Launch of Strategic Plan 2014-2019

Public Theatre, Trinity College

22 October 2014

Taoiseach, Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Welcome to the Public Theatre in Trinity College, for the launch of our Strategic Plan, which lays out our mission, values, goals, and actions for the next five years.

This is an ambitious, achievable Plan on which we’ve consulted widely. To all who have contributed their time and expertise, we are most grateful.

The past five years have been difficult for all working in higher education – as indeed for everyone in the country. I wish to thank all staff for their resilience and dynamism – which has enabled Trinity to continue delivering excellence in research and education.

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It’s great to be launching our new Plan at this time, when signs of economic recovery are palpable. I congratulate the Taoiseach and the government on the recovery.

It’s a particular honour for us that the Taoiseach has taken the time to be here today. I believe this honour stems from recognition of Trinity’s important role in creating the talent that will help secure this country’s future.
Trinity’s mission is to provide a liberal environment where independence of thought is highly valued and where all are encouraged to achieve their full potential.

  • We will encompass an ever more diverse student community, providing a distinctive education based on academic excellence and a transformative student experience;
  • We will undertake research at the frontiers of disciplines, spurring on the development of new interdisciplinary fields and making a catalysing impact on local innovation, and on addressing global challenges;
  • and, we will fearlessly engage in actions that advance the cause of a pluralistic, just, and sustainable society.

Our responsibilities are many: to students, staff and alumni; to government; to the funders of research; and to the public. To meet these responsibilities, we have devised a strategy which is comprehensive, cohesive, and connected.

A notable feature of this Strategy is the way it envisages, and designs for, expansion of activities in a challenging time. Specifically, we plan for

  • an expanded vision in education through innovation and entrepreneurship,
  • research and scholarship,
  • capital developments, and
  • an expansion of student numbers.

Let’s look at these in a bit more detail:

*  *  * Education *  *  *

The Trinity Education has long been characterised by emphasis on critical and independent thinking, and on original research. This traditional emphasis extends naturally to include educating in innovation and entrepreneurship. The critical, independent, problem-solving mindset is the one best positioned to seize opportunities, and respond to 21st century transformations in higher education. 

Under the Strategic Plan, we will have a new Trinity School of Business, which will be co-located on campus with an Innovation and Entrepreneurship Hub.  Proximity to the tech companies, creative industries and start-ups clustered in the city centre and the Docklands will contribute to a thriving innovation ecosystem in Dublin.

The development of entrepreneurial skill-sets are integral to the Trinity Education, across all our schools. Of course, not everyone is going to have a career in business, but all students can benefit from entrepreneurial training, whether they’re studying medicine or engineering, or music or history.

Through a new programme, LaunchBox, we’ve started providing undergraduate students with seed funding, office space, and mentoring while they incubate business ideas. LaunchBox is funded by a group of ‘Trinity Angels’ – many of them Trinity alumni.

One of the businesses incubated under LaunchBox is ‘FoodCloud’ which is a social enterprise bridging the gap between food waste and food poverty. Just a few months ago FoodCloud partnered with Tesco to deliver surplus food to Dublin charities. Talks are on-going to extend this to Tesco UK.

Academic staff who in previous eras would have had exclusively careers in teaching and research are now creating ways to make economic and social impact with their work. A decade ago Trinity’s Professor of Biochemistry, Luke O’Neill co-founded the drug development company, Opsona Therapeutics, to commercialise research on immune proteins. To date, Opsona has raised €36 million in funding.

Since 2009, one in five Irish campus companies have come from Trinity. Under this new Strategic Plan, we expect to enable about 40 or 50 companies a year – including campus companies, student companies, spin-ins, and collaborative companies.

*  *  * Developing research and scholarship *  *  *

Innovation, technology, and industry collaborations are important for developing all disciplines. They are currently enabling us to present our world-ranking arts and humanities research to new global audiences.

A quarter of a million people round the world have accessed The Down Survey, an innovative, interactive analysis of 17th century landholding in Ireland, constructed by our historians in collaboration with Google Maps. The Survey maps the forfeit of land after the Cromwellian invasion. It’s fascinating.

As an example, we have this map here of County Mayo. We can show the Taoiseach that the area he is from, Islandeady, outside Castlebar, was owned by the McPhilbin family until the 1650s, when they lost everything to a Protestant from Longford, the well-named Sir Thomas Newcomen.

Down Survey Mayo Map_2.jpg

*  *  * Capital Projects: building out the campus *  *  *

Trinity is recognised globally for the strength of its research and scholarship. Our interdisciplinary research centres, like CRANN and TBSI, and the Long Room Hub, are known around the academic world. Under this Strategic Plan, we’ll be establishing a further number of complementary research institutes to build on our existing expertise.

The new Engineering, Energy and Environment Institute, which we’re calling E3, will be a major engagement between Engineering and Natural Sciences. It will set radical agendas where technology and nature meet, ensuring that Ireland is at the vanguard internationally in meeting the emerging opportunities in energy, sustainability, and engineering design for development of our natural capital.

Trinity is also planning a new translational Cancer Institute which will consolidate cancer-related activities, including care, research, and education in one location, in St James’s Hospital, providing an unparalleled opportunity to improve cancer care based on cutting-edge research.

We will also be increasing our accommodation supply - building residences to house 2,000 students, including, in the immediate future, a student hall on the Oisín House site.

*  *  * Expanding student numbers *  *  *

More student residences will be necessary because the Strategic Plan envisages increasing our number of international students from 1,500 to 3,500 over the next five years. This will fulfil our ambition to make the campus ever more global and cosmopolitan. We will also be greatly increasing our number of online learners. Trinity is well placed to do this. The six-week online course which we launched in September, on ‘Irish Lives in War and Revolution’, attracted almost 12,000 participants, and has enjoyed a much greater than average retention rate. It is a global standard-bearer in on-line teaching.

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These then are some of the significant expansions we’re undertaking, which will greatly benefit life in the College, in the capital city, on this island, and beyond.

These are, of course, the highlights of the Plan only. The Vice-Provost and Chief Academic Officer, Professor Linda Hogan, will shortly bring us through other important actions. I thank her for her brilliant work co-ordinating and finalising the Plan.

We’ve estimated the cost of our expansions and improvements at €600 million, and we’ve drawn up business plans to raise this sum through new activity in: internationalization, online education, philanthropy, research and commercial activities.

However, while we’re confident of our business plans, we do underline in the Plan that if this country is to continue to deliver high-quality research and education then we must secure a sustainable funding base for universities.

The debate that has developed, just in the past month, around slippage in the rankings, has served to put national focus on this issue. 

I’ve been heartened by the debate. Because there has been near universal consensus that higher education in Ireland is a strength which must not be compromised.

So we haven’t had to argue the “why” but only the “how”. How to fund higher education sustainably?

I’m confident we’ll find a solution because we don’t have a choice. This country’s future depends on us continuing to give our young people an education that matches with the best in the world; that nurtures talent and prepares for active citizenship in a democratic society; that attracts global industries here to find research partners, and foreign investors to bring their companies because they know they’ll find here a skilled, competitive workforce.

Our Strategic Plan has been developed in partnership with many stakeholders. Trinity works best when it works in partnership – we benefit from public funds and EU investment, from industry collaborations, from student fees, and philanthropy. With all these stakeholders we have entered into contract to achieve our mutual aim of excellence in education, research and innovation.

We look forward to working with government and our other partners to deliver this Strategic Plan which will benefit society now and for generations to come.

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It’s now my pleasure to ask the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, T.D., to address you.

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