Programme for Research in Third Level Institutions (PRTLI)
Resource type: Grantee Story
The University College Dublin Foundation Limited received PRTLI grants, described below, from The Atlantic Philanthropies and Higher Education Authority for support for the Centre for Synthesis and Chemical Biology and the Molecular Medicine Centre.
Taking a big risk in grantmaking has paid off hugely for Ireland and Atlantic by creating a competitive strategic research environment.
By 1996, Atlantic had made major contributions to the country’s university educational infrastructure. Yet, Chuck Feeney, our Founding Chairman, 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.
At that time, universities lacked such public funding. So many researchers went abroad that a Nobel physicist, Professor Richard Taylor of Stanford University in California said it would be possible to establish at least one more first-class university in Ireland…“if only one could repatriate the best people who have gone abroad.” 
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.
All seven Irish universities and the Royal College of Surgeons now have state-of-the-art buildings and equipment and compete for public research grants. PRTLI investments in Cycles 1-4 have provided for approximately 100,000 square metres (1.1 million square feet) of new research facilities, 37 new physical research centres, 1,000 research positions and 1,600 new post-graduate positions.
The PRTLI has always insisted on strengthening the linkage between research and education, which distinguishes it from more conventional research funding. Academic institutions select their own research strategies, not the government or Atlantic. The competitive nature of PRTLI has embedded a culture of strategic research planning at all eight institutions, promoting inter-institutional collaboration on multi-faceted projects and ensuring that universities put forth only their best projects.
“When the history of Irish higher education is written, the name of Chuck Feeney will hold an honourable place,” said Dr. Hugh Brady, President of the University College of Dublin (UCD). “It would be difficult to exaggerate how bleak the Irish research landscape looked in 1996….It has been totally transformed, thanks in large part to the catalytic initiative shown by Atlantic Philanthropies in relation to the PRTLI.”
Visit the Higher Education Authority’s PRTLI Web site
Watch a Movie of the UCD Centre for Synthesis and Chemical Biology being built
 “Investment in Knowledge: A Case Study,” by Frank H.T. Rhodes and John R. Healy,Administration (Ireland), Vol, 54, No. 2, 2006, pages 63-84.
Please note: Atlantic’s Programme for Research in Third Level Institutions (PRTLI) grants were made directly to the following universities and institutions: Conference of Heads of Irish Universities, Cork University Foundation, Dublin City University Educational Trust, Galway University Foundation, Irish American Partnership, Irish Universities Association, Maynooth University Foundation, Policy Research Centre, National College of Ireland, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, Trinity Foundation, University College Dublin Foundation Limited, University of Limerick Foundation.
Atlantic made most of the PRTLI grants between 1990 -2000. Our online database contains grants from 2001 – present, so many of the aforementioned grants are not available on our Web site.