DICE Academy (2018-ongoing)

Researchers: Dr Tena Patten and Cróna O’Donoghue, Lecturers, Department of Design of Design and Creative Media

Funding: €100,000 Higher Education Authority

Project Aim

This engaging and inspiring programme was devised by O’Donoghue and Patten in response to a funding call by the Higher Education Authority, which in turn stemmed from the National Skills Strategy. The aim of the programme is to develop creative confidence, entrepreneurial thinking, and leadership skills in secondary school students.

Each year ATU Donegal host 100 transition year students from 6 schools across the county and guides them through a specially developed design thinking/creative process called the UNIQUE Creative Process and a custom workbook. The students are introduced to a different brief each year and guest speakers and activities are selected to encourage the students to envision the challenge from many different perspectives. The Academy is held across the academic year and culminates in a showcase and prizegiving ceremony on the ATU Letterkenny campus.

The intention is to extend this highly successful programme across the full ATU catchment area in future years.

Project Website


SECure (2020-2022)

Researchers: Pádraig Gallagher, Tara Doherty, Simon Stephens, Michael Farren, Paul McCusker

Funding: €60,955 (€291,480 total Budget, ATU Lead partner), KA2 – Cooperation for innovation and the exchange of good practices

Project Aim

SECure enables SMEs facing an acute business crisis to precisely determine the crisis status, identify causes and initiate appropriate countermeasures. At the same time, (future) entrepreneurs are trained to implement early crisis detection mechanisms to prevent future company crises. The project achieves a sustainable impact by directly securing jobs on the one hand and by professionalizing VET organizations, management consultants, entrepreneurship, and SME support infrastructures and by providing first of its kind resources to be implemented into their curricula and services.

Key work packages

  1. Identified the most relevant early phase crisis indicators for SMEs
  2. Developed an innovative curriculum and learning framework for (future) Entrepreneurs
  3. Developed an interactive crisis analysis tool that enables SME owners/managers to identify the phase, the extent and the causes of a crisis.
  4. To ensure wide and free access, all produced resources were shared together with a large variety of additional information on our interactive knowledge exchange platform as OERs.

ATU Donegal led the project with partners in Denmark, Germany, Spain and Greece.

Project Website


Enter to Transform (2020-2023)

Researchers: Pádraig Gallagher, Juanita Blue, Vicky O’Rourke, Michael Margey

Funding: €398,000 (€2.1 million total Budget), Interreg Northwest Europe

Project Aim

The Enter to Transform Project aims to unearth the entrepreneurship capacity of the increasing refuge population in the Northwest Europe Region. The project offers a social innovation approach to refugee entrepreneurship and will develop a transnational network of supportive hubs which will allow refugee entrepreneurs to adapt to the Northwest Europe economy. The model will then be rolled out and replicated throughout the region. Enter to Transform will specifically target refugees who had previous business experience and will allow them to access existing business supports that has proved problematic in the partner countries. The hubs will function as a physical and virtual presence and allow engagement from all stakeholders leading to sustainable businesses and job growth in the Northwest Region.

The project is led by the University of Twente in the Netherlands and along with ATU Donegal, in Ireland there are partners in Germany, France and Switzerland.

Project Website


Female Entrepreneurship (2022-2026)

Researchers: Dr Isobel Cunningham, Lecturer, Faculty Of Business

Funding: €4m strategic regional development research project under the Government’s North-South Research Programme.

Project Aim

The Atlantic Innovation Corridor is a cross-border collaboration focusing on themes such as rural entrepreneurial ecosystems, business scaling, female entrepreneurship, digitalisation, freight connectivity and mental health. The Atlantic Innovation Corridor brings together a research team organised in hubs in Derry and Limerick and administered in the third hub in Galway. The four-year project was announced by Taoiseach Michéal Martin T.D. and Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris T.D. as part of the Government’s Shared Island North South Research Programme. The Atlantic Innovation Corridor involves a series of research work programmes on sustainable regional development for the north-west of the island, the west and mid-west.

