So what is design thinking? It began in Stanford University and was quickly adopted by tech companies in Silicon Valley who saw the potential of this problem solving methodology. It breaks down complex problems by taking users through a simple methodology to go to the heart of an issue and then generate solutions. Crucially, it encourages you to iterate, to try and to fail, and to experiment, making it a favourite tool of innovators in a range of sectors from enterprise to the public sector.

“Our new Master’s programme enables learners to demonstrate the value of their learning in real time‚” says Prof Suzi Jarvis, founding director of UCD Innovation Academy. “Too often, graduates are unsure of how to apply what they’ve learned. Our economy, our society, indeed our planet, can’t afford to wait – we’ve designed this Master’s so that students are making a real world impact from within the programme and are ready to hit the ground running when they graduate.”

The Master’s was designed in close co-operation with industry who felt strongly that graduates need to be workforce ready with the ability to contribute to an organisation from the outset. “As employers move to skills first hiring,” says Thomas “we’ve designed this Master’s to include the best of what a university offers – world class knowledge and expertise – combined with essential skills like problem solving, critical thinking, opportunity recognition and of course teamwork, communications and more.”

Thomas embodies this outward looking approach of the Master’s, bringing with him insights from a long career in industry including software and product development in Silicon Valley, to leading sustainability practices in a UK engineering and construction company before he moved to academia.

The Master’s kicks off with creative thinking and innovation – an essential grounding so that students can learn to see with fresh eyes. Other modules include entrepreneurship – not because it’s about becoming an entrepreneur or setting up a business, but to adopt an entrepreneurial mindset – resilient, resourceful and solutions oriented. An innovation sprint runs over an intensive week where students work hands on with an enterprise partner to solve a real challenge. PwC, Hibernia Reit, Oxfam, Airfield Estate and Urban Volt are among some of the other organisations UCD Innovation Academy has partnered with in the past.

Sustainability modules build students’ sustainability literacy including a working knowledge of sustainability systems, issues and tools. Students learn to identify sustainability challenges, opportunities, and needs.

“The MSc’s final module supports students with mentoring to tackle a real sustainability with an organisation (their own or another) to demonstrate they are ready for the next step in their career,” says Thomas.

An integral part of this Master’s programme is the unique learning experience offered by UCD Innovation Academy. Established in 2010, UCD Innovation Academy has developed its craft for 14 years with thousands of learners, from UCD undergraduates to multinational chief executives who have taken their classes in creativity and innovation. ESB, PepsiCo and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment are among some of UCD Innovation Academy’s clients.

At the heart of the Innovation Academy’s approach to learning is a belief that education needs to fundamentally transform to more experiential, interdisciplinary ways of learning. “Our approach is informed by the latest neuroscience of learning and is supported by leading academics like Nobel Prize-winning physicist Carl Wieman,” says Suzi. “At UCD Innovation Academy, we create a space for students to contribute to, and ultimately co-create the learning results in a dynamic and vibrant environment where unexpected things can happen.”

The learning experience at UCD Innovation Academy is exemplified in its unique environments. The Master’s is hosted in its signature Shackleton Lounge – a colourful active learning space, usually found bedecked in post its and creative materials.

Next door is UCD Innovation Academy’s MakerSpace – a living lab where students of all backgrounds learn how to prototype using the latest technology. A dedicated MakerSpace facilitator walks students through how to use the equipment. Here, MSc students can experiment, build their confidence with technology and produce prototypes to various challenges. No prior technical knowledge is required for the MakerSpace and on an average day an interdisciplinary team of students from backgrounds as diverse as midwifery and law might work on a project together.

UCD Innovation Academy’s newest living lab is the UCD Greenacre Sustainability Hub, an acre site on campus in UCD which hosts different sustainability initiatives. All of this combines to create a truly unique learning experience for students.

“Many of our students will go on to work in jobs that don’t yet exist and to tackle challenges that have not yet fully emerged – this Master’s equips graduates with the mindset, skills and knowledge to flourish in this uncertain world, and better still, make a real difference,” says Suzi.

The UCD MSc in Design Thinking for Sustainability, is now accepting applications from students of all disciplines