By the end of 2012, almost two hundred PhD students participating in the UCD-TCD Innovation Academy will benefit from programmes funded by the Programme for Research in Third Level Institutions (PRTLI) Cycle 5.

As part of their recently formed Innovation Alliance, Trinity College Dublin and University College Dublin have launched the UCD-TCD Innovation Academy, which is described as the educational ‘centrepiece’ of the Innovation Alliance between the two institutions. Launched in November 2010, the Academy aims to nurture entrepreneurial thinking in PhD students of all disciplines, helping them convert their ideas into ‘value’, i.e. social and/or economic benefit.

The Academy currently offers Graduate Certificate in Innovation and Entrepreneurship, taught through activity-based learning to create innovative educational experiences. While most students join the academy while simultaneously doing PhD research, some students come on a part-time basis from industry, whilst others join the programme after their first degree to complete the certificate as a stand-alone qualification.

The Innovation Academy at UCD not only promotes entrepreneurial thinking but also takes an entrepreneurial approach in its own development through student feedback. The venture is currently in the process of rapidly expanding its activities nationally and internationally, and in October 2011 became an all-island venture with the inclusion of Queens University Belfast.

The substantial funding secured for a bursary system means fees will be covered “for those postgraduate students already registered at UCD and who are highly motivated to participate in our modules”, explains Innovation Academy Administrator and Event Manager, Lisa Hogan.

As bursary applications can be in any medium, past students’ applications have ranged from letters to images, dance to video, baking a cake to creating a work of art to convey their interest in participating in the Academy.

The Academy houses a learning lab in Newman House on St. Stephens Green where students from UCD, TCD and QUB have access to experts in the field of creative design and film making through partnerships with NCAD and IADT, and regular guest entrepreneurs alongside potential mentors from industry and government agencies.

The PRTLI offers third level institutions an opportunity to build infrastructure, invest in capacity and facilitate institutional strategies and inter-institutional collaboration. The programme supports research in humanities, science, technology and the social sciences, including business and law.

Cycle 5, announced in July 2010 by then-Taoiseach Brian Cowan, who described it as “another piece in our strategy to support Irish start-ups and attract overseas entrepreneurs to Ireland” invests in physical infrastructure and research projects in Ireland’s higher education institutions.  The funding for Cycle 5 runs from 2011 to 2015, allocating €347.6 million between the areas of Buildings and Equipment, and Research Programmes and People over the period.