The work package on which ATU Donegal are focused on is female entrepreneurship. This project will investigate the experiences, strategies, and outcomes for female innovation-driven entrepreneurs in the Northwest Atlantic Innovation Corridor region. The research will be carried out in partnership with key female entrepreneurship programmes and networks on the island, crossing borders and industries. Entrepreneurs will join the project as participant researchers, providing fine-grained data and unique insights into the process of establishing and growing start-ups. The research will contribute to our understanding of how female entrepreneurs engage with their eco-system in establishing and growing their new ventures. It will provide deeper knowledge of how access to finance and interventions can be made more equal for female founders, at a structural level as well as at a practice level. It will provide evidence-based intelligence to inform female entrepreneurship supports.

Social Entrepreneurship: (2022-2024)

Researchers: Dr Isobel Cunningham, Lecturer, Faculty of Business.

Funding: Strand 1 funding of €114,200 from Shared Island.

Understanding the Social Entrepreneurship Ecosystem on the Island of Ireland – Lessons for Education, Practice and Policy

Project Aim

This research brings together individual researchers from ATU and Ulster University to examine, investigate and influence this social enterprise landscape and phenomenon. This research aims to better understand social enterprises and their ecosystem across the island of Ireland. Indeed, anecdotal evidence indicates that this sector has bespoke needs, and this proposal aims to better understand these barriers, motivators and challenges associated with social enterprises development and growth. Furthermore, it aims to explore social entrepreneurs and their personal and professional profiles and skills to inform and shape social entrepreneurship development and education, policy enhancement and creation and inspire and nurture the social enterprise sector, along with key stakeholders and actors, to deliver positive future returns through, for example, start-ups and business growth.

Specifically, this research will address the following objectives:

  • Explore and examine the social enterprise sector across the Island of Ireland.
  • Construct a clear understanding of the factors that motivate, inspire, challenge and discourage along with priorities for development and growth.
  • Review and explore social entrepreneurs and their profiles, skills and role in shaping the social enterprise sector in Ireland.
  • Use research-informed learning to shape policy, interventions and practice in this sector across the island of Ireland.
  • Identify and synthesise research-led approaches to inspire social enterprise start-up and growth across Ireland

Minding Media (2021-2023)

Researchers: Dr Vicky O’Rourke, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Business

Funding: €218,810 from Erasmus+ Programme 2021-2027, Key Action 2 Partnerships for Cooperation

Project Aim

The Covid pandemic accelerated the consumption of digital media and highlighted once more the risks posed by fake news, disinformation and anti-democratic ideals. All citizens are affected, but children are particularly at risk given that they spend more time online than adults, and are vulnerable both to unfiltered media coverage and messaging from companies and other parties, that bypass adult gatekeepers to establish direct communication. It is not without reason that the EU’s Action Plan for Disinformation aims to raise awareness of disinformation in children and improve their resilience from an early age. Yet, while digital skills have been a part of schools’ curricula for many years with some concern for privacy and security, media literacy education is still embryonic. For this reason, Minding Media aims to increase the capacity of schools to move to the next level of readiness for the digital transition by introducing dynamic and interactive media literacy learning resources for pupils aged 8 – 12. The Minding Media project will develop 3 resources: 1) A Minding Media Video Training Library, 2) A Minding Media Minecraft World, and 3) A Minding Media Teaching Toolkit.

  1. The Minding Media Video Library employs gamification techniques to engage learners. The 4 topics addressed are: What is Media, Advertising Literacy, Fake News, and Social media.
  2. The Minding Media Minecraft World addressed these 4 topics in a different format, extending learning into the third space, facilitating immersion, going beyond the scope of traditional classroom techniques to highlight the persuasive intent of organisations and individuals, reinforcing cognitive media literacy defences over time.
  3. The Minding Media Teaching Toolkit includes ‘ready to go’ lesson plans for teachers to support the use of the Minding Media digital resources in class.

