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Revolutionising Research and Higher Education

Resource type: News

The Atlantic Philanthropies |

Researcher in LabIn a recent Irish Times article, Conor O’Clery tells the story of how, in the late 1990s, Atlantic struck a deal with the Irish Government to jointly invest in post-graduate research. 

Back then, Atlantic Founding Chairman Chuck Feeney envisioned a quantum leap to help create a knowledge economy and provide young people with modern skills for better jobs. He chose research because of his conviction that Ireland’s future prosperity depended on its ability to generate new knowledge. 

Atlantic and the Irish Government developed a plan to co-fund a major new research initiative – the Programme for Research in Third Level Institutions (PRTLI) – with Atlantic providing half of the funding for the first cycle of basic university research of international standard. Through five cycles, Atlantic invested €178 million ($247.5 million), or 16 per cent, of the more than €1.1 billion ($1.5 billion) to fund the PRTLI through 2015.

Years later, this investment has paid off hugely for the Republic of Ireland and Atlantic by leading to a revolution in research and serving as a catalyst for growth.  According to an independent study carried out in 2011 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. 

NYC Tech CampusToday, Atlantic’s $350 million (€264.8 million) support for Cornell University’s NYC Tech Campus continues the Founding Chairman’s longstanding tradition of investing in transformational higher education and research projects like the PRTLI. 

“This is a once in a generation opportunity for Cornell University and Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, together with the City of New York, to create economic and educational opportunity on a  transformational scale,” Mr. Feeney said.

The NYC Tech Campus initiative will turn more than 10 acres of Roosevelt Island into an engineering and applied sciences campus organised around interdisciplinary hubs of learning. It will create up to 20,000 construction jobs in the city and be a magnet for world-class researchers, young entrepreneurs and business incubators.


Learn More

> Read Conor O’Clery’s story in The Irish Times, 27 February 2012 

> Read Atlantic’s Stories of Impact: Programme for Research in Third Level Institutions

> Slideshow: The Programme for Research in Third Level Institutions

> Learn about the Atlantic’s recent investment in Cornell’s NYC Tech Campus

Conor O’Clery is the author of Chuck Feeney’s biography, The Billionaire Who Wasn’t.


In this short excerpt from Secret Billionaire: The Chuck Feeney Story, Don Thornhill, Chairman of Ireland’s Higher Education Authority from 1998 – 2005 and a key player in the Programme for Research in Third Level Education, reflects on how Atlantic Founding Chairman Chuck Feeney inspired Ireland to “think big.”