TCD plans to build an all-new campus to foster entrepreneurship and innovation, aiming to be home to more than 400 start-ups.
In what could be its biggest transformation since the university was established by a royal charter by Queen Elizabeth I in 1592, Trinity College Dublin (TCD) plans to build a brand new second campus in Dublin.
The new campus will be located in what will be known as the Grand Canal Innovation District, which will be modelled on innovation districts such as Cambridge Square in Boston as well as other similar districts in cities such as Toronto, Rotterdam and Barcelona.
‘It speaks eloquently to our vision of making Ireland the tech capital of Europe and our plans to ensure that the jobs of the future are created first here in Ireland’
– LEO VARADKAR
The plan is to build a 5.5-acre campus in the Grand Canal Dock district that will house a new campus, which will also be a hub for start-ups, a landing zone for foreign direct investment (FDI) companies as well as home to a community of venture capital companies, and public and civic spaces.
The innovation quarter
The chief innovation and enterprise officer at TCD, Dr Diarmuid O’Brien, told Siliconrepublic.com that the new campus would aspire to become the “innovation and cultural heart of the city”.
‘The presence of a world-class university at the heart of the Grand Canal Innovation District will be the catalyst for collaboration and partnership between industry and universities’
– DR PATRICK PRENDERGAST
A memorandum of understanding has been agreed between Dublin’s universities, and a special Government-led advisory group was established, aimed at developing the new district, including the proposed development for the €1bn TCD campus at Grand Canal Quay. The consultation process will culminate in the development of a masterplan proposal for the Grand Canal Innovation District, to be carried out over the coming months.
“I am really excited about this plan to further develop the Silicon Docks as an innovation district involving a collaboration of business, Government and the university sector,” An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, TD, said.
“It speaks eloquently to our vision of making Ireland the tech capital of Europe and our plans to ensure that the jobs of the future are created first here in Ireland. The development of the district will also help to ensure the continued balanced development of the area to the benefit of the local community.
“Many high-tech companies already have their European headquarters here; we have a young and talented workforce, a consistent and competitive corporation tax regime, and a strong reputation for attracting and encouraging investment. However, we can’t take this for granted and we always need to look at ways to improve Ireland’s competitive edge,” Varadkar added.
As the Taoiseach pointed out, Grand Canal Quay and the surrounding Silicon Docks district are already home to the global headquarters of many internet giants, including Google, Facebook, Airbnb, Stripe and Amazon, to name a few.
In recent weeks, Google completed the acquisition of the iconic Bolands Quay site in Dublin’s Silicon Docks in a deal estimated to be worth €170m.
“The presence of a world-class university at the heart of the Grand Canal Innovation District will be the catalyst for collaboration and partnership between industry and universities,” said the provost of TCD, Dr Patrick Prendergast.
“I am therefore delighted to announce that Trinity has decided, after much thought, to commit to taking the historic step of developing a second campus dedicated to technology and innovation on a designated site adjacent to Grand Canal Quay and Macken Street in the heart of the district. This 5.5-acre site is ideally suited to the proposed use and will transform the existing area.”
Prendergast said the involvement of the local community living in the Grand Canal area will be a key factor.
“Working closely with the local community, a campus of style and impact with open spaces, ease of access and new retail spaces and services, will spark further urban regeneration in the area as well as create educational and employment opportunities for all those living in close proximity to the district.”
Speaking with Siliconrepublic.com, O’Brien said that the plan has been in development over the past 18 months.
He explained that the entire project would be funded via a public-private partnership mechanism involving the university’s own funds, debt financing, potential rental income and Government funding.
“This would be the first time we will be building a critical mass of infrastructure that will be separate to the main campus. We want to build a campus that would meet the needs of faculty and students but also reflect the role of the university in the 21st century.
“Research and innovation will be at the heart of the campus. Up to 50pc of it will involve enterprises colocating there and we envisage a hub for between 400 and 500 start-ups as well as a location for multinationals in the same footprint,” O’Brien said.
Working with the thriving digital community in the docklands will be key and O’Brien said that shared research facilities encourage the community – which has generated 30,000 jobs in the district in the last 15 years – to connect.
O’Brien added that the creation of the innovation district would have a transformative effect on the area in the same way that the IFSC reshaped the north docklands of Dublin.
“This can be done because of the impact that the digital companies like Google and Facebook are already demonstrating in the area.”
Facebook has grown to 2,500 people while Google has surpassed 7,000 employees in Dublin and is pushing towards 8,000.
“The three things you really need to make this work are critical mass, proximity and density.
“We have already seen how we can position Dublin to attract the next wave of investment – this will enable us to fill in the gaps and help build indigenous companies that can scale globally, create a talent pool, and encourage people from overseas to build a career here, build start-ups here and partner with people focused on innovation,” O’Brien said.
“Dublin has already embraced the innovation economy, it just needs that macro-level infrastructure to support that.
“This is about positioning Ireland to rise with the next wave of enterprise and to compete globally.”
Varadkar said that it is ultimately about thinking big and making a calculated bet on the future of the country.
“We have to ask ourselves, how can we market Ireland and Dublin as the ideal location for the next wave of investment? As the world changes around us, we must continuously adapt and future-proof our economy. The development of the Grand Canal Innovation District is an exciting opportunity to build a world-class innovation district where companies, researchers and entrepreneurs link up, to identify new products or services and discuss how they might be brought to market.”