Partners include:

ATU Donegal, Ireland; The European E-Learning Institute (EUEI), Denmark; Atermon, The Netherlands; Metka, Finland; and The Novi Sad School of Journalism (NSSJ), Serbia. Project duration October 2021-2023.

The SEntrA project

Researchers: Paul McCusker, Lecturer, Faculty of Business

Funding: The full budget for the SEntrA project phase 1 was €170,360

Project Aim

The SEntrA project aims to promote social entrepreneurship among young people by offering a set of non-formal learning tools supporting youth workers and organizations to actively enhance youth social entrepreneurship. The participants directly involved in the project are 145 Youth workers, 100 young people from partner countries and 100 relevant stakeholders such as youth organizations, social entrepreneurship promoters, NGOs, public authorities, social enterprise incubators, universities etc. Partners, ARIS – A Really Inspiring Space-C, Fundatia Danis-RO, Norsensus Media Forum-NO, Asset Technology-GR, Atlantic Technological University, Donegal (formerly LYIT).

Specific objectives

  • Develop research-based knowledge on the social entrepreneurship landscape mainly but not exclusively in the five European countries involved (CY, GR, RO, NO, IE), with a particular focus on youth entrepreneurship and with regard to current policies, key trends, legislation & development issues (based upon the UN Sustainable Development Goals).
  • Develop a manual in alignment with the EntrComp Framework of the EC that will describe the framework of the relevant skills & competencies, as well as the methodologies, way of thinking and environment required to support youth acceleration in social entrepreneurship
  • Design a training toolkit as an educational tool that can be used by youth workers & youth organizations to prepare young people to develop social enterprises (aiming at reaching concrete Sustainable Development Goals)
  • Develop an online learning platform providing free access to young people, youth workers/organizations and decision-makers/stakeholders to create and develop social businesses and enterprises.

Learning resources & project outputs

  • Offer valuable transnational training to youth workers in an existing accelerator that may be transferred in other EU countries.
  • Create a dedicated Vlog that will feature video stories and will promote success stories from the participating countries about social economy, social entrepreneurship and social enterprises to inspire the target audience
  • Propose valuable public policy for boosting social entrepreneurship among young people. The specific policy brief will be disseminated and promoted among decision-makers

The project aims to increase awareness among young people, youth workers and youth organisations on the potential of social entrepreneurship, and will cultivate and nurture the social entrepreneurship concept among all target groups.

Phase 2: How to Build Social and Civic Incubators for Young People – The Civic Lab for Young People

Follow on from the SEntrA project Duration 01/01/2023 – 30/03/2023. Budget €8,160.

Using the legacy of the SEntrA project, with CLYP (Civic Labs for Young People) project, will start to explore the idea of developing social and civic incubators for young people in our communities, so that we can build creative confidence of the young people and the trust and support of relevant stakeholders. Through this professional development activity, designed as a networking event among various stakeholders reunited through the dissemination and multiplication activity of the SEntrA project, we aim to professionalise the youth sector by exploring ways of building its capacity to develop civic labs for young people in partnership with universities, the business community and the social innovation sector.

The objectives of the project are:

  • Support youth workers to share knowledge, information, best practices, ideas that could help the partners to build further youth projects that can address the lack of creative confidence of young people and stakeholders’ lack of trust in young people’s capacities.
  • Equip youth workers with competences related to social entrepreneurship, social innovation and civic and social incubation models.
  • Facilitate youth workers’ efforts in advancing some prototypes for building the youth sector capacity through community partnerships that will support the development of social and civic incubators for young people.

The project directly targets the general objectives of Erasmus+ for the mobility of youth workers, investing in the youth workers’ competences, thus the professional development of youth workers, for the benefit of their organisations and communities. Besides, the project contributes to the increasing capacity of the partner youth organisations, supporting them to better serve young people in responding to the current societal challenges.

