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NCAD, UCD and IADT join forces to launch €10m Creative Futures Academy

Shauna Kelly

Collaborative partnership is first of its kind in cultural and creative higher education in Ireland

Creative arts education in Ireland is taking a significant step forward with the launch on 16th November 2022 of Creative Futures Academy.

A collaborative partnership between the National College of Art and Design (NCAD), University College Dublin (UCD) and the Institute of Art, Design and Technology (IADT), Dún Laoghaire, CFA is a new approach to education that sees academics across the institutions work in collaboration with industry experts to identify future skills and knowledge needs across the creative and cultural sector and to create learner-centered programmes that respond to these in a meaningful way. These programmes are then delivered under the CFA partnership. As such, CFA brings together three of Ireland’s leading providers of cultural and creative learning to augment Ireland’s ambition for the creative sector, in turn benefitting society and the economy. 


Under the CFA partnership, courses available through CFA include screenwriting; film, media and broadcasting; creative and cultural management, new platforms for artists; new technologies, such as augmented and virtual reality, strategic and user-centered design and sustainable design and practice. They span short continuous professional development (CPD) options, postgraduate certificates and bachelor’s and master’s degrees. As part of the initiative, well-known creative practitioners such as musician Dónal Lunny; singer-song-writer Paul Brady; actor and screenwriter, Mark O’Halloran, theatre director Jenny Jennings (ThisisPopBaby); director of the Dublin International Film Festival, Gráinne Humphreys; music producer and composer Lance Hogan; architect Tracy Staunton and fashion designer Lucy Bowen take to the classroom to impart their knowledge to a new generation of creatives. The partnership is funded through a €10m grant from the Higher Education Authority’s Human Capital Initiative. 


Commenting, Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris TD said: “Creative Futures Academy is a really exciting initiative between three of our leading colleges. The aim is to support digital media, gaming, animation and film, creative writing and performance, visual arts practice, and design. This initiative will develop and change teaching and learning in those sectors, allowing learners to be more agile and diverse. CFA will enable the partner colleges to develop courses that will equip learners with skills of critical importance to the economy and to the workplace of the future. My Department has funded the project through a €10 million grant. I am delighted to see CFA launch today and I look forward to seeing how it will grow over the coming years.”

Director of Creative Futures Academy, Louise Allen said: “The CFA partnership is a new approach to learning and is the first initiative of its type in cultural and creative higher education. It offers a unique combination of educational and industry expertise. The aim of the CFA partnership is to create a sustainable and vibrant creative and cultural sector, underpinned by a skilled workforce. While courses are tailored for the creative sector, across digital technologies, screen and media; creative writing, music and performing arts; visual and applied arts and design with the growth in demand for creativity in all areas of work, they will benefit a wide range of sectors.” 


She added: “At the heart of the CFA partnership is institutional and industry collaboration, knowledge-sharing and the provision of top-class educational experiences that offer learners mobility to take courses across the three colleges. While learners will still need to follow certain programme pathways, the CFA partnership dramatically increases the choice available to them and introduces flexible routes to learning. CFA learners will have access to a powerful network that includes creatives, industry experts, thinkers, and leaders in a unique, collaborative setting. This is of benefit both to learners early in their career and those considering a change in direction. We are delighted to launch today a new partnership that we will evolve and augment over the coming years.”


Capital projects at each of the three colleges are also being developed under the CFA initiative. CFA at NCAD is installing a research, development and prototyping facility that will combine 3D fabrication technology with the skills of students and industry. The facility, named after Kilkenny Design Workshop founder, William Walsh, is due to open in 2023. It will offer students and later-career creatives access to machinery for specific prototyping needs, with opportunities for those who are struggling to find appropriate routes to build more ambitious work. 


CFA at UCD is developing two new facilities to support student creativity and digital content skills. A Blackbox studio and media lab will be housed in the former Dramsoc Theatre in the Newman Building, transforming the space into a multi-purpose facility to support teaching in drama, music, film, creative writing, and digital content creation. This state-of-the-art studio will be a major hub for CFA students and for public outreach, hosting performances, rehearsals, events and workshops. It is due to open in 2023.


CFA at IADT has already installed an Atmos Dolby Studio. This is the only studio of this type in an Irish educational institution, which will facilitate the design of sound for cinema. It will also give students access to cutting-edge technology.


Commenting, Director of NCAD, Sarah Glennie said: “The CFA partnership brings together the most comprehensive offering of creative and cultural education in Ireland. Each of the three colleges has unique strengths in different disciplines, which complement the offering of the other two colleges. The CFA takes NCAD into an exciting new direction of flexible learning that will support creative practitioners throughout their career, with courses that reflect the changing nature of contemporary practice. Increased collaboration with industry and across institutions allows for greater diversity and allows academics to identify areas of complementarity, enhancing areas of expertise and specialism. We are delighted to be part of this exciting initiative, which allows NCAD to share our expertise with students and staff from UCD and IADT and for our students and staff to benefit from their expertise.”


