Students from Saint Catherine’s Vocational School Killybegs have been learning innovative tactics from top local businesspeople this year as part of an exciting pilot programme.
Twenty Transition Year students were awarded their “Introduction to Innovation and Design Thinking” Certificates at a grand finale public event, in the Bayview Hotel Killybegs, last Thursday evening.
Over the course of 2 months the students took part in a pilot programme devised by ALPHA Innovation, and delivered in collaboration with the Killybegs Marine Cluster, County Donegal.
The 8-week pilot saw students (5 teams) attending weekly workshop sessions facilitated by ALPHA Innovation’s Head of Innovation, Kevin Sexton.
Donegal businesses that participated in the programme included Atlantic Dawn, Mooney Boats, Seaquest Systems and Sinbad Marine Services.
As well as learning the fundamentals of innovation and design thinking, students took part in weekly presentations, workshops and sample interviews:
- to learn how global brands such as Spotify, Netflix and Apple innovate and adapt
- to identify what can be applied to Donegal-based enterprises
- to understand why innovators begin at the ‘empathy’ stage in order to understand problems and gaps from an end user’s perspective
- to arrange their own interviews with businesses leaders
- how to conduct field research interviews using the Customer Development technique
- collating insights using the Mural whiteboard tool
- how to assemble a visually engaging and impactful slide deck
- to pitch to an audience of industry, academia, and peers in 8 minutes
- highlighting challenges and innovation opportunities being pursued by businesses within the local marine ecosystem (Killybegs Marine Cluster members)
Before parchments were awarded to participants the audience was treated to a fireside chat with local and international leaders.
Martin McGuinness of MMG Engineering, Derek Mc Brearty KER Group , Karl Bonner Killybegs Marine Cluster and Alexandra Leeper PhD Iceland Ocean Cluster spoke of collaborating with international players across Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland and beyond: Martin secured worldwide IP for a product that has won international innovation awards; Derek’s company disrupted the concept of at-sea emergency service with a SaaS (software-as-a-service) product that moved their offering up the value chain and is globally scalable; meanwhile Karl spoke of the #KillybegsSustainabilityCharter which is both timely and topical; and from an international perspective Aleandra told how her hackathons welcome international collaborators we would not instantly associate with the #blueeconomy for example co-creating new materials with the fashion industry while reducing waste.
Speaking about the event, Anne Marie Luby, Principal of Saint Catherine’s Vocational Schools said: “I am delighted to see how far students had come over the last few weeks. Students have gained so much confidence, experience and learned more about the opportunities in their area as part of the programme. The linkage between the school and local enterprise has been fantastic. I cannot recommend this programme enough.”
Martin McGuinness was impressed by the first pilot and looked forward to further iterations of the programme:“A student has three main influences (teachers, parents and industry) when choosing a career and it was fantastic to see all 3 were in attendance tonight. I look forward to more of these events in future where we can showcase to both the students and parents the opportunities that are available within the Killybegs Marine Cluster”
Karl Bonner, Cluster Manager with Killybegs Marine Cluster (KMC): “I am delighted with the collaboration between the businesses and the local students…. Our businesses have commented on the professionalism and work ethic of the students who liaised directly with the business leaders to set up their own interviews. They really got to grips with the subject area and uniqueness of each business and they (the students) will have developed new skills and huge confidence from doing the programme. The Killybegs Marine Cluster are delighted with the success of this pilot programme and look forward to future modules being rolled out going forward.”
Kevin Sexton, Head of Innovation, ALPHA Innovation hailed the success of the pilot: “These students have completed a course and have a level of exposure to innovation techniques that will not only impact their own lives, but those of their communities. They have an advantage over many third level students who graduate without exposure to any practical application of innovation techniques such as these, even though they are in demand by employers internationally.
“My goal is to position innovation as a hot topic around the dinner table in homes across Donegal …and this programme will help facilitate that. We want to demystify innovation so that it is instilled in the hearts and minds of grass-roots teams in the many businesses located here. Tools & techniques the students used are quick to learn and provide a competitive advantage to businesses of all sizes. Contrary to what many believe innovation is neither costly, complicated or limited to developing new product, service or experiences. It can be used to improve operational efficiencies in organisations big and small, local and global.”
Kevin is keen to roll out this programme across the county: “now that we have completed this first pilot we will – in lean startup fashion – listen to our participants and iterate the product going forward. Our Innovation Cadets from St Catherine’s will play a key role in shaping future versions of this offering. We are confident our ‘Introduction to Innovation and Design Thinking’ programme of modules will make a positive impact on the mindset and preparedness of teams in all sectors, and at all levels of innovation maturity. We are determined to put Donegal on the map as one of the top locations to startup, pilot, invest, scale and spinout ventures. Initiatives such as this are key to developing our home-grown talent so we can deliver on our goals.”
At ALPHA Innovation we want to hear from ambitious early-adopters that will set aside 90 mins each month to work with us in championing innovation as a way we automatically do things in Donegal.”
If your school or business is interested in knowing more about programmes and supports available email: email@example.com