Aligning Teaching and Learning Across the Technological Sector (ATLAS)

Researchers from 5 collaborating institutions: Nuala Harding (Athlone I.T); Dr. Moira Maguire (Dundalk I.T.); Gina Noonan (I.T. Carlow) ; Dr Deirdre McClay  (Letterkenny I.T.) and Dr Mary Fenton (Waterford I.T.).

Funding: €75,000 from the Teaching and Learning Enhancement Fund 2016 (Driving Enhancement through Capacity Building in Irish Higher Education) of the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. This funding was divided among 5 collaborating institutions: Athlone I.T. (lead partner), Dundalk I.T., I.T. Carlow, Letterkenny I.T. and Waterford I.T. The project ran for 18 months from January 2017 to June  2018.

Project Aim

ATLAS aimed to interpret the National Professional Development Framework (click here for NPDF document) within the context of existing accredited provision across technological higher education institutions in Ireland.  This was undertaken with a view to examining and addressing specific professional development needs in the technological sector using a reflective and evidence-based approach.

Since the introduction of the HEA Strategic Initiatives Funding (SIF), accredited teaching and learning modules and programmes were developed and offered across the higher education sector. Within the technological sector, the Learning Innovation Network (LIN) group collaboratively designed the ‘LIN Flexible Pathway’ to a postgraduate diploma. In addition, other LIN members developed programmes in response to their own specific requirements. Building on this work, the collaborators in ATLAS sought to: (i) map existing accredited T&L provision against the NPDF; (ii) interpret existing provision using the NPDF domains; (iii) identify opportunities to align provision to the Digital Capacity Framework; and (iv) explore the development of a framework/tool to support colleagues in using the framework to guide and inform ongoing professional development.


The project involved 5 partner organisations (Athlone I.T. (lead partner), Dundalk I.T., I.T. Carlow, Letterkenny I.T. and Waterford I.T.) and 3 supporting institutions (Dún Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology, Galway, Mayo Institute of Technology and I.T. Sligo). A steering group was set up comprising representatives from the 8 collaborating institutions and a student union representative. All accredited professional development modules and programmes in teaching and learning within 7 of the collaborating institutions were mapped  to the NPDF. This involved 6 major awards (including the MA in Learning and Teaching at LYIT) and 49 modules/special purpose awards. The process included consultations with programme staff and graduates. Using an iterative approach, the partners mapped and interpreted existing provision using the NPDF.     

Engagement Activity

ATLAS involved extensive engagement activity with both internal and external stakeholders. Internal stakeholders with which the project engaged comprised: partner representatives for the various accredited programmes and modules, student union representatives, current and graduate students, academic staff and management, programme boards, institute committees and academic council. External stakeholder engagement included: THEA,  LIN and the National Forum (including other project teams from the 2016 funding call). The outputs of ATLAS were discussed and critiqued at a variety of National Forum seminars and national and international conferences:

  1. “ATLAS – Exploring the sharing of Accredited Academic Professional Development Collaboratively for the Technological Sector”. National Forum Seminar Series 2017/18, March 2018,  Athlone I.T.
  2. “ATLAS –a seminar for HR managers, educational developers and learning technologists.’ National Forum Seminar Series 2018/19, March 2019 TU Dublin. THEA.
  3. The Weakest Link? Digital Identity and Wellbeing in Accredited Continuing Professional Development in Teaching and Learning’ paper presented at EdTech 2018, 31st May-01st June 2018,  I.T. Carlow.
  4. ‘ATLAS – A Model for Mapping to the Professional Development Framework,’ paper presented at AILTA 2018, 30th October 2018, Marino Institute of Education.
  5. ‘ATLAS: A Model for Mapping to a Professional Development Framework in Ireland,’ 90 minute workshop at SEDA 23rd Annual Conference, 15-16 November 2018, Birmingham.


