Reception for Trinity Alumni & Friends in Sydney

Old Restaurant, The Old Rum Store, Kensington St, Chippendale, Sydney
Thursday 25th October 2018, 5.30pm

Thank you, Eithne1, for those kind words, and Stanley2 thank you so much for hosting and welcoming us here this evening.

And to all of you, many thanks for being here. A special welcome to His Excellency Breandán Ó Caollaí, Ambassador of Ireland to Australia, and to Patrick O’Donovan, T.D., Minister of State at the Departments of Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform, who is in Australia representing the Government of Ireland at the International Commemoration of the Great Irish Famine. Also Owen Feeney, Consul-General here in Sydney, and a Trinity graduate!

It’s wonderful to be back in Sydney. I was last here four years ago, in 2014, when I also had the pleasure of meeting alumni and friends. Perhaps some of you were there on that occasion; I look forward to renewing our acquaintance.

Sydney is a very special place for me and for Trinity. This city has one of the most vibrant of all our alumni communities, and that’s really reflected by our numbers here tonight.

And the numbers are reflective of the strength of the local branch here. I want to thank Eithne, and Dylan Carroll, Hannah Fraser, Herbert Down and Andrea Farrell for the energy and dynamism which you bring to running this branch. The annual gala dinner, I know, is a particular feature. Trinity gains so much from having such committed alumni.

Our host tonight, Stanley Quek, is a particularly committed alumnus. A graduate of our medical school, he’s a property developer and philanthropist - his most iconic project is probably the development of the Central Park area here in Sydney. He is a wonderful supporter of our college initiatives; and his generosity in hosting this reception here in his own restaurant is typical. Thank you, Stanley.

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I am here this time in Australia for a nice, long trip – 2 weeks and I’ll be visiting the major cities, re-connecting with Australian universities and with industry. Tomorrow myself or members of my team will be visiting the Universities of Sydney and UNSW to discuss opportunities for further student exchanges and research collaborations. Later in the trip, we are signing a new exchange agreement with Monash University and renewing our formal agreements with the University of Melbourne and preparing for the opening of Science Gallery Melbourne in 2020. This will be second of our global Science Galleries to open – Science Gallery at King’s College London opened just a month ago, and planning is well advanced for Bangalore, Venice, Detroit, and, most recently, Rotterdam.

Our links with Australia are ever increasing. We’re delighted to be working in partnership with the Ireland Funds Australia on several projects including Scholarships for MBA students, and recently, on the 25th of September last, a dinner to discuss the Cancer Institute was held.

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In our time together this evening, I’d like to fill you in briefly on how Trinity is doing – what we have achieved and what we look forward to achieving. And I’d like to say a few words about the Philanthropic Campaign which we’ll be launching shortly.

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For me, a few achievements really stand out this year. In May, we made our formal announcement of our plan to build a new Engineering, Environment and Emerging Technologies Institute, which we’re calling E3.

E3 will be a game-changer. It will educate students of engineering, natural sciences and computer science to address the challenges of a liveable planet. It will be transformative both in terms of content - with more focus on sustainability – and in terms of methods and teaching techniques.

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

E3 is a truly ambitious initiative and we’ve already raised over 40 million of the 60 million euro needed, thanks to state support and philanthropy, including the largest single philanthropic gift in the history of the Irish state – €25 million euro from the Naughton family.

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.

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. The new School will open its doors in March 2019.

Underpinning E3, the Business School, the Innovation District and all our ambitious initiatives is Trinity’s remarkable achievements in research.

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 have increased our research revenue by one third.

Looking at our success in winning awards from major funding bodies such as the European Commission’s Horizon 2020, the European Research Council and the Irish Research Council – Trinity consistently outperforms other Irish universities by a considerable distance, and not only Irish universities.

In terms of European Research Council grants won per academic staff, Trinity comes in just behind Cambridge, Oxford and Imperial College London.

And Trinity has nowhere near the public funding of those three universities. For our staff to be so competitive in the winning of grants shows how truly exceptional is the research being carried out in Trinity.

Confirmation that our research is world-class gives us the confidence to plan major initiatives for the university. And it gives us confidence to ask friends and alumni for support for those initiatives.

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In six months’ time we will be launching the first comprehensive Philanthropic Campaign in Trinity’s history. The Campaign will go across the university focusing on people and projects.

This Campaign has been a long time in the planning. I’ve been helped with it by the Provost’s Council, which is an advisory group of influential global alumni and friends, established three years ago. Two Provost Council members are here today: Stanley Quek and Yvonne Le Bas. The Provost’s Council is small - having two members based in Australia shows this region’s importance to the college.

