a technology that has revolutionised the computer industry by increasing performance while reducing costs.

In addition to his role in the basic research, Hennessy helped transfer this technology to industry. In 1984, he co-founded MIPS Computer Systems, now MIPS Technologies, which designs microprocessors. In recent years, his research has focused on the architecture of high-performance computers.

During the visit, all three university leaders met with An Taoiseach Brian Cowen, where Hennessy’s role as an international adviser to the Innovation Alliance was discussed.

Speaking together to announce the development, Hegarty and Brady said: “Stanford’s programmes in innovation and entrepreneurship are world class – the university has a track record in this domain which is second to none.

“Having someone of the calibre of John Hennessy agree to act as an adviser to our alliance is a hugely positive development and will be of great benefit – not only to students in our Innovation Academy, but also to our current and future start-up companies as we progress our joint vision for business creation and scaling in our institutions.”

Welcoming the announcement, Cowen stated: “I very much welcome the further development of the Innovation Alliance between Trinity College and UCD which I launched just over a year ago.

“As well as endorsing the Government’s vision for Ireland as an International Innovation Hub, the recent report of the Innovation Taskforce expressed strong support for the TCD/UCD Alliance. Strategic alliances between higher education institutions at both national and international level are vital to developing the research and knowledge transfer ecosystem which must be at the heart of a smart economy.

Cowen added: “The announcement of Stanford president John L Hennessy as the first international adviser to the alliance is an extremely welcome development which will be of great benefit to all who are involved with the programme.

“I was delighted to meet with president Hennessy, Trinity Provost John Hegarty and UCD President Hugh Brady to discuss these developments during my recent visit to San Jose where I made key connections for Ireland’s development as an Innovation economy. I look forward to the continued success of the Innovation Alliance.”

Innovation Alliance’s first international adviser

Hennessy is the first international adviser to be announced for the Innovation Alliance.

This development augments and complements the established relationship with the Silicon Valley-based Irish Technology Leadership Group. Hennessy will lend his expertise as a leading academic, the leader of one of the top universities in the world and share his experiences of building companies through successful entrepreneurship.

Hegarty and Brady concluded: “The Taoiseach’s Innovation Taskforce report has highlighted the importance of higher education for Ireland’s economic growth and has endorsed our alliance as a major component to underpin that growth. It is our pleasure and honour to have president Hennessy agree to this role.

“His advice is highly valued internationally and through his participation we look forward to further growing the strengths of the Innovation Alliance for Ireland’s future prosperity.”

About the Innovation Alliance

Announced by Cowen on 11 March 2009, the Innovation Alliance between Trinity College Dublin and University College Dublin is intended to contribute positively to a vibrant innovation ecosystem for Ireland of complementary interactions between enterprise, higher education and Government, working in concert on specific initiatives to realise Ireland’s innovation potential.

Major initiatives of the Innovation Alliance include the Innovation Academy, a joint venture in enterprise development and a joint research strategy.

By John Kennedy

Photos: Stanford president Dr John L. Hennessy (above) and (below) Enterprise Minister Batt O’Keeffe TD, Dr John Hegarty, Taoiseach Brian Cowen TD, Dr Hugh Brady and Education Minister Mary Coughlan TD at the launch of the Innovation Alliance

Innovation Alliance

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years