UCD and Trinity College have announced a joint partnership in third level research which they say has the potential to develop 300 companies which would in turn create thousands of jobs.

The heads of both universities say the Innovation Alliance would drive enterprise and innovation in a time of national crisis. They hope to increase the number of PhDs by 1,000 a year.

The initiative was announced at a press conference this afternoon by the Taoiseach, Tanaiste and the Ministers for Finance and Education.

The Taoiseach said the proposed 4th level academy would attract international interest and establish Ireland as a research base. He said a special innovation task force would help drive the project forward.

The cost of establishing the joint project is €650m over ten years which the universities say will come from a variety of sources including Government and European funding and from the private sector.

The universities say innovation will now become a third pillar of the sector alongside teaching and research.