Address at the 2nd Trinity Innovation Awards

The Regent House

Wednesday 19th December 2018, 17.30pm


Thank you, Leonard, and good evening, all, and welcome to the 2nd annual Trinity Innovation Awards.

Innovation is one of the core strengths of this university, and has been for well over a decade.

On all the metrics of innovation:

  • The formation of spin-outs and campus companies,
  • license agreements and industry partnerships,
  • student accelerators,
  • graduate entrepreneurship,
  • success with EU, national and international funding agencies.

On all these metrics, Trinity achieves exceptionally. To give a few figures:

  • Since 2013, we have completed 580 collaborative agreements with Industry, ranging from leading multinationals to indigenous Irish SMES. These agreements include 134 technology licence agreements for transferring technologies;
  • Our talented PIs, who represent only 16 percent of academic staff in Ireland annually win over 30 percent of national funding, over 25 percent of Horizon 2020 funding coming into Ireland, and a whopping 50 percent of European Research Council grants.
  • Our academic community produce one fifth of University spin-outs in Ireland. This year alone we have created six new companies which you will hear about later.
  • For the the fourth year running, Pitchbook has ranked Trinity number 1 in Europe for educating graduates who go on to become successful entrepreneurs as measured by the level of VC-backed ventures.
  • Our student accelerator, LaunchBox, goes from strength to strength, with last year’s winner, Equine MediRecords, picking up two awards this year in Europe and Ireland.


These are the metrics, all excellent.

And behind these figures – behind the company formation and job creation and tech transfer and grants and awards – are real impacts, societal, political, economic, and cultural. Innovation is about improving people’s lives and improving our way of being on the planet. Every spin-out and every product tells a story and I wish I had time to talk about them all.  

It’s Trinity’s multidisciplinarity and our attention to all facets of innovation and to the full ‘innovation lifecycle’, from fundamental blue-skies research through to commercialisation, from undergraduates starting out to professor at the top of their game, that accounts for our success in innovation.

In Trinity we encourage innovation and creativity from the outset of college life, and we have put in place the programmes, strategies and structures to enable innovation to happen at all levels. Leonard has mentioned for us the ways in which TR&I facilitate the translation of knowledge. This is an area where we’re constantly developing and evolving – as is right because innovation in the 21st century does not stand still.

This year has been a particularly exciting one for innovation: following an ‘innovation ecosystem’ visit to Boston in March, where we visited MIT and CIC, we announced in July our intention to create a Grand Canal Innovation District centred on the Trinity Campus at Grand Canal Dock. Trinity has been the driving force for this in a group which includes government and other Dublin universities. We are proud of our vision and ambition. We’re delighted that government and UCD, DCU, and DIT have come on board as partners. If done right, this will be a game-changer for innovation in Trinity, Dublin and Ireland.

Our ambition to create an Innovation District was inspired by what Trinity has achieved so far. We have confidence in the creativity, innovation, entrepreneurship and vision of staff, students and alumni, and we believe they should be facilitated through an Innovation District to make even greater impact.

Ahead of the innovation district, we will be opening, in just a few years’ time, the E3 Learning Foundry, to be followed by the E3 Research Institute on the Trinity campus at Grand Canal Dock. E3 will hugely strengthen innovation in the university, particularly of course in Engineering, computer science, natural sciences, including environmental science. It will bring focus and a new interdisciplinary approach to areas where we are in particular need of innovation: areas like climate change, renewable energy, personalised data, water, connectivity and sustainable manufacturing.

In another game-changer, the new Trinity Business School is due to open in a few months’ time on Pearse Street, to be co-located with Tangent, Trinity’s Ideas Workspace. A top-ranked Business School is a central piece in Trinity’s remarkable innovation story, and I believe this will help transform the university.

It’s against this exciting background of achievement and ambition that we celebrate this year’s Innovation Awards.

In Trinity we have many ways of recognising staff achievement – through promotion for instance and through asking people to take on more responsibility!

But since the creation of the Provost’s Teaching Awards in 2001, we have increasingly also sought to recognise exceptional achievement through awards including the Global Engagement Awards, the Professional Staff Awards, and now the Trinity Innovation Awards.

We have seven categories of award for innovation including Lifetime Achievement. It goes without saying that competition for these awards has been intense given how much talent we are choosing from. As with all our Awards, being nominated, or noted, is very much an achievement.

It’s vitally important to recognise outstanding individuals. But the wider significance of these awards is that they give the college and board the opportunity to put emphasis on innovation, and to measure and evaluate how it is impacting the university. The different award categories allow us to track different kinds of innovation and people at different stages of their careers.

Innovation is a community activity. There are many people to thank tonight for their support for these awards and for innovation in Trinity:

  • Knowledge Transfer Ireland and Enterprise Ireland for supporting the technology transfer unit within Trinity;
  • The national and international funding agencies;
  • The IDA for their active collaboration in engaging companies. The industry groups AmCham, IBEC, AsiaMatters and the Ireland Canada Business Association; and
  • Our Industry partners, who support and collaborate with our Schools, Institutes and Research Centers; and
  • A special word of thanks to Atlantic Bridge for the sponsorship of tonight’s event and for their ongoing collaboration with the Bridge Fund.

And I thank finally all our winners and nominees and indeed all staff who are constantly seeking ways to make their research impactful. The difference you make is immense and your lead is inspirational.

Thank you

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