Knowledge, Research & Innovation University Research Across Ireland

Formula for Excellence: Grand Vision and Big Bets

Republic of Ireland | Northern Ireland | 1996-2006

Guided by founder Chuck Feeney’s vision, Atlantic made a number of investments over the years designed to strengthen university systems in Ireland and Northern Ireland.

But of all of them, the Programme for Research in Third Level Institutions (PRTLI), stands apart for two reasons.

First, Feeney personally got then Prime Minister Bertie Ahern to agree that the Irish government would be a co-funder with Atlantic. As he told Ahern, “Look, frankly you’ve got to invest in research.”

Second, the program went beyond helping turn seven Irish universities and the Royal College of Surgeons into international quality research institutions. It also contributed to the prosperity of Ireland by fostering the growth of a knowledge economy.

Based on PRTLI’s success in the Republic of Ireland, Atlantic launched a similar collaboration with the government in Northern Ireland called Support Programme for University Research (SPUR).

Watch: Atlantic's Founding Chairman Chuck Feeney is well known in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland for his investments to support education and international quality university research in Irish society.

Brightening the Research Landscape

Atlantic contributed $262 million to PRTLI and the government provided $1.3 billion. Here are some results:

Big Return on Investment

According to a 2011 independent study by PA Consulting, PRTLI has resulted in a direct commercial return on investment of €1.8 billion ($2.4 billion), in addition to significant research infrastructure, jobs and indirect economic benefits.

Boom in Buildings and Jobs

PRTLI provided for approximately 1.1 million square feet of new research facilities, 46 research institutions or programs, 1,000 research positions and 1,600 new postgraduate positions.

Competition for the Greater Good

Unlike more conventional research funding, academic institutions taking part in PRTLI and SPUR selected their own research strategies, not the government or Atlantic, helping create a culture of strategic research planning at all participating institutions.

An Investment in Knowledge

Atlantic’s investments in Ireland’s universities grew out of Chuck Feeney’s belief they would help the country develop a knowledge economy needed to compete in the world. While not averse to making big bets, in this case the fact that Ireland had some excellent heads of universities mitigated the risks. He was right: those people built PRTLI into an initiative that produces world class research and PhDs.

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