Friday, 24 April 2015

What Happened to the University Industry Centre?

Shortly after I was elected EGA President I was briefed on the saga of the University Industry Centre (UIC). This is the building immediately adjacent to the Engineering Building and built at the same time as part of the new Engineering Faculty complex. It was the first innovation centre to be set up in UCD or perhaps also in Ireland in pursuit of the College's new aims to have a more collaborative research approach between the University and Irish Industry.
UCD Engineering Building on left and University Industry Centre on the right
Both buildings were designed by the same architect and built by the same contractor - in fact the UIC was built first and then the main Engineering Building in the mid 1980s. The main building was funded by Department of Education while the UIC was funded through private donations from past graduates and their firms all pledged to UIC Educational Trust. In fact some 450 engineers and engineering companies contributed a totally audited figure of €966,444 in sums ranging from €1000 to over €2,500 each. These were considerable sums donated in personal and corporate terms during the mid 80s recessionary period.

The UIC was officially opened by An Taoiseach Garret Fitzgerald on May 20th 1985 - 30 years ago next month.
University Industry Centre (UIC)

This building was the brainchild of then UCD Dean of Engineering Professor John Kelly supported by Tom Hardiman then Chairman of the Investment Bank of Ireland and Liam Connellan Director General of the Confederation of Irish Industry.  John was also the Founder of the EGA and both Tom and Liam were later EGA Presidents.  The first Director of the UIC was Dr Pat Frain under whose guidance it went from strength to strength establishing UCD as a third level centre of excellence in research, incubation and commercialisation.

Then in 2003 and 2005 two separate events occurred:

1. Due to shortage of space and the growing cross disciplinary nature of research and technology transfer across both science and engineering UCD decided in 2003 to transfer NovaUCD from the UIC to Merville which was enlarged with very significant industrial sponsorship

2. Then UCD in 2005 decided to rename the UIC building and lecture theatre to be the John Hume Centre for Global Studies and the Clinton Auditorium respectively thus removing it from the College of Engineering.  There was no prior consultation with the UIC funders.

Let me now be honest, direct and frank. I actually agree with the transfer of NovaUCD in 2003 as the correct and proper thing to do at the time and its subsequent success in the new location is vindication of that.  I dealt with this success in great detail in my blog earlier this week.

However the transfer of the UIC Building from the Faculty of Engineering and its renaming without any consultation with the UCD Engineering Graduates Association and its 450 small and medium size funding organisations beggars belief! I was and am still astounded that UCD could act in that way without a word to the Funders of the building. I do accept that the then Dean of Engineering was consulted but not the EGA or any of the Funders even the major ones.

Let me draw an apt parallel to this. It would be akin to either Peter Sutherland or Lochlann Quinn or Denis O'Brien waking up some morning to find that one of their relatively new buildings on campus which they partly funded were renamed (say) the UCD School of Oriental or Chinese Studies! That's what happened to the UIC Building without even a phone call to the EGA or any of the Funders. Frankly it smacked of gross discourtesy even arrogance.. The UCD Governing Body did write to the former Dean of Engineering explaining what they did months later only when he complained on hearing of it after the event.  This issue has festered for the past 10 years to the detriment of UCD Engineering, has plagued my predecessors and I am now determined to resolve this issue if I possibly can in an amicable way.
When I first heard of this issue I thought that perhaps the events of 2005 had been exaggerated to UCD's disadvantage but no! In recent weeks I have spoken to practically all of the senior UIC personnel who were connected with these events and they all now deeply regret the manner in which all this was handled. Most of them like myself do not have a major difficulty with the transfer of NovaUCD but all feel that it was handled in a most clumsy manner.  Many are highly embarrassed that they did nothing to stop the injustice back in 2005.
There was also a lot of ill ease around the same time with the breakup of the Engineering Faculty into components part in association with other faculties and schools as part of UCD restructuring. Fortunately this was recognised as a bad mistake and corrected in 2012 with the reconstitution of the College of Engineering and Architecture under a new Principal and Dean.

What now of the former UIC? I simply don't know but the Clinton Auditorium remains an excellent lecture resource. The rest of the building has a number of disparate uses. The website for the John Hume Centre was last updated in 2009 so it's not currently in use for that purpose either.  A better future must now beckon for this building funded by UCD's engineers.

Clinton Auditorium
I think that regardless of the future use of the UIC that the College of Engineering and Architecture has a very bright future as it grows and may well suggest a future more efficient use for its sister building. Overall the initial success of the UIC building as the seed corn of innovation needs to be celebrated together with NovaUCD as we approach its 30th anniversary. The UIC story is part of the success of NovaUCD and UCD Innovation and we all need to celebrate the great achievements as we embark on making UCD into Ireland's Global University as part of UCD Strategy 2015 - 2020 under our new President.