Together with the Provost’s Council, the Trinity Board has agreed on the approach of the Philanthropic Campaign. In addition to capital projects, we want the Campaign to invest in people, and in our access programme. Trinity is emerging as a world leader in creating pathways for students from disadvantaged and non-traditional backgrounds to proceed to third-level education. The Trinity Access Programme, also called ‘TAP’, is central to our mission in education and research, as is our belief that all students of aptitude and ability should have the opportunity to proceed to third-level no matter what their background or circumstances are.

In addition to E3, which I’ve already mentioned, let me say a brief word about two other flagship initiatives: the Library and the Trinity St James Cancer Institute.

Trinity’s Library, is of course, unique. We have the only copies in the world of certain early, medieval and renaissance manuscripts, including the UNESCO heritage treasure, the Book of Kells.

It’s impossible to imagine Trinity without these treasures. And we are acutely conscious of our duty of care – to Ireland, to world heritage, to future generations. These manuscripts are unique. Should they be lost, something of the world’s greatness is lost.

We have a double duty – to conserve and to share our unique holdings. And when we talk about ‘sharing’ that means physically and digitally. Scholars must be able to view our priceless manuscripts online, and to consult them on campus in person.

The Philanthropic Campaign will focus on:

  • conserving the Old Library Building, the Long Room and its holdings;
  • fully digitising our online collections; and
  • creating a Manuscripts Study Centre.

I want this study centre to go into the ground floor of the Old Library. The thousands of visitors who queue to see the Book of Kells weekly should file past a beautiful room, with scholars from around the world bent over priceless manuscripts.

The Trinity St James Cancer Institute links the university with the hospital. It brings together medics, oncology researchers and PIs like nurses, dieticians and physiotherapists working in patient-centred research and care. The institute already exists virtually insofar as these practitioners and researchers are already working across Trinity and St James. The goal is to establish the essential pathways and linkages to facilitate discovery and speed up the transition of treatments to patients.

Of course, we don’t want to create just any centre. This is our opportunity to create a comprehensive cancer centre of excellence.

It’s also our opportunity to contribute to the global search for cancer cures and improvements in treatment.

It’s not easy to make an impact globally in cancer research because this is a an area of high global interest and investment. But in Trinity I think we can genuinely make a global contribution because of our leadership in immuno-oncology. We are ranked in the top 1% of immunology research globally, and through the Trinity St James Cancer Institute, we can translate this into patient care in a potentially transformative way.

To be able to say in five, ten, fifteen years that in Trinity we pioneered immune-oncology, developing individualised and customised patient-centred cancer care with fewer side-effects than traditional treatments – that is going to be an amazing moment for all of us. 

It can happen if – as with the Trinity Business School and as with E3 – we secure sufficient philanthropy to leverage state support and loans.

Philanthropy and state investment are mutually enforcing. With the Philanthropic Campaign, we do not expect our projects to rely solely on philanthropy. Donors do not, and should not, give money to replace exchequer money. They donate as part of a bigger investment plan.

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With the Philanthropic Campaign, we are inviting alumni and friends to be part of something vital for the university and for Dublin, Ireland and
global research.

We launch this campaign because we are confident, as I’ve said, in Trinity’s research and education success. We ask support for a university that has proved itself time again.

And we are confident in launching this campaign because we know we can count on such exceptional graduates.

Trinity could not have developed in the way it has without the support of our alumni.

Graduates like yourselves have remained so engaged with the college, joining alumni branches, attending events like these, returning to campus on visits, and staying connected through the alumni office.

Many of you give financial support through the University of Dublin Fund, and through funding scholarships and access programmes. You help with mentoring students and graduates and take a keen interest in college developments.

We are hugely grateful. As a sign of our appreciation, last year we opened an Alumni Room in Front Square. This was enabled by generous philanthropic support and it’s for your use for you to relax in or hold meetings in, so do please avail of it whenever you’re in Dublin. It’s a particularly comfortable and beautiful room.

And last year, to commemorate the college’s 425th anniversary, we brought out this book of photos taken by students, staff and alumni, with an introductory essay by myself, in which I walk around campus.

We’ve brought along a quite a few copies of the book, which I’d be delighted to sign. The photos – all taken in the 425th year just gone by – will I hope bring back great memories.

I thank you all for your commitment to Trinity, for coming here tonight and giving me the chance to meet you. Please do continue to stay in touch – online and in person whenever you’re in Dublin.

Trinity has so many exciting initiatives and plans for the future. 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.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Minister O’Donovan would now like to address you.

Thank you.

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1 Eithne McSwiney (Business & Political Science, 1998)

2 Dr Stanley Quek (Medicine, 1972) & Provost’s Council member