THE CABINET has approved the Liberty Consortium led by UCD as preferred bidder for the National Digital Research Centre (NDRC) that will be based in Dublin's Digital Hub to replace the ill-fated MediaLab.

The selection of the consortium has yet to be announced, but it is understood the cabinet recently approved annual funding of 5m for five years for the Liberty Consortium. This is an increase on the 3m funding a year specified in the initial tender for the NDRC in April last year.

UCD, Trinity College Dublin, DCU, Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology, and the National College of Art and Design are the members of the winning consortium, which has the support of 27 companies, including Vodafone and Microsoft.

Liberty beat a consortium comprising the Dublin Institute of Technology, University of Limerick, NUI Galway, University College Cork and Waterford and Tralee Institutes of Technology.

The competition was organised by the Higher Education Authority and judged by the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources.

After the experience with MediaLab, which focused on 'blue skies' research and did not develop either linkages with Irish enterprise or patents that could be commercialised, efforts have been made to root the NDRC more effectively.

The objectives set for the Centre include to "support enterprise development" in Ireland, "stimulate increased R&D investment", "support high quality human capital formation" and "attract high quality inward investment and human capital".

It is understood that, in a bid to open lines of communication between the NDRC and the Digital Hub, the new research centre will share space in the old 20,000 sq ft MediaLab building with Digital Hub companies. Four hundred people now work in the Digital Hub, in 55 companies.

By this weekend, planning applications had been submitted for the redevelopment of the 5.6 acres of Digital Hub lands sold in two lots for 118m last year.

It is understood that Manor Park Homebuilders just lodged a planning application for its 2.5 acre site on Crane Street. P Elliott, which bought the 3.1 acres known as the Windmill site, lodged its application about six weeks ago.