BaileNuachtAithisc an Taoisigh

Speech by the Taoiseach Enda Kenny TD, Official Opening of the Bernal Institute, University of Limerick, 21st November 2016


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Thank you to President Don Barry for your very kind invitation and to all the staff of University of Limerick for the warm welcome.

It is a privilege for me to be here today to preside over the official opening of the Bernal Institute, which combines the Bernal Project, the Materials and Surface Science Institute and the Stokes Laboratories into a single research institute.

It is important that we mark this milestone not just in the development of the University of Limerick, but indeed, the development of the Mid-West region as a whole.

The concept behind the Bernal Institute was one borne of a desire to develop and build upon this University’s proud tradition in the disciplines of science, energy and engineering. This Institute will ensure that your excellent track record will be sustained and greatly enhanced in the years ahead.

The Bernal Institute is committed to the creation of an innovation ecosystem, with state of the art facilities that will be responsive to emerging opportunities. It will deliver economic and social impacts through the creation and application of knowledge that will enhance the international reputation of the University and the reputation of Irish research at home and abroad.

The innovation ecosystem created by the Institute will support talent development, offering researchers opportunities to collaborate within academia and enterprise. The Institute will enable UL to further develop itself as a national leading and internationally recognised research led university.

The Bernal Institute is named after one of Ireland’s most influential 20th century scientists, John Desmond Bernal. Bernal, who in fact was born not too far from here in Nenagh, Co Tipperary, is widely regarded as the founding father of molecular biology. It is fitting that his memory is now being immortalised in the naming of this research institute of national and international importance.

Indeed, Professor Bernal had a reputation as a selfless supporter and mentor to young scientists. It is especially fitting that the opening of this Institute named in his honour is occurring the day after Ireland’s national Science Week.

For twenty one years, Science Week has promoted science and endeavoured to make it more interesting and accessible to children and adults. It has highlighted how science, technology and engineering are relevant to society in everyday life, can lead to interesting and exciting career options and help develop creativity in children.

It’s important that our young people and wider population are aware of, involved in and interested in STEM. More recently, science, technology, engineering and mathematics are being promoted through the Arts – STEM is expanding into STEAM.

Science Week was also very successful here in Limerick, with the University and other third level institutes playing an organising role in the Limerick Festival of Science. Some of the children and teenagers that took part could very well become members of this Institute in years to come. I think J.D. Bernal would be very proud.

Earlier this month, we also hosted Science Foundation Ireland’s 'Celebration of Science', in Government Buildings. Looking around the room on that day, it seemed clear to me that our scientific and engineering future is very bright. I know the Institute here will play a significant role is fostering and developing this potential.

It would be remiss of me not to thank Science Foundation Ireland for leading our campaigns and programmes in this area.

Research and development, and teaching in the areas of science, energy and engineering are an integral part of this country’s road to economic prosperity and growth, not only in the creation of employment but also in building effective global industry partnerships. It is a key priority for this Government.

That is why last year we launched Innovation 2020 - a five-year strategy on research and development, as well as science and technology. Innovation 2020 sets out the roadmap for continuing progress towards the goal of making Ireland a Global Innovation Leader, driving a strong sustainable economy and a better society.

Ireland continues to enhance its reputation in science and technology. The country is now ranked 10th globally for the quality of our scientific research. The establishment of the Bernal Institute is a positive development for Ireland, and will help drive up our international rankings, as well as the citations of Irish academics.

In delivering this world class research and teaching centre of excellence, the University of Limerick is contributing towards the strategic development priorities of the country, working towards a common goal of economic sustainability, educational advancement and social development.

It will also facilitate students to have the opportunity to successfully provide the skilled and adaptable workforce and the engaged citizenry that Ireland and the global ‘knowledge society’ of the twenty-first century demand.

Exchequer funding of €5m was made available for the project in difficult fiscal circumstances. I am certain that it is an investment that will bear fruit in the years to come. I would also like to recognise the significant support offered to the project by the Atlantic Philanthropies.

For many years, Atlantic Philanthropies has been a valued advocate of educational advancement in Ireland and has played a considerable role in revitalising the higher education sector in particular. For that we are very grateful. Additional funding was provided by UL’s own resources and other private funders who I also wish to acknowledge.

Before I conclude, I would like to pay tribute to the staff and governing body of University of Limerick who have shown determination, perseverance and resolution in delivering these wonderful facilities. I also wish to pay tribute to President Don Barry in advance of his term concluding in April 2017. Many projects have been brought to fruition during his term such as the Graduate Medical School and the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance where UL has expanded into the North Bank of the Shannon.

I would like to thank everyone that has been involved in the procurement and construction of the Bernal Institute and contributed towards the realisation of this project.

Finally, I would like to wish those of you who will work and study here every continued success in your future endeavours. Under the research guidance of Dr. Mary Shire and Prof. Edmond Magner, I have every confidence UL will power ahead in future research.

Thank you again for inviting me to be a part of this important occasion. It gives me enormous pleasure to declare the Bernal Institute officially open. Thank you all very much.