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Reception for winners of the Provost's PhD Awards 2018

Saloon in the Provost’s House

Tuesday 16th October, 6pm

Good evening,

And welcome, all, to the Saloon in the Provost’s House for this celebration of the first year of the Provost’s PhD Project Awards.

This time last year nearly 200 applications from Assistant and Associate Professors, across the university, were received for forty awards. The applications were of exceptionally high quality and I know, from the selection committee that it was no easy task to decide amongst them. The 40 projects, finally chosen, were from PIs from all three faculties and many different Schools. They showcase the range, depth and quality of research in Trinity.

The successful PIs have now found outstanding PhD students to work with them on these projects. So today we celebrate:

  • the creation of these Awards, and the generosity of the alumni who are funding them;
  • the selection panel of senior academics;
  • the successful PIs, and of course
  • our new PhDs whose energy, brilliance and creativity will be such a boost to the whole Trinity community.

I’m delighted to have this opportunity of meeting the new PhDs and I look forward to talking to each of you individually and hearing about your research.

I hope it will be a source of strength and inspiration to you that you are coming to work with professors on projects which have been very carefully selected in a very competitive process. Your research topic has been identified as particularly cutting-edge and interesting, dealing with issues that are important globally and link to the university’s research themes.

I hope that you will avail of all opportunities to make connections across the university and to build your careers.

The creation of these Awards is one of the ways in which Trinity conveys pride and investment in our postgrads and their research.

Research is the core of what we do. Last year Trinity won €100.6 million euro in research funding. Four years ago, that figure was €74 million. In less than five years we increased our research revenue by one third – and it was already by far the highest in Ireland.

To take the example of one important funding body - European Research Council grants - Trinity has won half of all Irish ERC grants, even though we only have 16 percent of Ireland’s academic faculty.

Trinity staff compete with the very best of Europe. Out of the 23 members of LERU, the League of European Research Universities, Trinity is placed 14th in terms of winning ERC grants, which is good, but when it comes to ERC grants per academic staff, we are fourth – just behind Cambridge, Oxford and Imperial.

Our staff perform exceptionally and are particularly deserving of support.

However, finding resources can be a challenge. There are multiple funding demands on the university. Last week, for instance, we got the welcome news of a €100 million euro loan from the EIB. This money is already allocated. It will go to:

  • funding the new Engineering, Environment and Emerging Technology Institute, E3;
  • New student accommodation;
  • Expansion of the School of Law; and
  • Refurbishing the Arts Block.

These four vital initiatives were selected amongst many. In Ireland funding to third-level remains constrained. There are always more initiatives than funds.

But research must be prioritised, and new postgrads must be enabled against a backdrop of rising rental costs in Dublin. So the decision was taken last year to offer 40 funded projects to Principal Investigators across all faculties,

Funding for these Awards have come from two sources:

  • Unrestricted alumni donations, and
  • Profits derived from the Commercial Revenue Unit, the CRU.

I would like to thank both Trinity Development and Alumni and the CRU for sourcing the funds to make these research project awards possible.

Alumni are, of course, indispensable members of the Trinity community. The university could not develop in the way it does without alumni support, and we are most heartened and grateful for their support for these vital research projects.

I would also like to thank the selection panel of senior academics who reviewed the applications this year and last: Professors Paul O’Grady, John Saeed, Linda Doyle, Johnny Coleman, Catherine Comiskey and Aideen Long; and the chair of the panel, the Dean of Graduate Studies, Professor Neville Cox. And to Catherine Allen and Helen Thornbury in the Dean’s office who dealt with the considerable administration. Thank you all for your expertise and commitment.

I understand that there has been a large number of high-quality applications for the next round of projects. The final decision will be taken at the end of November. I really look forward to seeing what projects will be supported.

Our hope is that this scheme can not only continue to run for future years but can be expanded. It is a pity to have to turn down outstanding projects for want of funds. Quality is in abundance; the University hopes to support more exceptional PIs and bring more talented postgrads to campus.

In conclusion, congratulations to our PIs and our new PhDs. I wish you all the very best of luck. And I speak for the whole Trinity community when I say that we await with anticipation and excitement the findings of your research.

Thank you.


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