Proposals sought for new digital media centre

27 Apr 2005

The Government has revealed more details in its plan to set up a digital media research and innovation centre in Dublin. The development will address the gap left by the closure earlier this year of Media Lab Europe (MLE), which had been a key part of the Government’s digital media strategy.

According to the tender document issued this week, the operation will be known as the National Digital Research Centre and will be based at a Dublin City location in existing premises of roughly 20,000sq ft. Rent on the property will be nominal.

The centre will be backed by €3m per year in funding over five years, with the possibility of a renewal after that. Public money will not be its only source of support: the tender document states that the centre “must also win significant funding from other public and private sources”.

MLE shut its doors in January precisely because it failed to generate the levels of private sector sponsorship to secure its future. It is believed to have received close to €50m in government funding when it was established in Dublin six years ago but was unable to attract outside investment to the required levels.

The Government has outlined four high-level objectives for the new centre: it should support enterprise development in Ireland, stimulate increased research and development investment in the country, support high-quality human capital formation here in addition to attracting high-quality inward investment and human capital.

Proposals to establish and manage the centre are being sought from higher-education institutions, public research institutes, private sector entities or consortia that have a strategic focus on digital media research, innovation and commercialisation. The deadline for delivering submissions to the Higher Education Authority is 31 May.

In what appears to be a deliberate attempt to address the perceived shortcomings of MLE, the tender document expressly states that the centre must have a clear educational research focus supported by a strong link with a third-level institution. “In order to deliver on the objectives for the centre, collaboration with an Irish higher-education institution(s) is required and existing, or the potential for, strong linkages with Irish industry in these sectors, is an imperative,” the proposal reads.

It is envisaged that the new facility will act as a focal point for the development of a wider research and innovation ‘ecosystem’ relevant to and including the digital industry itself. Those submitting proposals are required to outline specific arrangements for professionally managing technology transfer and intellectual property, the tender document shows.

By Gordon Smith