The Convene consortium with Taoiseach Michael Martin

Pandemic Showed Us Value of University-Enterprise Cooperation, Now Let’s Build on That Says Inaugural Convene Enterprise Forum Opened by Taoiseach

Taoiseach Michael Martin today opened the inaugural Convene Enterprise Forum at the Technological University Dublin, a collaboration that seeks to transform university-enterprise engagement for the benefit of Irish society and the economy. The event brought together a panel of enterprise and higher education leaders to discuss lessons learned from the pandemic; how to collectively deliver the priority skills and innovation necessary to reinvigorate business; and how to support a resilient and enduring economic recovery in the wake of the unprecedented disruption caused by COVID-19.

Great work is already in train across Ireland with new and exciting enterprise-academic partnerships working on practical plans to re-imagine our economy, to upgrade our national skills base, to fully harness the potential of the digital age and to protect our environment.

Our business community needs the energy and the initiatives that collaboration with our universities can provide. A continuous two-way flow of ideas between our universities and enterprise will create a win-win situation and will result in an upsurge in the agility, the innovation and the skills capacity required to ensure Ireland will bounce back from Covid-19 stronger than ever.

In support of this goal, last October, in the midst of this pandemic, my Government brought forward the Human Capital Initiative Pillar 3, with a very significant budget of €197 million for 22 projects, led by collaborative third-level partners, over the next five years. Convene is one of these successful, innovative 22 projects and its work at nexus of enterprise, education and research can be a game-changer.

- Taoiseach Michael Martin

The panel, moderated by journalist Eileen Dunne, included Michael Horgan, Chairperson, Higher Education Authority; Brid Horan, Chancellor, DCU; Dr. Andrea Johnson, Vice President, WorkHuman; and Jerry O’Sullivan, Deputy Chief Executive, ESB.


Convene’s inaugural Enterprise Forum combined many of the key ingredients for Ireland to distinguish itself as an innovation leader, succeed in the fourth industrial revolution and rebound after the pandemic: enterprise, government and academia working together to anticipate, understand and respond to emerging needs.

Convene is about finding new ways of academia and enterprise working together. We are differentiated in a few ways - by focussing on what enterprise needs and providing a sector-facing response, co-creating skills and innovation solutions, creating a neutral ground for important debates, opening the doors to the wealth of skills, knowledge and innovation capacity in universities, and explicitly recognising enterprise’s own capacity for talent development and innovation.

- Dr. Deirdre Lillis, Convene Lead TU Dublin

Covid-19 has shown the value of university-enterprise cooperation in sectors such as pharma and tech with solutions developed and deployed in record time. The pandemic won’t be the last crisis we face so let’s seize this historic opportunity and channel that same energy and urgency into ongoing cooperation so that Ireland not just survives but thrives in the fourth industrial revolution.

- Prof. Suzi Jarvis, Convene Lead UCD Innovation Academy

Coming just days before the government announced its next budget and amidst growing discourse on threats to Ireland’s energy supply, the Convene Enterprise Forum addressed:

  • How universities and enterprise can work together in our volatile and complex world to ensure individuals and organisations are prepared to meet the challenges of the future when they arrive. 
  • How adaptability has shown itself to be a critical success factor during periods of transformation such as we have lived through.

  • How the COVID-19 crisis challenged some existing norms and barriers such as remote work but that we must ensure we ‘build back better’ and not allow new inequalities creep into the workplace.

About the Convene Enterprise Forum:

The Convene Enterprise Forum is a quarterly event series that serves as a shared space for exchange and discussion between enterprise, higher education, policymakers and others. Events are free to attend and will take place online and in person. The Convene Enterprise Forum seeks to bring enterprise and higher education closer together, find common ground and generate new ideas. Future events will cover topics such as how we support the development of transversal skills, Global Ireland and climate action, as well as major challenges specific to the seven major employment sectors that form part of Convene: Tourism, Food & Drink, Creative and Cultural, Social Enterprise, ICT/FinTech, MedTech and Pharma.