Innovation and Entrepreneurship Students Graduate from Innovation Academy

Posted on: 30 January 2015

Thirty-two doctoral students graduated from the inter-university Innovation Academy whose mission is to develop a new kind of PhD graduate.  The students from Trinity College Dublin and Queen’s University, Belfast, were presented with Graduate Certificates in Innovation and Entrepreneurship by the Minister for Education and Skills, Jan O’Sullivan, at a special graduation ceremony in the Department of Education and Skills.

Congratulating the students on their achievement, Minister O’Sullivan said:

“The mission of the Innovation Academy is well aligned with Government national policy on creating a new generation of entrepreneurially minded graduates who want to be future employers.  It has provided a focal point for innovation and education for students from the island of Ireland and today’s graduating students will help support the growth of entrepreneurship across the economy, helping to turn good ideas into good jobs.”

Through a series of taught modules, the PhD students gain an understanding of how innovation can convert knowledge into products, services and policies for economic, social and cultural benefit.  The modules form part of their structured PhD programmes and include the creative arts, social entrepreneurship, engineering, technology and business where they also work in multidisciplinary teams.

Following today’s graduation, the students will continue working towards their individual PhDs that cover topics ranging from climate science to nanotechnology, to factors impacting the mental health of children.

Graduating student, Susan Dick said: “The real value of the Innovation Academy for me was discovering more career pathways than simply the academic route, and it has helped bridge my transition into a more business orientated role.  As well as learning fundamentals in terms of innovation, leadership, finance and marketing, it taught me how to apply the skills acquired during my PhD to other areas.”

There are currently around 400 PhD students taking modules through the Innovation Academy, which was set up in 2010 under the TCD-UCD Innovation Alliance partnership and includes QUB.  In 2011, the Innovation Academy received funding from the Programme for Research in Third Level Institutions PRTLI (Cycle 5) to support structured doctoral training.  Among the modules provided by the Academy are creative thinking, research communication, intellectual property, business planning, raising capital and leadership development. The modules are delivered by staff from all three universities, with substantial opportunity for the PhD students to engage with a range of external organisations and entrepreneurs.

Trinity Provost, Dr Patrick Prendergast said:An Innovation Academy education acts a catalyst for innovation on the island of Ireland, educating PhD students to recognise the full potential of their research and to exploit their ideas in a competitive world.  We want it to stimulate a wave of innovation that will stimulate jobs creation and generate long-term economic impact for the country. Trinity’s new Strategic Plan is strikingly cohesive with the government strategy on foreign direct investment, which specifies that Ireland’s reputation for developing and nurturing talent is central to attracting international companies and investment to this island.”

Queen’s University Belfast, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Postgraduates, Professor James McElnay said: “The Innovation Academy is an exciting and dynamic programme and Queen’s is delighted to be involved in such an important cross-institution partnership.  This programme gives students a real head start in their careers which in turn leads to benefits for the economy and society as a whole. It helps to create the right kind of ecosystem for innovation and enterprise, and it is a vital tool in helping develop and sustain economic growth on the island.”

President of UCD, Professor Andrew Deeks said: “By embedding innovation within the two pillars of our universities – education and research, we are ensuring that our graduates leave us armed with the academic knowledge and with the critical skills to make their mark on the world.”

The Innovation Academy continues to attract new PhD students to its programme and is forming new partnerships for collaboration across Europe.

It is the centrepiece of the TCD-UCD Innovation Alliance. The TCD-UCD Alliance was set up as a partnership between the education sector, the State and its agencies and the business and venture capital communities to develop a world-class ecosystem for innovation that can drive enterprise development and entrepreneurship.

Graduating students with Trinity Provost, QUB Pro-Vice Chancellor & UCD President


Case Studies of Graduating Students for Class of 2015 in Graduate Certificate in Innovation & Entrepreneurship

Adam Bargroff , PhD English Literature, QUB

After finishing a PhD in comparative literature in Queen’s University Belfast, Adam worked for a social enterprise in the field of IT and education, in Dublin. He is currently working for the European Commission, where he experiences how innovative and collaborative working practices can transform public institutions and politics.

“Completing the Graduate Certificate in Innovation & Entrepreneurship at the  Innovation Academy profoundly changed how I want to contribute to society.  It’s helping me to fuse the research and critical thinking skills that I developed in academia with ideas about co-creating policies, projects and tools that have a positive impact on public life.”

Susan Dick, PhD Candidate in Physical Chemistry, QUB

Susan Dick, 25 from Belfast, attended QUB as an undergraduate in Chemistry with Forensic Analysis, and is now in the process of writing up thesis for PhD in Physical Chemistry and will be starting with Deloitte Consulting (Operations) in Belfast this September.

“The real value to me of the Innovation Academy was discovering more career pathways than simply the academic route, and it has helped bridge my transition into a more business orientated role.  As well as learning fundamentals in terms of innovation, leadership, finance and marketing, it taught me how to apply the skills acquired during my PhD to other areas. Getting practical experience in presenting and pitching ideas through the Innovation Academy was extremely useful to my job application process and I would say it was a very large contribution to the fact I was offered three consultancy roles with no other business experience.”

Sarah Edwards, PhD Candidate in Biochemistry & Immunology,  Trinity College Dublin

Sarah Edwards is a final year PhD student in the School of Biochemistry and Immunology. Her research focuses on understanding the underlying causes of autoimmune diseases by focusing on regulation and function of T cells.

“The Graduate Certificate in Innovation & Entrepreneurship is an extremely valuable addition to my doctorate. It has allowed me to understand and develop the applications of my research interests to human health, as well as developing new skills such as leadership, intellectual property protection and bringing ideas to life.”

Vinod Malik, PhD Candidate in Surgery, Trinity College Dublin

Vinod Malik is a Clinical Fellow in the Department of Clinical Surgery at St James’s Hospital.

“In order to navigate through the changing dynamics and complexities in the practice of medicine, physicians need to teach themselves additional skills to improve their understanding and crucially find ways to innovate their practice.

After eleven months, five modules, numerous lectures and some fun exercises, the time spent at the academy has been enriching and most of all productive. It may not have resulted in a new patented medical breakthrough or a new surgical implement at this juncture, but what it has provided is a foundation on how to address such innovations in a methodical manner. A direct result has been the possibility of collaborating with a multinational software corporation exploring problems in the practice of oncology research that can be simplified by means of technology.”

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