Springboard+ is co-funded by the Government of Ireland and the European Social Fund as part of the ESF programme for employability, inclusion and learning 2014-2020.
Springboard+ is co-funded by the Government of Ireland and the European Social Fund as part of the ESF programme for employability, inclusion and learning 2014-2020.

Design a Better Future

The world of work is changing faster than ever before. Climate Change is increasingly driving this rapid transformation across all sectors. No matter where you see your future, employers of all sizes and in all sectors want agile employees who are creative, collaborative and innovative who can combine these attributes with a ‘Sustainability Mindset’. This UCD graduate programme has been developed in collaboration with industry, and it enables you to develop the skills and knowledge to lead change, embed sustainability and make a real impact.

“I see sustainability in the same space as IT 30 years ago – a rapidly emerging field that will become fundamental to business… as with IT, future graduates will need to understand the fundamentals of sustainability.”

Sustainability Manager, Wholesale Sector

Who is this course for?

This conversion course is designed for recent graduates as well as mid-career professionals who want to start or transition into a career in the area of sustainability. It is open to participants with both technical and non-technical backgrounds. The class is likely to include a diverse range of participants, coming from science and engineering to business, the humanities and more, bringing a multi-disciplinary, multi-sectoral approach to the complex challenges of sustainability.

The course is free for eligible jobseekers (who are in receipt of eligible for for 9 of previous 12 months), returners, carers and 90% subsidised (you pay 10%) for recent graduates and eligible individuals in employment, self-employment and those who are formerly self-employed via the Higher Education Authority Human Capital Initiative. Eligibility for those in receipt of Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment is yet to be confirmed. See eligibility criteria here. Please note, this criteria is subject to change before launch.

(Note: Enrolment on an Innovation Academy course means a commitment to active participation and engagement, which necessitates attendance at all scheduled classes. Please note that auditing Innovation Academy courses is not possible.)

Who is contributing to the design of this course?

The following organisations have been engaged in the design and development of this programme. They are recognised leaders in the area of sustainability.

What will I gain from this course?

The course offers a Level 9 (NFQ) qualification from University College Dublin, the Sunday Times University of the Year 2019 ranked in the top 1% of universities globally.  Participants will gain a broad overview of sustainability (from scientific, business, societal and policy perspectives) with a deep foundation in user-centred design and innovation, as well as real-world experience of developing and testing a viable, sustainable solution for a client organisation. You will also develop your communication, creative, entrepreneurial, leadership, learning agility and teamwork skills further supporting your career development.

During the course, you will meet leading academics, practitioners, activists and policy-makers across all sectors, from Ireland and around the world. We envisage that graduates of this course will have a strong advantage in the emerging green economy and be equipped to progress into a wide variety of sustainability roles across enterprise, social enterprise and government.

“All companies will have to focus on making a transition to a low carbon, resilient and sustainable business model. The Governor of the Bank of England has warned companies that only those that make this transition will survive the next decade. The skills to enable such transitions do not exist within most businesses. The level of employment is of course as big as it can get.”

– Professor Richard Templer, Director of Innovation, Grantham Institute for Climate Change and the Environment, Imperial College London

What will I learn?

On completion, you should be able to
– Generate innovative ideas and know-how to approach their subsequent selection for further development.
– Understand the structures and theoretical tools that enable efficient teamwork to convert ideas into value.
– Confidently recognise, cultivate and apply creative and entrepreneurial thinking in your own discipline and appreciate their value in other areas.
– Understand the fundamentals of innovation and ‘intrapreneurship’.

Full module description 

On completion, you should be able to
– Understand the concept of an entrepreneurial mindset and why it is so important for all of us to use entrepreneurial thinking in our everyday lives.
– Understand the principle of problem-solution fit as well as product-market fit.
– Be able to apply the following to a new venture; lean startup tools and techniques such as ideation, customer discovery, business model canvas, prototyping, testing and pitching.
– Understand the challenges and benefits associated with working in teams and have practiced techniques to enhance team performance.
– Understand that failure in business can be an opportunity, and how to capitalise on that opportunity.
– Be able to present ideas clearly and professionally.

