Crystal clear path for university enterprise quarter with purchase of old factory site

Ambitious SETU sets its sights on developing 20-acre campus where the famous Waterford Crystal plant once stood

Pictured at the announcement at SETU’s Cork Road Campus were (l to r) Cormac O’Toole, Financial Controller at SETU, Elaine Sheridan, University Secretary at SETU, Prof. Veronica Campbell, President of SETU, Simon Harris, TD, Taoiseach, and then Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science of Ireland, Senator John Cummins and Marc Ó Cathasaigh, TD. Picture Patrick Browne

Since Waterford Crystal closed its factory doors in 2009, its Cork Road location has laid vacant and unused. Now, a new plan to develop just over 20 acres of the iconic 37-acre site is underway for South East Technological University (SETU).

Purchase of lands at the former factory site was agreed and signed last year, paving the way for a new University-Enterprise Quarter.

Chief Executive of Waterford City and County Council, WCCC, Michael Walsh, said the intention of the plan is to have an enterprise campus aligned with the new university. He added that Waterford Crystal has since reopened in The Mall with the ‘House of Waterford Crystal’ comprised of a new visitor centre, retail outlet and manufacturing facilty, marking a new era for the world-famous product.

“It’s another big ticket item in the redevelopment of the city,” said Walsh. “There are big ambitions for the site, and the innovation and research and potential is really significant in terms of continuing and spinning out enterprises like ArcLabs, a research and innovation centre in Carriganore.

“The intention on the old Waterford Crystal site, is to have an enterprise campus aligned with the new university on a unique city centre site. Historically we would have lost our best talent because of education, with people going away to study and not coming back. The university lets us reverse that. There are so many positive things for Waterford. SETU is starting its journey and becoming a technological university of substance.” SETU President, Professor Veronica Campbell, said the university has been working closely with Waterford City and County Council (WCCC), on plans for the site.

“WCCC has been a champion of SETU’s development in support of the southeast region,” she said. “SETU has ambitious plans for a University-Enterprise Quarter on the iconic site of the former Waterford Crystal factory. This will co-locate the university’s considerable expertise in science education and research, along with enterprise, to drive entrepreneurship and innovation. The connections formed between academics and students with SME and industry personnel will facilitate knowledge generation and knowledge transfer, all of which will support the recognition of the southeast as an Innovation Region.”

“The University-Enterprise Quarter gives expression to deep traditions of collaboration with industry in the city and the wider region. The symbolic value of the site cannot be underestimated. The new Quarter however, should be considered within the larger ‘knowledge’ district within the city where you have the university surrounded by many of our strong enterprise partners, all of whom we work with at multiple levels.

“The University-Enterprise Quarter is one part of a larger city and regional innovation ecosystem that empowers local knowledge-based industry across key areas like Pharma, Advanced Manufacturing, ICT, and others. The first academic building on the site will house STEM-related activity, including courses and research in pharmaceutical technologies and cognate areas.”

At the signing of the final contracts last November, Taoiseach Simon Harris – then Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, said: “This is a major moment for the development of the South East Technological University. “We know the history of the site, but the future is now certain too. The Crystal site is no more. This is now another part of the SETU campus.”

The investment will allow SETU to cater for future student growth, address the current shortfall in space requirements and allow the Technological University to be a driver of economic and social development in Waterford and for the south east region.