NUI Galway-UL Strategic Alliance to Drive Vital Research and Academic Excellence

Thursday, 18 February 2010

- Direct support for key industry sectors and research strengths - Leading US University to play significant role in technology transfer - Launch of unique student exchange between institutions
NUI Galway and the University of Limerick today (18 February, 2010) announced a Strategic Alliance which will support the development of the wider region to encourage indigenous enterprises and foreign direct investment, strengthen research and industry partnerships, and further a shared commitment to academic excellence. The Alliance will have an international dimension, through a partnership with Georgia Institute of Technology in the US, in the exploitation of research from both Irish universities. At a ceremony in Dublin involving An Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, and the Minister for Education and Science, the Alliance was announced to leaders from a wide range of community, public and political bodies as well as partners from academia and industry. Welcoming the announcement, An Taoiseach Brian Cowen, T.D., said: "NUI Galway and the University of Limerick are demonstrating how working together means working smarter. This Alliance is an exciting new departure for two very progressive Universities. It represents a key building block for our Smart Economy project. And it promises to make a major contribution to economic and social development in this country, at both regional and national levels. The Government strongly supports increased collaboration between higher education institutions and between these institutions and industry. Our universities have a critical role to play as a dynamo energising our Smart Economy with new ideas and creativity. Increased collaboration among our universities - joining forces - greatly helps us to up our game in the intense ongoing global competition to come up with new ideas, new products and new services. The Government is very happy to see that Ireland s universities are coming up to the mark, moving from competition at home to collaboration in competing on the world stage". Key and immediate initiatives resulting from the Alliance include: Supporting key industry sectors
  • Furthering research and education to serve Ireland's biomedical device industry – which employs 24,000 people.
  • Joining forces on research initiatives to provide scientific and technological breakthroughs in the 'green tech' sector.
  • Supporting Ireland as the biggest exporter of software solutions in Europe, by collaborating to remain at the forefront of software development and internet technology research.
Technology Transfer
  • Achieve economies of scale through jointly supporting technology transfer and commercialisation of research.
  • Working to establish a translational research centre with Georgia Institute of Technology for technology transfer.
Academic Excellence
  • Furthering commitment to 4th Level Education through joint development of structured PhD programmes.
  • Facilitating student exchange between the Universities on a modular or semester basis.
  • Creating a new Medical Academy at Portiuncula and Roscommon Hospitals.
  • Planning to facilitate joint academic appointments to maximise student choice.
Civic Engagement
  • Promoting active citizenship through projects such as urban renewal and regeneration.
Shared Services
  • Optimising resources through shared services and focused use of research, teaching and academic support services.
Professor Don Barry, President of the University of Limerick, said: "By forming this Strategic Alliance, we are collaborating in very real and immediate ways, driving scientific and economic progress with a specific focus on industry partnerships and research in the areas of Biomedicine, Energy, ICT and Civic Engagement. "UL and NUI Galway are hubs of educational excellence and research activity. By coming together with a shared vision for the future we will optimise our delivery of world-class research, innovative teaching and service to the community, while being responsive to the needs of our industry partners and to the social, cultural and economic needs of Ireland". Commenting on the new partnership, President of NUI Galway, Dr James J. Browne, said: "The aim of this Alliance is to better support the social and economic development of our wider region by combining the strengths of the two universities to enhance the service we provide to our students, to industry and business partners, and to enhance the international standing of both Universities. Together we can and will achieve more". President Browne added: "The fragmentation of Irish higher education prevents the achievement of critical mass, particularly in research, and slows down the drive towards internationalisation. The future of higher education in Ireland will be best served by a network of collaborating institutions, each of which develops international excellence in appropriate priority areas. The NUI Galway and UL Strategic Alliance is an important step in that direction". The institution-wide Alliance will work across all areas of activity at UL and NUI Galway including teaching, technology transfer, lifelong learning and the provision of services. The Alliance allows for the facilitation of student exchange between the universities. The new Alliance will see NUI Galway and UL collaborate extensively in the area of teaching and learning. Exciting new initiatives include a unique 'Link to Learn' student exchange programme, which will enable students at either university to choose modules from the other institution as part of their programme. Other developments include the creation of a new joint Medical Academy at Portiuncula and Roscommon Hospitals, in addition to the development of a programme of activities to respond to the national objectives of building strong foundations in mathematics and science in primary and second level education. Speaking at the launch, Minister for Education and Science, Mr Batt O'Keefe, T.D., said: "The Framework for the development of a 'Smart Economy' highlighted the key role played by the higher education system in the development of an innovation culture and it set out a challenge to the sector to create new possibilities, through new alliances and new organisational arrangements, to advance our knowledge capacity and generate opportunities for new levels of efficiency, performance, innovation and growth. The Alliance is significant in that it spans all the key areas of activity in the universities including teaching, research, technology transfer, lifelong learning and the provision of services. We know that the quality of our higher education system is critical to Ireland's economic recovery. It is essential that we position the system to fully exploit its potential in producing the smart people and the smart ideas that are required for our smart economy ambitions. I applaud today's announcement by UL and NUI Galway as an important practical contribution to meeting that challenge and as recognition by the two universities of the nature of the response that Ireland needs from its higher education system". A focus of this Strategic Alliance will be industry collaborations in R&D, increased commercialisation and spinouts. UL and NUI Galway continue to exceed international benchmarks for delivery of commercial licences and spinouts per euro invested. In total, NUI Galway and UL have set up 21 spin-out companies over the past four years, with 72 licences and 121 patents filed. By 2015, the Alliance aims to deliver 40 spin-outs, with particular focus on commercialisation in the fields of ICT, Healthcare and Medical Technologies and Energy. Targets also include 450 invention disclosures, 110 licences and to have filed 200 patents. The ICT and Biomedical industries are currently worth €34.2bn annually to the Irish economy, while dependence on imported energy significantly impacts industry and the economy. A cooperative effort focused on these strategically vital areas aims to accelerate the delivery of viable solutions and sustainable industries. Speaking at the announcement, An Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Mary Coughlan, T.D., said: "This proactive and visionary arrangement illustrates the collective determination of both universities to further enhance the economic and social development of the region. I warmly welcome the Alliance as it will serve to encourage growth in indigenous enterprises and foreign direct investment, strengthen research and industry partnerships and further their commitment to academic excellence". "The objective of the Government's STI strategy is to harness the benefits of research collaboration for the benefit of the Irish economy. This is creating a strong cadre of indigenous firms and attracting and further embedding leading multi-national companies here. For example, last year 49% of the IDA's Foreign Direct Investment wins were Research, Development and Innovation related which were valued at €500m. Almost 45% of all enterprises are now engaged in innovation activities in Ireland", the Tánaiste added. The NUI Galway and UL Strategic Alliance is already forging relationships with international partners. Georgia Institute of Technology and the Alliance will work to establish a translational research institute to focus on technology commercialisation with industry partners. Together the three institutions will form a joint Translational Research Institute focused on the application of core technologies and expertise within the partner institutions.
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