CONNECT Centre Site Review

Freemason's Hall, Molesworth Street

10th April 2019

Good morning, and welcome to the CONNECT Centre Site Review.

On behalf of Trinity, it’s my pleasure to welcome here the CONNECT team members and staff from SFI. And in particular, to welcome the independent, international expert review panel of eight reviewers who have flown in from the US, Canada, Germany and the UK. We thank you for the time and expertise you are giving this important Site Review.

CONNECT - the SFI Research Centre for Future Networks and Communications - is Ireland’s most distributed research centre. It is spread across ten higher education institutions in Ireland to create a one-stop-shop for telecommunications research, development and innovation. We’re proud to host CONNECT in Trinity, and we’re proud that the Centre draws on the best talent from across Ireland’s higher education sector to create a critical mass of excellence which helps make the ICT industry in Ireland ‘sticky’ and which is capable of attracting industry partnership at a significant scale.

CONNECT was launched just four years ago. In that time the Centre’s industry engagement, its success in attracting European funding, and its high number of postgraduates has been exceptional. Let’s quickly go through some of the achievements of CONNECT over the past four years:

  • CONNECT attracts top talent from all over the world, and the people it trains stay in Ireland: about two thirds of researchers moved here from abroad and 70 percent of CONNECT’s PhD graduates and postdocs who join industry do so in Ireland.
  • CONNECT’s team of investigators include 6 IEEE Fellows, 3 members of the Royal Irish Academy, 7 Trinity Fellows, 3 IEEE Distinguished Lecturers, and 1 Oscar award winner.
  • CONNECT influences public policy, including authoring a study that was very influential in setting the European Commission’s 5G programme (the study was mentioned by Jean-Claude Juncker). Prof Linda Doyle chairs OFCOM’s spectrum advisory board, contributing to spectrum policy in the UK.
  • Over 30 industry partners, ranging from SMEs to multinationals, are engaged in collaborative projects with CONNECT researchers. CONNECT has to date brought almost 5 million euro in cash contributions from industry.
  • CONNECT has brought to Ireland 17 million euro in Horizon 2020 funding, including the largest European project (and I mean largest in terms of funding) that Trinity College has ever had - the EDGE project, a Marie Curie programme for attracting and training postdocs.

All of this in just four years. CONNECT is central to the higher education and research landscape in Ireland and Europe. I congratulate and thank SFI for their vision in establishing this Centre. And I congratulate the former and current directors of CONNECT: Linda Doyle and Luiz DaSilva. Their leadership has been exceptional and CONNECT’s success is also testimony to the commitment, talent and enthusiasm of its PIs, postgrads and postdocs.

Nine months ago, in July last, the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, formally launched the plan for the creation of a globally competitive innovation district for Ireland, centred on a new Trinity tech campus to be developed at Grand Canal Dock.

To this end, Trinity is working in partnership with government and key state agencies, together with other Dublin universities: UCD, DCU and TU Dublin.

Trinity will develop a tech campus that will help position Ireland as a research and innovation leader.

CONNECT is key to this initiative. In its first phase, CONNECT has proved that universities and higher education institutions in Ireland collaborate excellently with each other, and with industry, to attract strong funding, deliver key research outcomes, and provide training to postgrads in a tech area vital to the economy. The success of the Grand Canal Innovation District will rely on just such collaboration and expertise, on an even wider scale.

The CONNECT Phase 2 proposal for 2021 to 2026 – which will be looked at during this review – is ambitious and exciting, and it will be further supported by our plans for the Grand Canal Innovation District.

The Taoiseach has stated his ambition for Ireland to be a tech capital for Europe. Realising this ambition is about drawing from, and building on, the success of initiatives like CONNECT.   

In Trinity we want to continue working with our partners to be at the forefront of creating a transformative future for Ireland and Europe. I wish everyone a useful and impactful few days in this key site review.

Thank you

*    *    *