A vision for 'Ireland's University of Enterprise'

Ed Forry

The president of Dublin City University, Brian MacCraith, visited Boston on Oct. 17 to develop academic and technology partnerships. The holder of a PhD from NUI Galway, Dr. MacCraith, who began his ten-year presidential term in last year, has been a professor of physics and director of DCU's Biomedical Diagnostics Institute.

Last month, he was guest of honor at a luncheon hosted by Joe Leary's Irish American Partnership, which has been supporting educational programs across the island of Ireland. At the luncheon, Dr. MacCraith told a story of his rapidly growing university, now 22 years old with 12,000 students, which specializes in science and math.

"My strong focus is on enterprise," he told the gathering. "We are not a traditional university, but very much focused on the sciences, technology, engineering, math." He called DCU "Ireland's University of Enterprise."

He said that Martin McAleese had recently been appointed university chancellor. "He agreed to take on the role for the next five years. That's hugely important for us and a very strong endorsement of the sort of university that we are.

"My vision of the university is one that focuses on the region of Ireland that is north of Dublin, all along the Eastern corridor across the border to Belfast," said MacCraith. "That zone by 2020 will have in it over 60 percent of Ireland's population, and will generate close to 70 percent of Ireland's GDP. It's a really burgeoning region. We're the only university in that region, and working with our colleagues across the border, development of that region will be crucial to the future, making sure that our kids get into the university and making sure that we translate the knowledge we discover at the university into jobs. There's only one thing Ireland needs at the moment, and that's jobs, so we align very closely the national priorities with the university agenda. I would call it a pragmatic form of patriotism."

MacCraith's description of the region along Ireland's east coast is similar to the high population density of the American east coast, from Boston to Washington, DC.

There are "a lot of similarities" to the Northeast corridor, he said. "In Ireland that's where people are coming to in terms of economic opportunity. At the moment the highest density of employment in the country is within a ten-mile radius of Dublin airport. All along that zone you're going to find people gravitating to there. Effectively, the Dublin suburbs are going to stretch to Newry and down into Wicklow. There are unique opportunities to develop in that region."

MacCraith cited a proposal to build a clean technology center adjacent to DCU, "a five- minute walk from our campus, to bring in clusters of companies, a bit like the medical devices [on Ireland's west coast].

He said he envisions establishing a research triangle park (RTP) near the campus, similar to the biomedical RTP park in North Carolina "You can do that right along that corridor to the north," he mused.

During his brief Boston stay, McCraith, who was named one of the "Top 10 Educators in Ireland" in a recent Irish Times survey, visited with officials at Northeastern University, and with UMass Lowell Chancellor Marty Meehan at the Center for Irish Partnerships. After Boston he flew west to meet with colleagues at Arizona State University.