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involved, and so on.” Given its location on the North Atlantic,
Galway has already staked its claim to marine research. It also
has made a priority of biotechnology, considering the large
numbers of medical and biomedical companies—Medtronic,
Bristol-Myers Squibb, Boston Scientific—in and around
Galway, the fastest-growing city in Ireland. “We’ve been very
strategic in the areas we’ve chosen,” Browne said. Research
income has shot from eight million euros in 2000 to 42
million this year.
Outside the old quadrangle, the gleaming marine science
building, built in 1991 along the River Corrib, already
has a new wing under construction. The nearby National
Center for Biomedical Engineering, built in 2000, is linked
with the information technology department and other
of the university’s divisions through bridges—physical
manifestations of the interdisciplinary work Browne is
talking about. In the sparkling lobby are artists’ conceptions
of 20 more planned projects, including a 50 million euro
engineering and human biology building and an expansion
of the Clinical Sciences Institute, all part of a 400 million euro
“campus of the future” unveiled in December.
The government strategy for forcing universities to focus
on their research strengths has had an extraordinarily quick
impact. “The strongly individualistic streak in the Irish psyche
perhaps makes us not as good at collaboration as other
countries, but the fact is that this is a small country with fewer
resources than some others, making collaboration a necessity,”
said Costello, who, before he left the government to take
over as head of the Irish Universities Association, authored a
policy-shaping plan to increase research by 2013.
“Competitive funding is going to start to bring about
a natural clustering,” Costello said. “That’s going to give
universities an idea of where their main strengths are. In pure
Darwinian terms, that’s going to start to happen.” Added
Trinity’s Hegarty: “The fundamental principle of how we
move forward is to draw disciplines and institutions together.
We’re searching for a model for collaboration. I guess we’re
inventing one: inter-institutional collaboration, which gives
you scale.”
UCD’s Conway Institute of Biomolecular and Biomedical
Research, for example, which Brady was instrumental in
establishing on his return fromHarvard, has made the
university an authority in these areas. Housed in a gleaming
new building, the institute is a model of interdisciplinary
cooperation. “As people started to think of how the building
would work, they almost demanded that they be co-located
with their collaborators,” said Brady. Wyeth Research has since
agreed to locate a new 13 million euro discovery research
group there.
The Center for Synthesis and Chemical Biology is a 26
million euro, UCD-led collaboration in the chemical sciences
that also involves Trinity, and the Royal College of Surgeons
in Ireland, and has attracted 17 million euros in funding for
medical research projects. In all, research projects at UCD
last year totaled 80 million euros, and the university filed 11
patent applications. Its most successful spinoff was for a mad
cow disease test that has earned almost two million euros in
royalty income.
The university also is developing a 30 acre “innovation
park” adjacent to the campus, where incubation space is
already occupied by 23 startup companies, and where the new
National Institute for Bioprocessing Research and Training
(funded by the government to the tune of 90 million euros
over seven years) will conduct pharmaceutical research in
conjunction with Trinity and the Institute of Technology,
Sligo. Ireland’s pharmaceuticals industry employs 20,000
people and accounts for nearly 30 billion euros a year in
exports.
Trinity College has claimed genetics, immunology and
neuroscience as its priority for research, declaring that it will
become a world leader in the field. It has collaborations with
Galway in the humanities and bioengineering, with the Royal
College of Surgeons in Ireland in medicine, with University
College Cork in science and technology, and with seven
other Irish higher education institutions and Bell Labs in
telecommunications.
Research income at Trinity rose from 57 million euros in
2004 to 64 million in 2005, the most recent year for which
the figures are available. A 372 million euro
strategic plan announced in October, aimed
at making it one of the 50 best universities
in the world, calls for emphasizing research,
boosting the number of postgraduate
students by 25 percent to 5,000, and
recruiting 225 new faculty.
This has only worsened opposition from
among the current faculty and students.
Provost Hegarty, the school’s former dean
of research and the head of physics who
also studied, worked and taught in the
United States, has already pushed through
a restructuring program similar to UCD’s, despite resistance,
including a newmanagement system that allows for more
interdisciplinary work while also tying the allocation of
resources to the capacity of departments to generate funding.
“Trinity College is not an institute of technology, we are a
university,” groused the report by the Trinity students’ union
and graduate students’ union. “The Industrial Development
Agency, Enterprise Ireland, and the Department of Enterprise,
Trade and Employment are responsible for creating economic
development, not Trinity College.”
Change is difficult in any organization, Hegarty responded,
but harder in universities, which “are about ideas, and
ownership of ideas, and can be supremely competitive. But
this university has survived revolutions, uprisings, changing
of regimes. The question is, how has it survived all of those
things if universities are so monolithic? Everybody accepts
that you have to prioritize research. There is a recognition that
we have to change as society changes.”
Trinity senior lecturer in economics Sean Barrett is not
convinced of this. One of the harshest critics of the changes at
Irish universities, he believes they could actually increase costs
and lower standards—not to mention shortchange graduates,
given that salaries in areas like research and development and
computing, careers into which the government is trying to
push more students, are relatively low in Ireland. “There is
no evidence from earnings data that increasing the budgets
of physics and engineering departments will enhance either
Spending on
education in Ireland
has soared from 1.74
billion euros a year
in 1990 to six billion
euros a year today.