Provost's Address at a Reception for Trinity Alumni and Friends

Embassy of Ireland, Tokyo

9th October 2018


Good evening,

Thank you, your Excellency, for those kind words and for welcoming us all here in the Embassy. What a wonderful place to meet with Trinity alumni and friends!

I was last in Tokyo in 2016 and I’m simply delighted to be back and to have this opportunity to meet with Trinity graduates and friends. It’s important to me, wherever I am in the world, to connect with Trinity alumni. We have over 115,000 alumni living in 150 countries – and, in an ideal world, I would meet with each and every one of them!

It’s great to get a sense of Trinity in Japan. Here tonight are graduates from the 1980s, my era, all the way up to 2016, and hailing from all disciplines. We have undergraduates who are on exchanges in Japanese universities as well. Thank you all for coming along and I look forward to talking with you individually.

I thank the Embassy most warmly for hosting and helping organize this event. I thank particularly his Excellency, Paul Kavanagh, and the deputy head of mission, Jonathan Patchell. Also our graduate Aisling Braiden who works in the Embassy – great to see you here. And Enterprise Ireland have been exceptionally valuable and constructive – thank you, Pat O’Riordain for your help in this and previous missions all around Asia.

Trinity has research a links with leading universities in Japan, including with the Universities of Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka and Keio, among others. Since my visit in 2016 we have pursued the development of educational links, and we are currently in the final stages of developing a new student exchange programme with Waseda University, which will open up more avenues for Irish students to enjoy an international experience in Japan and to welcome Japanese students to Dublin. Representatives of Waseda here this evening, and Kieo University, and yesterday we met the leadership of Kyoto University.

We also enjoy growing connections with industry in Japan, including ongoing research with Fujifilm. Mazda have just visited our campus, looking to find out more about our Materials research, and Honda is visiting in two weeks’ time to connect with our researchers in Digital Content and in Aging. That’s ahead of two further Japanese delegations, comprising of specialist researchers in telecoms, intelligent content, analytics, materials and medtech, who will visit before the end of the year. CONNECT – the national centre for telecoms and the internet of things, based in Trinity - is currently in discussions with Softbank.

Industry and research links are multiplying all the time – so much so that it’s hard to keep track of them – and we want to continue building on them, and to scale up collaborations with Japan. As a highly ranked university doing ground-breaking research in diverse fields and as a driver of growth in Ireland, Trinity is always seeking global connectivity. We are particularly delighted to partner with Japan which is a model of industry/academic collaboration in so many areas.

In our time together this evening, I’d like to fill you in briefly on how Trinity is doing. I know that you have a strong interest in Trinity’s future, and as Provost, I feel responsibility towards alumni, to ensure that the university, which means so much to all of us, continues on its path of excellence.

I don’t have time to go into all our initiatives – we’d be here all night! I’ll focus on recent developments.

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For me, a few achievements really stand out this year. In May, we made the formal announcement of our plans to build a new Engineering, Environment and Enabling Technologies Institute, which we’re calling E3. We’ve already raised over 40 million euro needed, thanks to state support and philanthropy, including the largest single philanthropic gift from any Irish family in the history of the Irish state – 25 million euro from the Naughton family. We acknowledge the presence her this evening of the CEO of Glen Dimplex Japan, Mr Seiji Kasama.

E3 will be a game-changer. It will educate engineers and scientists at scale to address the challenges of a liveable planet. It will be transformative both in terms of content - with more focus on the challenges of sustaining the earth’s resources – and in terms of methods and teaching techniques.

Students of engineering, natural sciences and computer science will learn from each other to develop innovative solutions towards, for instance, climate change, renewable energy, personalised data, water, connectivity and sustainable manufacturing.

E3 will be developed in two stages – first the E3 Learning Foundry to educate more students in the STEM disciplines, and then the E3 Research Institute which will be the centrepiece of a new campus at Grand Canal Dock.