The key output was a bespoke mapping tool and consultation pack developed to support educational developers in using the NPDF to review and develop programmes. The project also helped in terms of impact to: raise awareness  of the NPDF in partner organisations; develop relationships and deepen collaborations between T&L staff in partner organisations; interpret the NPDF within the context of each mapped  programme and module; identify areas of development for mapped  programmes and modules; and, identify opportunities for sectoral collaboration. For more details and output from the ATLAS project see https://www.teachingandlearning.ie/?s=atlas

Street Law at LYIT

Researchers: Brónagh Heverin, Law Lecturer and Siobhan Cullen, Head of Department of Law and Humanities

Funding: €150,000 from the Teaching and Learning Enhancement Fund 2015 (Building Digital Capacity) for the development of ‘Street Law – a module to enhance the transferable skills of law students through a digitally resourced and digitally supported module in community legal education (undergraduate law students teaching second level students)’; followed by seed funding for a masters by research student; and followed by a further successful application for funding in the sum of €150,000 from the Teaching and Learning Enhancement Fund Phase 4 2018 Driving Enhancement through Capacity Building in Irish Higher Education for the development of ‘THE REAL PROJECT (Reimagining Experiential Academic Learning)’.

Project Aim

Street Law at LYIT is a student led form of Public Legal Education where undergraduate law students create and deliver workshops with a variety of audiences ranging from second level students to community groups. The workshops use interactive teaching methodologies to provide legal education to members of the public, many of whom have legal issues but no access to lawyers, and so provide an invaluable free or pro bono service in addressing unmet legal need.

The Street Law method is internationally accredited as being mutually beneficial for both the trainers (our third level students) and the participants (their audiences). Popular practical law topics covered include awareness of human rights/civil rights, democratic principles, conflict resolution, criminal justice, practice and procedure, sports law, employment law and civil liberties. Typically, the target audience choose the areas of law that they would like to learn about.

Introduction of the Street Law module in LYIT represented a new departure in undergraduate legal pedagogy in Ireland and simultaneously created the space for collaboration between third level institutions, second level schools and their communities.


LYIT law students are trained in the use of an interactive teaching methodology which they then use to deliver Street Law workshops using activities such as simulation, role-play and debate. The primary audiences are transition year students in several secondary schools across County Donegal. In addition, each cohort of LYIT Street Law students also deliver classes to other audiences which has included early school leavers from a variety of schools, DeafHear in Letterkenny and Youth Reach groups from across County Donegal.

Engagement Activity

Engagement with external bodies is fundamental to Street Law. The initiation of each Street Law programme requires engagement and collaboration with the partnering institution, whether it be a second level school or a community organisation. This engagement identifies an unmet legal need which is followed by collaboration to develop a series of Street Law workshops deliverable by LYIT students to address the need. The engagement continues throughout delivery by the LYIT students where the law is introduced in an accessible, engaging, interactive and responsive manner to ensure its continued relevance to the audience.


Street Law at LYIT has a positive impact at several levels. The LYIT students are given an opportunity to take their learning to a new level by creating interactive workshops to teach legal concepts which in turn develops their professional and transferable skills as required by the Hunt Report. Research has shown that participation in Street Law at LYIT has specifically enhanced the communication and critical thinking capacities of students.

Street Law at LYIT also impacts the primary audience of Transition Year School students in the Partner Secondary Schools on many levels, ranging from provision of basic legal education to potentially fostering ambitions towards a legal career. Additional audiences receive similar benefits but also the practical benefit of personalised legal information otherwise inaccessible to them.

The LYIT Street Law programme was first delivered in the academic year 2016/17 and was shortlisted for the Irish Education Awards 2018 in two categories, Best Student Engagement and Best Outreach Programme.

Restart+ Sustainable investment, performance and efficiency (2018–2020)

Funder: Eramus+ (€250,000)

Researchers: European Partners + Dr Padraig Gallagher, Karen McCormick, Dr Isobel Cunningham and Dr Simon Stephens (LYIT).

In Restart+ we will work together to create innovative learning tools and resources which equip leaders of community groups, public authorities and educational institutions with the knowledge and skills needed to adopt a transformative approach to community reactivation.