University College Cork (UCC) is an internationally competitive, research-led University that plays a key role in the development of Ireland’s knowledge-based economy. Our institutional research strategy focuses on creating and supporting world-leading clusters of researchers, building on the research strengths of the University, and is aligned with key Government strategies including the Strategy for Higher Education to 2030 (Hunt Report), and Ireland’s Strategy for Research and Development, Science and Technology, Innovation 2020.
The UCC Strategic Plan for Research and Innovation, 2013-2017 details a number of performance targets for research and economic development that seek to position UCC and Ireland as an international innovation development hub.
Focusing on 2014/2015, key indicators of research performance remain on a positive trajectory. UCC continues to be one of the best-funded research universities in Ireland with an R&D investment exceeding €90 million, a 15% (€11.5 million) increase over the last 5 years despite a challenging economic environment (Figure 1). Reflecting the pressures on government funding, €26.4 million (29%) of 2014/14 research income was generated from non-exchequer sources. This represents a 48% increase over the same 5 year period, and was primarily driven by a 78% increase in funding from EU programmes (to €14.8 million) and 22% increase in funding from industrial sources (to €6.2 million) (Figures 2 & 3). New award income secured from non-exchequer sources increased dramatically in 2014/2015 (Figures 2 & 3).
Analysis of one of the key research outputs generated from UCC research activity — peer-reviewed research publications — reveals significant growth over the last 10 years. The number of publications, the number of citations to these publications, and the average number of citations per individual publication (a standard measure of bibliometric impact), have all demonstrated a positive growth trajectory in recent years (Figures 4(a)-(c)). This positive growth aligns closely with the significant investment in UCC research activity over the same period.
Further analysis of the impact of UCC research publication outputs, as assessed via a number of different university ranking exercises, reveals a similar theme – a significant increase in the impact of UCC publications as measured by their citation frequency (ie. the number of times a publication is cited by other researchers in the field).
For example, in the recently published CWTS Leiden Ranking Exercise (2015), which ranks 750 universities worldwide focusing on the top 1% most frequently cited publications, UCC was recognized as one of the leading universities worldwide for research. UCC topped the ranking in Ireland, and now holds the 16th position in Europe and 52nd worldwide.
This excellent outcome is consistent with recent performances in other university ranking exercises:
- In the U-Multirank exercise (2015), which surveyed 1,200 higher education institutions from 83 countries, UCC was the top performing university internationally, based on obtaining the highest number of ‘A’ scores – 21 out of 28.
- In the QS World University Rankings by Subject (2015), UCC featured in the top tier globally for 13 subject areas, with Pharmacy & Pharmacology listed in the top 50 worldwide.
- In The Sunday Times Good University Guide (2015), UCC was ranked number 1 in the ‘Research Income per Academic’ category for the 5th year running (Table 1). The guide also noted that the number of research awards secured by UCC researchers had risen by 43%, returning to similar levels achieved prior to the economic downturn.
Looking to the future, UCC researchers now collaborate with over 700 of the world’s top universities across 120 countries and are ideally placed to leverage these collaborations for success in future exchequer and non-exchequer funding programmes.
Horizon 2020 is the current EU framework programme for research and innovation. Launched in December 2013, this €80 billion programme represents a major opportunity for UCC across all disciplines of research. At a national level, the Government has set an ambitious financial draw-down target for the programme of €1.25 billion.
To address these challenges, and to ensure that UCC was positioned appropriately to maximize success, UCC Research Support Services developed the Horizon 2020 Action Plan that set out a strategy to augment and improve existing research supports, develop and implement new targeted supports, with the ambition of providing our researchers with a significant competitive advantage in Horizon 2020.
As of January 2016, UCC researchers had secured 53 Horizon 2020 awards (14 as coordinator and 39 as partner) representing a financial drawdown of €25.4 million. In the wider EU context, for the first time, 4 Irish universities, including UCC, are ranked in the top 50 performing institutions with regard to financial drawdown from Horizon 2020 programmes.
In 2014/15, UCC continued to have strong innovation and knowledge transfer activity across the university (Figure 6). UCC is committed to working with industry as an important partner and contributor as part of our overall research effort. This year, UCC established over 120 new research projects fully or part funded by industry, ranging in scale from €5,000 Innovation Vouchers in collaboration with local enterprises to multi-million multi-annual collaborative programmes with indigenous and multinational companies. The overall value of the industry contributions alone from these projects exceeds €20 million. A consequence of this industry partnership focus is a continued high level of technology transfer to industry, with 20 agreements between UCC and industry, to provide these businesses with the benefit of our intellectual property.
UCC has a track record of establishing spinout companies to capture the economic potential of the university’s intellectual property and expertise. In the previous five years, ten companies have been established specifically based on UCC technologies. This year, UCC established another 3 companies (Figure 6): Respiro R&D Ltd arose from technology developed in the School of Medicine; Exceedence Ltd is commercialising software based on work from the Centre for Marine and Renewable Energy (MaREI); and BARDS Acoustic Science Labs Ltd is being established based on technology from the Department of Chemistry.
2016 marks the 5th anniversary of the IGNITE Graduate Business Innovation Programme. IGNITE is a 9 month programme that supports recent graduates from any 3rd level institution in Ireland to turn an innovative product or service idea into a sustainable, scalable business. The programme combines workshops, seminars and guest speakers, the support of mentors and industry contacts with office space and early seed funding, tailored to the specific needs of each start-up. To date, the programme has supported 50 start-ups involving almost 70 founders. 11 start-ups have progressed to become clients of Enterprise Ireland and many have successfully raised private investment, among them Anabio Technologies Ltd, Vconnecta Ltd and PunditArena. Total employment across the start-ups now exceeds 100 and continues to grow. The programme is funded by Cork City Council, Cork County Council, the Local Enterprise Offices of Cork City and County, Bank of Ireland and University College Cork.
GATEWAY UCC is UCC’s flagship 21 Unit business Incubator and a key element in the infrastructure supporting entrepreneurship in the Region. GATEWAY UCC further provides entrepreneurs and knowledge based start-up companies with a comprehensive business support programme and access to UCC’s research expertise. GATEWAY UCC has supported 30 fledgling start-up companies including spinouts using IP generated in the globally recognised Research Centres such as INFANT, APC and Tyndall (e.g. Atlantia Food Clinical Trials, Luxcel Biosciences and Alimentary Health). These companies have gone on to create 180 jobs.
GATEWAY UCC provides an environment and ecosystem to support entrepreneurs and researchers to start-up and scale their businesses into commercially viable export focussed High Potential Start-ups (HPSU’s). The impact of these jobs to the region is estimated at €13m in wages and €4m in tax revenue per annum to the economy. GATEWAY UCC also provides hot desk spaces for entrepreneurs and emerging start-ups at the pre-start-up stage, providing a stimulating environment to nurture and explore the feasibility of their business opportunity and is fast becoming a hub of knowledge transfer activities in the areas of ICT, Medtech, Food, Pharma, Bio, Wearable Technologies and Renewable Energy.