It emerged this afternoon that Media Lab Europe’s (MLE) operation at the Digital Hub in Dublin’s Liberties area is to close. It is believed the operation failed to attract the levels of investment and funding it was envisaged it could attract from the corporate sector.
Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, Noel Dempsey TD, said that the digital media research centre is to be wound down over a period of months.
MLE’s survival was identified from the start as being dependent on its ability to replicate the business model of the lab belonging to MIT in Boston by raising research and development (R&D) investment funding from corporate players in a European environment.
Despite raising some sponsorship from players such as Eircom, Intel and Ericsson, the lab failed to generate levels of sponsorship to ensure its viability. Minister Dempsey attributed the funding difficulties to the technology industry downturn of recent years as well as a change of attitude by business to the model of non-directed research. “Unfortunately the model is not a sustainable one in the current climate,” he explained.
It is understood that the government invested some €50.8m in bringing the MLE to Dublin in 1999, at a time when it fostered ambitions to make Ireland an electronic gateway to Europe and a leading light in the digital media sphere. It is understood that the lab was to raise its €20m a year operating costs through its own activities such as attracting R&D investment from corporate players.
Commenting on the closure of MLE, Minister Dempsey said: “The lab was particularly successful in a number of collaborative projects with Irish third-level institutes. A number of these are ongoing and I am committed to funding these Higher Education Authority supported projects through to completion in their Irish educational establishments.”
Dempsey indicated that the Government will now move to develop sustainable research activities in the Digital Hub location under a new institutional framework with the involvement of the Irish third-level education sector.
He 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.
By John Kennedy