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.