Full module description 

On completion, you should be able to
– Appreciate the various challenges involved in the design process.
– Demonstrate delivery of successful innovation in a given venture whether for-profit, a social enterprise, a community project or a public-sector activity.
– Apply methodologies and frameworks (e.g. Design Thinking) in developing a solution to a real-world problem or challenge.
– Successfully navigate team dynamics, whether working together in-person or collaborating online/remotely.
– Communicate the value of an idea via a pitch presentation.
– Understand how information can be delivered in various ways (e.g. reports, presentations, and posters) to serve different purposes.

Full module description 

On completion, you should be able to
– Bring a broad perspective of the wider context around sustainability including key concepts, theories, terms, trends and underlying issues, with an appreciation of synergies and conflicting approaches across sectors, an understanding of the systemic nature of the challenges and the need for systemic solutions.
– Appropriately select, apply and evaluate the effective and appropriate use of Systems and Design Thinking approaches and tools to create innovative user-centric solutions to complex real-world sustainability problems, across a wide variety of domains and sectors.
– Work effectively in a multidisciplinary professional team, with sustainability practitioners from environmental, economic and social perspectives to take a systemic, multidisciplinary approach to developing sustainable solutions.
– Individually and as a member of a multi-disciplinary team, be able to effectively communicate and justify (in person, online and in writing) a proposed solution, with supporting evidence, key insights and awareness of assumptions, to both a specialist audience (including key decision-makers for the proposed solution) and a wider general audience.
– Be able to actively and independently reflect upon your experiences and approach to learn, to enhance decision-making and to draw deeper lessons to inform your future approach as well as to engage in self-directed study to seek relevant information from a diverse multitude of sources.
– Bring awareness of relevant and possible career pathways to future career decisions.

Full module description 

On completion, you should be able to
– Reflect on personal strengths, weaknesses, mindsets and values.
– Apply design thinking to drive a culture of innovation.
– Strengthen capacity for self-awareness, reflection and resilience.
– Unlock creative, innovative leadership in self and in others.
– Create the conditions for innovation to flourish in an organisation.
– Lead collaboration and iterative learning in an unpredictable environment.
– Deploy skills for influencing, negotiating and problem-solving.
– Utilise methods for strengthening emotional intelligence.

Full module description 

On completion, you should be able to:
– Appropriately select and apply Systems and Design Thinking processes and tools for use in novel real-world challenges of sustainability (appreciating the comparative role, importance and limitations of each).
– Follow and manage the five stages of design thinking in real-time in a real-world context to gain a deep, informed understanding of a sustainability challenge, to identify insights, generate, evaluate, test and iterate potentially viable solutions.
– Work effectively in a multidisciplinary team on a real-life challenge, adapting your approach as required to ensure success.
– Communicate a new product, service, solution or business concept in an efficient, effective and compelling manner to key decision-makers.
– Practice personal reflection as a tool for continuous self-improvement and self-directed learning to quickly develop an overview and understanding of the fundamentals of new areas as relevant to your professional work.

Full module description 

On completion, you should be able to
– Understand the five stages of Design Thinking for Life and their interdependence.
– Understand the appropriate application of Design Thinking for Life and develop an appreciation for its benefits and limits across disciplines and sectors.
– Add value to the Design Thinking for Life process by applying practiced skills of empathy, creativity, idea selection, facilitating teamwork, rapid prototyping, iterative design, pitching and story-telling.
– Develop and apply reflective practice to identify lessons learnt about the project, the process and the teamwork.
– Make decisions regarding timing, process and number of iterations of Design Thinking for Life appropriate for a particular problem.

Full module description 

How will I learn? 

Learn by Doing

All Innovation Academy programmes offer an experiential, ‘learning by doing’ approach. Participants work mostly in multi-disciplinary teams on a range of workshops, projects and activities in a challenging but supportive class environment.

