Trinity Business Student of the Year Award 2019

Bank of Ireland, House of Lords

9th April 2019

Good evening,

It’s wonderful to be back in this historic chamber for this highlight of the Trinity year.

I thank the Bank of Ireland for their generosity in making this chamber available and for their support and sponsorship of the Award.

This year is particularly special because we’re celebrating the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Award.

A quarter of a century is a long time for any Award to be running, particularly when, as in this case, it’s with the same organisers and the same sponsors - the Trinity Business Alumni and the Bank of Ireland.

This is one of the most sustained and successful of all student awards in Ireland. We are very proud of it and, speaking personally, attending the ceremony, in this wonderful setting, and presenting the Gold Medal to the winner is always one of the highlights of my year.

By a happy coincidence, this year, as we celebrate the Award’s quarter-century, we also celebrate the completion of the new Trinity Business School - the state-of-the-art €80 million euro building which is opening next month.

I say ‘coincidence’ but that’s not quite right – both the longevity of this Award and the opening of the new School come from the same drive; both are testimony to the initiative and achievement of Trinity Business staff, students and alumni. Both speak eloquently to the ambition of the School.

This is a School that goes from strength to strength and is among the most impactful in the university. Trinity has a substantial and growing reputation, globally, for educating in entrepreneurship and innovation. This is evidenced by our ranking, for the fourth year running, as the number 1 university in Europe for educating entrepreneurs – according to evaluation by private equity and venture capital-focused research firm, PitchBook.

And it’s confirmed by the on-going success of our student accelerator, LaunchBox, which has been rated among the world’s best and which some of today’s finalists have participated in.

I’d like to pay tribute to the part that the Business Student of the Year Award has played in creating the successful Business School and the culture of entrepreneurship which we enjoy on campus today. Two and a half decades ago - before anyone was speaking of innovation ecosystems or spin-outs, or indeed LaunchBox or PitchBook - Trinity alumni came together with academic staff and corporate sponsors to find a way to incentivise students to develop their skills and broaden their scope. The aim was simple: to help foster the new generation of entrepreneurs, innovators and business leaders.

There was an understanding that students benefit from mentors outside the college. I thank the Bank, and alumni past and present, for all you have done for our students. I know it’s also of benefit for you to have this connection with the next generation.

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Today we are honouring six undergraduates whose range of activity is remarkable. Between them they have, variously,

  • Represented Trinity, nationally and internationally, at case competitions;
  • Acted as student mentors;
  • Written for college journals and other journals;
  • Led student societies and the Student Managed Fund;
  • Founded start-ups and participated in Accelerator Programmes;
  • Learnt languages and gone on EU and non-EU exchanges;
  • Held positions in venture capital funds;
  • Founded business groups and organised conferences;
  • Interned with global corporations, hedge-funds and tech platforms; and
  • Volunteered and fund-raised.

And all this on top of demanding academic work. And we know that these six students have been short-listed from a much larger pool, whose talent is such that it has been difficult to select.

I thank the Bank of Ireland, the Trinity Business Alumni Association and the Careers Office for conducting the interviews and selecting the candidates. From the Trinity Business School, I thank Kristian Myrseth and his Faculty who were involved the difficult task of shortlisting the candidates. With special thanks to Emma Mooney from the Business School and Sophie O’Halloran and her team from the Bank of Ireland for organising today’s great event here in this great chamber.

Reading the CVs of the six short-listed students, I’ve been struck by the range and diversity of the activities they are involved in. These are students who have hit the ground running, who are constantly seeking to do more, be more, and learn more. Whether it’s studying in Montreal or Singapore; or interning in London, New York or Berlin; or overcoming disability; or reaching out to help other students; or finding innovative ways to fundraise for charity; or founding successful start-ups; or pushing for more equality for under-represented groups – these students are inspirational.

The Dean of Trinity Business School, Professor Andrew Burke, has spoken of the School taking a deep and responsible view of the term ‘business performance’ - for them, this term extends beyond creating profit to include the impact of business on the wider economy and society. If these students’ outlook and performance are representative of their peers, then Professor Burke and the Trinity Business School are to be congratulated for embedding their values so well.

I’m struck by how many of the students this year benefitted from, and are now themselves involved in, student 2 student mentoring. These students have written eloquently of the difference that mentoring made to them and how they are now seeking to give back, by mentoring in their turn.

And mentoring speaks to the wider values of the university. A university is about people and, ultimately, about relationships. Universities like Trinity have a transformative effect on all those who pass through, and on their regions, as on the world-wide network of research and scholarship. The provisional title of Trinity’s next Strategic Plan, which we’ll be launching this autumn, is ‘Community and Connection’.

We’re drawn to this title because it gets across the sense of our global community of students, staff, alumni, industry and civic partners, and friends; and the sense of making connections in education, research, innovation, entrepreneurship and public engagement.

We want our students to feel part of a community which nourishes them; we want them to be open to building connections; and we want them to be part of a cycle of giving, and of creating opportunity.

So it’s inspiring to see that these students have positioned themselves within the wider community and are, already as undergraduates, seeking to make a difference in the broad, societal sense imparted to them by the Trinity Business School.

On this, the 25th anniversary of these Awards, these finalists join previous finalists whose career achievements are testimony to the success of the Award in realising its aims – people like:

  • Dylan Collins, serial entrepreneur and founder of SuperAwesome, a platform that makes the internet safer for children;
  • Alan Foy, CEO of Blueface;
  • Iseult Ward, Founder of FoodCloud; and
  • Oisin Hanrahan – Founder of Handy Technologies, the on-demand ‘gig’ marketplace for the hiring of professionals for household tasks.

And many others who serve as role models, just as these six finalists will serve, in their turn. I congratulate all finalists, past and present. And I congratulate and thank Trinity Alumni, the Trinity Business School, and the Bank of Ireland for 25 years of a wonderful award, outstandingly successful in its aims and reach.

Thank you.

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