IADT houses the National Film School and has expertise in film, media, animation, gaming, design, graphic design, and creative technologies. David Smith, President of IADT, said: “This initiative will provide much-needed skills to enable the creative industries and the wider corporate sector to respond to and use emerging technologies. In fast-paced technology-led environments, visual and rich-media content is increasingly central to audience retention, customer awareness and brand development. It is an area with significant growth potential for media producers. This, coupled with the power of design to address complex environmental and societal challenges, positions CFA as a unique and compelling initiative. Additionally, the CFA partnership has huge potential for our industry partners and the wider corporate sector. Our evolving offering will allow companies and organisations to get ahead of the curve by facilitating their staff to engage in innovative short courses that hone and enhance their skillsets within a rapidly evolving market. For the cultural and creative sector, our ambition is to provide the necessary support for future creative practitioners to grow to their fullest potential.”


The focus at UCD Arts and Humanities is on Drama, Film, Music, Creative Writing, Cultúr na Gaeilge, Arts Management and Digital Content Creation. Director of the UCD Creative Futures Academy, PJ Mathews said: “The CFA partnership directly addresses the need for innovation, flexibility and scale in relation to creative education in Ireland, with valuable input from the creative industries. Building on the existing specialisms and traditions of the three institutions, the CFA partnership opens up new learning pathways and opportunities across the three institutions for the next generation of artists and creatives. The appointment of distinguished academics and Artists-in-Residence brings world-class talent, experience, and fresh approaches to learning into our classrooms. The CFA partnership builds on Ireland’s international reputation for developing creative talent and, through our collaboration, is developing new modes of learning for students of the creative and performing arts. New courses and programmes will equip the next generation of talented graduates with the skills to forge impactful, sustainable, and rewarding careers in the creative industries.”


Creative Futures Academy is being launched this afternoon (WED) with an event at O’Reilly Hall in UCD. As part of the event, creatives Jess Majkejodumni, Director of the Human Science Studio, Accenture; Daniel Staines from creative production studio, Algorithm, and actor and screenwriter Mark O’Halloran will speak about their ambitions for the future; musician Dónal Lunny will perform with traditional music practice students, and director of the Dublin International Film Festival, Gráinne Humphreys will chair a panel of Ireland’s brightest screen talent. There will also be spoken word performances by writer, journalist and performance poet, Keev Boyle-Darby, and theatre-maker, drag performer and graphic designer, Róisín Sheridan-Bryson.


The launch programme will continue over the coming days. Tomorrow (17.11.22) the Circular by Design Innovation Festival, an NCAD partnership with the Design & Crafts Council Ireland (DCCI), will take place at Smock Alley Theatre in Temple Bar. On 18th November, at IADT, Irish horror fiction author Maura McHugh will lead a workshop on ‘Narratives for an Uncertain Future’. Also on the 18th, at NCAD, Diversifying Design, a talk and panel discussion co-hosted by CFA, IDI and DesignOpp will discuss how the design sector can collectively foster a culture of inclusion that welcomes difference, promotes agency, and facilitates shared community building. 


On 18th and 19th November, IADT will host a 24-hour Design Challenge and a Design for Technical Arts Showcase. With a grand prize of €1,000, the 24-hour Design Challenge tasks students from IADT, NCAD and UCD with completing a series of design-thinking games against the clock and presenting their final ideas. Meanwhile, the fantastical life-size character busts created as part of the Design for Technical Workshop pilot project that ran in Spiddal in May and June this year will be on display as part of the Design for Technical Arts showcase. On 22nd November, PepisCo Chief Design Officer, Mauro Porcini will speak at IADT about his new book ‘The Human Side of Innovation: The Power of People in Love with People’.  All launch events are free to attend, but booking is required. Further details on how to book can be found here


Visit for further details on the CFA partnership. 


Photo caption

Photos by Marc O’Sullivan

Photo 1: Natalia Sherry, Design for Technical Arts student and Angelika Krasinska, Design for Technical Arts student.

Photo 2: Siobhan Murphy, Professional Master of Education – Change Lab, Mary Hoy, Student, More Like a Walking Tree, Lisa Wynne, Circular by Design, Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris TD, Brendan Atkins, Studio Plus and Mihai Mar, Circular by Design.

Photo 3: Angelika Krasinska, Design for Technical Arts student.

Photo 4: Malik Onilenla, UCD alum, spoken word artist, Paula Ramanathan, Cinema Creatives student, UCD.

Photo 5: Natalia Sherry, Design for Technical Arts student, Paul McDonnell, Design for Technical Arts lecturer (IADT) and Angelika Krasinska, Design for Technical Arts student.

Photo 6: Mark O’Halloran, CFA Screenwriter in Residence (UCD) and Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris TD.

Photo 7: Natalia Sherry, Design for Technical Arts student

Photo 8: Natalia Sherry, Design for Technical Arts student and Angelika Krasinska, Design for Technical Arts student.