The 1980s saw significant investment in Ireland's infrastructure, with funding from Europe as well as the state. Major projects in the early part of the decade included the Dublin Area Rapid Transit (DART) electric train system and the country's first motorway. Bord Gáis Éireann laid gas pipelines from Cork to major industrial and population centres, and the newly formed Bord Telecom oversaw a significant improvement in the telecommunications network. The rollout of this infrastructure, coupled with the growth of the multinational sector in areas such as electronics and pharmaceuticals and of Irish success stories such as CRH and Kerry Group, focused attention on the country's production of graduate engineers.
UCD school of engineering had a particular role to play in meeting this need. A report from the early 1980s points out that about 70% of the graduate engineers in the country at that time were UCD – and therefore Merrion Street – graduates, and the university was continuing to produce close to 50% of the country's annual output of graduate engineers. Government funding was made available to the school to expand staff and student numbers, attracting new lecturers who would build important research programmes over the years to come, and there was a significant increase in the number of postgraduate students. The dean, Professor John Kelly, led a campaign to increase female participation in engineering, which had immediate success.
UCD's engineering degrees at this time were among the most sought-after options for school-leavers. The need to attract foreign direct investment was central to the economic plan for employment and prosperity, and highly skilled graduates were a key factor for prospective industrial investors. At the end of the decade technology giant Intel selected Ireland as the location for its European manufacturing and technology headquarters, ushering in a new phase in the country's industrial development.
The 1980s also saw the end of UCD's presence in Merrion Street. After prolonged negotiation with successive governments, funding was provided for a building on the Belfield campus that would house the engineering departments from Merrion Street. In the summer of 1989 UCD finally vacated the premises built for the Royal College of Science for Ireland over three-quarters of a century before, and a new era in the life of the building was begun.