Guest Speakers from Industry

Fireside chats, interviews and panel discussions with leading practitioners across the sector in Ireland and internationally offer a current real-world insight into the field.

How will I be assessed? 

Participants will be assessed on a combination of presentations, team projects and individual reflections. Reflective practices including self-evaluation will be required along with seeking and providing peer feedback. Feedback will be provided such that students can improve on subsequent assessments (i.e. feedforward feedback). Each of the individual modules (and the course overall) is designed to be progressive in nature, to allow students to carry forward insights and lessons learned based in an ongoing and iterative process, based on their own reflections and feedback provided. The ‘Design for User-Centric, Sustainable Solutions’ module will serve as a capstone assessment of prior learning in the course (as it involves the application of the knowledge, mindset/toolkit/skillset gained in the initial modules) A pass/fail grade will be used for each of the modules and Graduate Diploma overall.

Who is leading this course?

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Colman Farrell
Head of Programme Development

Colman Farrell co-founded the School for Social Entrepreneurs, and Suas, the educational charity. He also served as Vice-Chair of Dóchas (the association of Irish NGOs) for two years. After qualifying as a medical doctor he worked in East Arica, before moving to work in software, project management and organisational development across both public and private sectors. He has become increasingly engaged with Sustainability over the past 3 years.

See more of Colman’s story here.


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Dr Eileen Diskin
Entrepreneurial Specialist

Eileen started her career as a wilderness guide in the Alaskan wilderness, and became a conservation naturalist with the Missouri Department of Conservation before working as a field archaeologist. Eileen founded BiodiversityInOurLives.com, an initiative whose pilot project was a set of biodiversity beermats that featured in pubs across Dublin.

See more of Eileen’s story here.


When will it run?

This is a full-time postgraduate course delivered over 7 months.
Trimester 1: (Start Date) 2nd September – 30th November 2021 Trimester 2: 17th January – 22nd April 2022 (Finish Date) 

The course runs 09:30 to 4:30 most week days with an additional 1-2 evenings or time at the weekend for self-study.  You’ll have between 8 and 20 hours per week of ‘live online workshops’ (usually between 9.30am and 1.30pm) with 20 to 30+ hours each week of additional effort (including individual & team activities, tasks, project work and self-study). 

What are the Eligibility Criteria?

All applicants must hold a minimum of an honours degree (Level 8) in any discipline – OR – in the absence of a degree applicants who have 5 years or more of relevant employment history can apply under UCD’s Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) Policy.

HCI Pillar 1 courses are designed to provide specialisation and conversion courses for graduates to ensure that they have the skills most needed by employers today. They are open to all eligible applicants, regardless of employment status.

Please CLICK HERE for full eligibility criteria to apply for a place under the HEA Springboard+ / HCI Pillar 1 initiatives.

Documentation Required to Apply

NOTE: Not all documentation is required for all eligible statuses. Please also note that in addition to the above criteria applicants may also be called for an interview as part of the recruitment process.

*Click here for full English Language Requirements for UCD.

This course is not currently open for applications but register your interest and we will email you when it is. If you have any questions in the meantime, please contact mary.saunders@ucd.ie

What are the Course Fees?

€630 for Recent Graduates (2020 onwards) and those in Employment, Self-employment and those formerly self-employed who meet the HCI criteria.

Free for eligible jobseekers (who are in receipt of eligible for for 9 of previous 12 months) / Returners and Carers who qualify through HCI. Eligibility for those in receipt of Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment is yet to be confirmed. See eligibility criteria here. Please note, this criteria is subject to change before launch.

Non-HCI: €6,300 (EU Citizens) / €12,600 (Non-EU Citizens)

What do I do next?

Please click this link below to take you to an online registration form. Complete this form and we will send you further information about the course. Please note that by completing this form you are simply expressing an interest in the course and not making a formal application.


For more information contact Mary Saunders at mary.saunders@ucd.ie

David NevinUCD Graduate Diploma in Design Thinking for Sustainability