PhD students, no longer “just” researchers


“I know nothing of business, I only did a PhD!”. This might have been the case a few years ago but PhD students in Trinity College Dublin, University College Dublin and, very recently Queen’s University Belfast, are spreading their wings, taking on new challenges and gaining new skills. The Innovation Academy, a collaborative programme between the aforementioned universities aims to introduce postgraduate students to the world of business, something often neglected in traditional PhD programmes.

What would you do if you developed a new product? How would you determine your market, raise finance and most importantly launch your product? These mysteries have left PhD students (and graduates) vulnerable to business enthusiasts capitalising on their hard-earned research, often over a couple of years. With the Innovation Academy, while you may not gain the experience of a business mogul, you will gain the practical skills of bringing a product to market and everything that entails. The experience doesn’t stop there.

The beauty of the Innovation Academy is its focus on cross boundary collaboration. Postgraduates, due to the nature of university social structures, generally only interact with those in their field. This constrains a postgraduate’s experience and their network and reduces the challenge of team work as often those they work with are very like them. While pursuing the Certificate in Innovation and Entrepreneurship with the Academy, students are purposefully segregated into groups from varied disciplines;historians working with software engineers, physical geographers working with English researchers and so on. The combinations of diversity within the Innovation Academy are only constrained by those who apply.

Academy logo - high res

So while working within your diverse group what exactly do you do for three weeks, during the first module? In the first week expect what you thought you knew about yourself to be challenged. Find out if you’re a problem solver, the ideas person or the leader or a combination of everything. Find out how you manage conflict and also learn how you might manage it better. After you’ve done a bit of soul searching and got to know your team, the fun begins. With the help of local and multinational businesses, and other entities such as the National Library for example, you will take on a project with a specific objective, the direction of which is entirely up to you. However, the finale is the presentation of your project outcomes (how you approached the problem, how you worked together and what you found out) in front of your peers and the various businesses involved in the projects. While the first module is a large time commitment, the tools and experience (not to mention the friends gained) are invaluable.

What do you do next? Following this, students continue with the remaining 4 modules to obtain a Certificate in Innovation and Entrepreneurship. The content of Module Two is particularly enjoyable, as you are challenged to present your research in a 3-5 minute video. The aim of this module is to break down your research into a form more broadly understood and also to gain the practical skills of communicating your message; another handy skill to have when you need to explain your PhD to your granny!

So why not give it a go? Get started in Innovation Academy and see what you can glean from a few weeks of your time.


Innovation Academy, UCD will be hosting a free evening of Creative Thinking Workshops followed by a series of short engaging discussions & talks by past graduates of the Academy in Granby Park, Dublin 1 on Thursday 12th September, 18.30

For more information and to obtain tickets please visit:

Authored by Lucy Crockford, PhD student, TCD Geography


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