We have ambitious plans for this new campus. In July, the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar launched a far-reaching plan for the creation of the Grand Canal Innovation District in Dublin – we have the Manifesto here. This will be based on successful Innovation Districts in Boston and Amsterdam and will be truly transformative for the city, the country and the Dublin universities involved.

The Innovation District will enable Dublin to scale up interactions between the research community and industry, including with industry in Japan.

The Innovation District will be developed over the next few years. Ahead of that, next March will see the opening of the new Trinity Business School. The finishing stages are currently being put on this state-of-the-art building beside Science Gallery on Pearse Street and the new School will open its doors with a significantly expanded curriculum and world-class research in the fields of international business, finance, management and entrepreneurship. The site will also house Tangent – Trinity’s Ideas Workspace - and incorporate a 600-seat auditorium.

Trinity graduates are already the most entrepreneurial in Europe. This year, for the fourth year running, Trinity was ranked Europe’s number one university for educating entrepreneurs, according to evaluation by research firm, Pitchbook, based on the number of companies founded by graduates.

The new Trinity Business School and the Innovation District will enable staff, students and graduates to become not only European leaders but world leaders in innovation and entrepreneurship.

When we speak about innovation and entrepreneurship, we don’t just mean in science and technology. It goes across all the disciplines we teach. In spring this year we opened the Trinity Centre for Literary and Cultural Translation, in a particularly beautiful renovated Georgian building beside the College. The Centre greatly strengthens Trinity’s commitment to, and our investment in, literature. It is part of our drive to help support a flourishing literary ecosystem which we see as essential for Dublin and Ireland.

The Centre builds on Trinity’s remarkable global ranking in literature and in modern languages. It coordinates literary translation and cultural interpretation across the 17 languages taught in Trinity, including, of course, Japanese.

The Centre benefits from a translator-in-residence who changes annually. This year’s translator-in-residence is the writer, translator and academic, Mikami Hiroko, from Waseda University here in Japan. I’m delighted that she could join us this evening, ahead of taking up his residence in Dublin. Her presence in Dublin this academic year will significantly promote cultural and linguistic links between Ireland and Japan. The Centre holds many public events, as well as running the Masters in Literary Translation, so, not only Trinity, but all of Dublin will benefit from Professor Mikami’s presence.

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E3, the Innovation District, the Business School and the Centre for Literary and Cultural Translation are key instances of the ambition which Trinity brings to its mission in education and research.

I think we can all be proud of the way the college has raised its ambition. I’m certainly proud of how Trinity has performed over the past difficult decade of austerity and downturn. Despite funding issues - not yet resolved – the University has marked up significant successes.

I’m proud to lead a university which punches so far above its weight. On comparatively restricted funding and staffing, we compete with the world’s best.

This is thanks to the creativity, talent and commitment of so many people across the university. And it’s thanks to the strength of our wider community – to you, our alumni.

You give financial support. Many of you help with mentoring students and graduates; you attend college activities and take a keen interest in college developments. Last year several thousand alumni supported Trinity financially with donations as well as volunteering.

We’re most grateful. Quite simply, the university could not develop in the way it has without your support.

As a sign of our appreciation, last year we opened an Alumni Room in East Chapel, just off Front Square. This was enabled by generous philanthropic support and it’s for your use for you to relax in when you visit campus or hold meetings in, so do please avail of it. It is a particularly comfortable and beautiful room.

We want to provide as many opportunities as possible for alumni to maintain contact with Trinity and with each other. Events like tonight’s are one way we do this, and we’ve recently launched two new online initiatives: Trinity Alumni Online and Trinity Talks. Trinity Talks is a curated selection of these talk given by distinguished visitors to the college, and it’s now available online and can be accessed anywhere in the world.

Please do continue to keep in contact online and in person. Drop in whenever you’re in the city centre, use the Alumni Room, come to events.

As we approach the 2020s, we have so many exciting initiatives and plans in place. With your help, we look forward to continuing with the great education, research and innovation that has such impact in Dublin, Ireland and the world.

Thank you.

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