Monday, 20 April 2015

UCD to celebrate 30 years of Innovation

Recently I had the pleasure of visiting NovaUCD (located on Belfield campus off Foster's Avenue) which is a purpose built state-of-the-art incubation facility for high-tech and knowledge intensive start-up industries. I very much thank its current Director, Brendan Cremen for conducting an informative tour of this impressive facility. An innovation centre for new ventures, it has been the hub of commercialisation and entrepreneurial activity in UCD since 2003. Prior to that it grew out of the University Industry Centre (UIC) set up in 1985 which was the brainchild of Professor Emeritus John Kelly,  UCD Dean of Engineering in the 1980s, later UCD Registrar/Deputy President and now a leading member of the Irish Academy of Engineering.  John was also the Founding Father of the UCD Engineering Graduates Association set up in 1984.                                                                                         (
UCD Emeritus Professor John Kelly
The University Industry Centre or UIC was the first 'innovation centre' in UCD (and perhaps nationally) implementing a new policy of closer University-industry cooperation. It was an initiative of the UCD Engineering Graduates Association funded by engineering graduates and firms organised by a Trust who raised £1 million led by Dr John Kelly, Dr Tom Hardiman former Director General RTE and former Chairman of the National Board for Science and Technology and Dr Paddy Galvin then CEO of Guinness. The UIC Building was officially opened in May 1985, some 30 years ago by then Taoiseach Garret Fitzgerald.
In 1988 Dr Pat Frain was appointed Director and the University Industry Programme (UIP) was established to develop innovation, technology transfer and other forms of co-operation between the University and the industrial and business community in Ireland/overseas.
Throughout the 1990s the UIP supported the development of a range of successful multidisciplinary courses at the UIC, a number of patents and other commercial opportunities.  In the late 1990s the scarcity of incubation space and other facilities to support the activities of the UIP became an increasing constraint to commercialisation, enterprise development and industry co-operation at UCD.

Dr Pat Frain, Director NovaUCD 2003-2012
In 2003, the work of the University Industry Programme was moved from the UIC Building to the Merville facility also on Belfield campus and rebranded as NovaUCD.  This new €11 million Centre for New Ventures and Entrepreneurs was opened with the support of a unique public-private partnership comprising UCD and AIB Bank, Arthur Cox, Deloitte, Enterprise Ireland, Ericsson, Goodbody Stockbrokers and Xillinx.

Dr Conor Hanley, co-founder, BiancaMed
Prof Conor Henaghan, co-founder BiancaMed

UCD and the entire engineering profession together with their scientific colleagues now need to celebrate the success of Nova UCD with its proud history and heritage as described.

NovaUCD at Merville House, Belfield
Since 2003, UCD has achieved phenomenal success in research and innovation.  It has provided business development support to 240 companies and early-stage projects through the incubation services and supports provided at NovaUCD.  In the 10-year period (2003-2013) over 125 companies have been direct clients of NovaUCD and availed of desk space bio-incubation units or business unit facilities within the on-campus centre.  These companies, which employ over 590 staff,  have raised €90 million in equity funding, and have a current annual turnover of €71 million.  Furthermore, these same companies expect to create over 850 new jobs by 2016.

Prof Dolores O'Riordan, Director, UCD Institute of Food & Health
NovaUCD supported companies contribute €34 million a year in Gross Value Added (GVA) to the Irish economy and over €7.5 million GVA to the international economy.  Between them these companies currently support 1,250 jobs, directly and indirectly, of which 1,000 are based in Ireland.  Since 2003 the University has earned €5.2 million in commercialisation income.  This includes €3 million from the sale of shareholding in spin-out companies and €2.2 million in royalty-related income, of which 12% has come from Irish-owned companies, 54% from multinational companies with a base in Ireland and 34% from multinationals with no Irish presence.

Prof Brian Glennan & Dr Mark Bennet, co-founders APC
As a direct result of entering into licensing agreements with UCD, businesses have been able to increase their annual turnover in Ireland by an average of €3.6 million and international turnover by €5.8 million.  Intellectual property developed at UCD currently generates an additional €2.1 million GVA for the Irish economy and an additional €3.4 million GVA for the international economy and supports a total of 89 additional jobs each year.
The scale of NovaUCD’s contribution to Ireland’s economy looks set to increase significantly in years to come.

Donal Ryan & Dr Emmeline Hill, Equinome
BiGGAR Economics estimate that, by 2016, existing supported companies will be generating €64 million GVA for the Irish economy each year and directly and indirectly supporting 1,900 jobs in Ireland, as well as contributing €18.2 million GVA and supporting 538 jobs in the international economy each year.
By 2016 total entrepreneurial and commercialisation activities at NovaUCD, assuming that the income generated by intellectual property remains in line with the trend of the past 10 years, will be generating €87.7 million GVA a year and supporting directly and indirectly some 2,527 jobs in all.  Some €66.1 million of this GVA and 1,934 of these jobs will be in Ireland.
Today as we approach the 30th Anniversary of the opening of the University Industry Centre we salute its founding EGA fathers (and funders).  We congratulate UCD in growing this innovation and incubation centre into the world class facilities at NovaUCD that is under its current Director of Enterprise and Commercialisation, Brendan Cremen and UCD Vice President for Research Innovation and Impact, Professor Orla Feely.

NovaUCD Director Brendan Cremen
UCD Vice President for Research Innovation & Impact,
Prof Orla Feely