UCC: Fostering an Ethos of Innovation, Research & Industry Collaboration
2016 has dawned brightly for University College Cork (UCC), being named The Sunday Times University of the Year for a record-breaking fourth time. Following its triumphs in 2003, 2005 and 2011, the guide noted UCC’s growing international reputation based on its high performance in research, and exceptional track record in innovation
Coming as it does during the celebration of the life and legacy of George Boole, the award recognised UCC’s tradition of independent thinking, and particularly the ability of its researchers to generate research income, which totalled over €83m last year. “It is very gratifying to see the work we do across the teaching and research space recognised, being at the cutting edge in the generation of new knowledge at an international level, as well as the work we undertake in collaboration with enterprise partners,” says Professor Anita R. Maguire, Vice President for Research and Innovation, who is actively engaged in research, STI policy, academic industry collaboration and strategic development of the pharmaceutical industry. “All of these activities have come together in a complex mix, and being named University of the Year is a recognition of the successful delivery across all of those aspects.”
From a research performance perspective, the 2015 CWTS Leiden Ranking exercise, which ranks 750 universities worldwide focusing on the top 1% most frequently cited publications, UCC was the foremost institution in Ireland, holding 16th position in Europe and 52nd worldwide. This recognition was consistent with recent performances in other ranking exercises, including the European Commission’s U-Multirank, which surveyed 1,200 higher education institutions from 83 countries. In this analysis, UCC was the top performing university internationally, based on obtaining the highest number of ‘A’ scores, with 21 out of 28.
“We are very fortunate at UCC, being at the heart of such a major cluster of multinational companies, which is an extremely important strength and opportunity for the University,” Professor Maguire explains. “Our role in continuing to supply the graduates with the appropriate skills these companies need, not just for today but in five and ten years’ time, is obviously very important. Added to that is the role we play as research partner, which has seen very strong and important long term collaborations developed between our key researchers and many of these companies in the region - relationships that have been extremely rewarding to both parties. That initial connection fostered between UCC and the company’s site here in Ireland often develops over time into a greater collaboration with its research headquarters in the US and elsewhere. At that level, there is a huge generation of knowledge and sharing of expertise which has become particularly significant over the last decade as these Irish multinationals have moved from basic manufacturing sites into roles of greater strategic importance globally.”
The inaugural issue of the Global Entrepreneurship Network Magazine, distributed by the Financial Times worldwide, highlighted Ireland and UCC as a hub for innovation, new ideas, start-ups and creativity. The GEN initiative is ‘a new voice for promoting entrepreneurial growth and support start-ups around the world,’ and featured a foreword by U.S. President Barack Obama. “As one of the main participants featuring in the GEN magazine, UCC is delighted to be part of this important initiative that helps promote Ireland as a global hub for entrepreneurship, innovation and business. The focus is collaboration between research, education, entrepreneurs, industry, and Government to advance the entrepreneurship eco-system in Ireland on the global stage.”
Alimentary Health, a specialist microbiome research company based in Cork, and a founding member of the APC Microbiome Institute at UCC, received global recognition in 2015 as one of the world’s leading institutions in probiotic research, the gut microbiome and its role in Irritable Bowel Syndrome and other areas of gastrointestinal health. The company was the winner of the SME category in the inaugural US-Ireland Research Innovation Awards for its work bringing a patented Irish probiotic, discovered in UCC, to the international marketplace. The awards were established to recognise excellence in research innovation that has taken place on the island of Ireland as a result of US foreign direct investment. UCC was nominated in the HEI category for its institutional links through an innovative partnership between the team led by Professor Maguire and Lilly, of Kinsale & Indianapolis.
In an initiative begun in 2012, UCC is a participant in 11 of the 12 Research Centres established by Science Foundation Ireland in the largest joint state/industry research investment in Irish history. State investment of €355m is matched by a contribution of some €190m from over 200enterprise partners. The research centres led by UCC are: the Irish Photonic Integration Research Centre (IPIC) at Tyndall National Institute; the APC Microbiome Institute; The Centre for Marine and Renewable Energy– MaREI; and INFANT, the Irish Centre for Fetal and Neonatal Translational Research, in addition to co-leading Insight with three other universities. “Having this level of investment in UCC really underpins the excellence of our research activity. The scope and the complexity of the research programmes and the industry interface - these are the elements that make it all so rewarding.”
UCC researchers now collaborate with over 700 of the world’s top Universities across 120 countries. Professor Maguire encapsulated the University’s success as a unique combination of world-leading researchers, internationally competitive research infrastructure, trans-disciplinary activity and extensive industrial partnership. “This complex combination not only provides the bedrock for sustained success in the generation of non-exchequer income and the development of enterprise, but also provides the agility to respond rapidly to emerging areas of national and international strategic priority.”