Project Name

Designing Futures

For more information, please visit our website

Project Team

  • Professor Michelle Millar, Personal Professor of Political Science & Sociology, Designing Futures Programme Lead
  • Professor Jonathan Levie, Professor of Entrepreneurship & Regional Development, Designing Futures Lead for Designing Your Life
  • Dr. Natalie Walsh, Director of Entrepreneurial Development, Designing Futures Programme Lead for Designing with Others
  • John Lavelle, Director of Student Digital Pathways, Designing Futures Programme Lead for Designing by System
  • Grace Mannion, Designing Futures Project Manager
  • Majella Perry, Student Success Coach Manager
  • Denise McBride, Student Success Coach
  • Larissa Lamb, Student Success Coach
  • Dr. Oonagh Meade, Lecturer (Above the Bar) in Transdisciplinary Research
  • Dr. David Doolin, Lecturer (Above the Bar) in Transdisciplinary Learning
  • Dr Neil Ferguson, Head of Entrepreneurial Development
  • Jenny Mullery, Community and Impact Manager for IdeasLab
  • Eibhlin Crowley, Designing Futures Communication and Engagement Manager
  • Tadgh Middleton, Marketing Executive
  • Bridin Quinn, Business Data Analyst
  • Professor Tony Hall, Personal Professor of Education, Director of Educational Design Research for Designing Futures
  • Dr. Connie O’Regan, Postdoctoral Researcher for Designing Futures
  • Sarah Morrissey, College Subject and Curriculum Advisor, College of Science & Engineering
  • Dermott Flaherty, Curriculum Development & Planning Officer, College of Arts, Social Sciences & Celtic Studies

Web link to team details:

Provide a short description of the project

Designing Futures is transforming the University of Galway Student Experience. Designed to empower, educate and support students to lead their most fulfilled lives possible and succeed in the complex world we live in, Designing Futures will ensure University of Galway’s position as a leader in innovative, student-centred and enterprise-engaged education, nationally and internationally. Designing Futures is aligned with, and supports the HEA’s HCI Pillar 3, while promoting the values of the University of Galway Strategy, Shared Vision, Shaped by Values (2020-2025).

Further, through disseminating innovative project learnings and innovative practices to the Irish tertiary level sector, Designing Futures will conceptualise, develop and share a model of higher education that will help to advance Ireland’s position as a leader in transformative higher education for the 21st Century.

Designing Futures comprises complementary and connected initiatives, focused on developing the attributes, dispositions and skills required of graduates, for living and working meaningfully and productively in a complex and challenging world. Designing Futures has been designed in partnership with enterprise, students and international academic partners, who are actively co-creating innovative curricula and co-curricular activities with us. Designing Futures is foundationally changing how University of Galway engages with enterprise and is moving us from a transactional model to a fully developed framework for partnership.

In Designing Futures, we have created transdisciplinary elective modules that enhance students’ professional skills, designed by experts from across the university and with input from our enterprise partners. IdeasLab, a core pillar of the Designing Futures project, is where our community of students, enterprise partners, alumni and staff are engaged in design thinking, creativity and entrepreneurship to advance innovation in and for the world. Designing Futures also contributes to students’ holistic and rounded education through specialised personal development and success coaching. Designing Futures recognises, enhances and supports the totality of students’ experience at third-level, so that they will graduate well-equipped for the world of today, and tomorrow.

Highlight interesting collaborations / partnerships

Pictured: Participants of Designing Futures Vertically Integrated Projects (VIPs) module

Designing Futures have team fostered and develop a range of collaborations.  Some examples to highlight include:

ENLIGHT (European university Network to promote equitable quality of Life, sustainability and Global engagement through Higher education Transformation):  The University of Galway is a partner in this pan European project focused on the future development of Higher Education.  The Designing Futures team contributed to Enlight’s Teaching and Learning conference in the University of Göttingen.  At the conference, the team ran a workshop using the Design Your Life (DYL) approach being deployed in the new DYL undergraduate module in the university.  Currently Dr Natalie Walsh is completing a Peer Review Cycle for Enlight on Entrepreneurship and Leadership, focused on best practice across project sites.  This will culminate in some workshops at their 2023 conference and a meeting here in late May.


Global Design Thinking Alliance: The Global Design Thinking Alliance is a network of institutions that teach, research and further develop the methods and mindsets of Design Thinking. University of Galway were accepted as members of the GDTA in January 2023. This world-wide network of institutions promotes excellence in Design Thinking education and research.  The aim is for the GDTA to become the global platform for the exchange, debate and exploration on best practices in Design Thinking education, training and research. The GDTA enables encounters and creates learning opportunities for both experienced and aspiring design thinkers from a wide range of disciplines. In this way, the network will facilitate the lively debate needed to inform and drive the development of design thinking education.


Stanford University Life Design School Research Working Group:  Following attendance at the online Stanford Life Design course, a number of team members have become active in this working group.  As a result, a conference paper has been submitted to the European Academy of Management (EURAM) conference to be held in Trinity College, Dublin.  This paper on the measurement of Life Design Approaches is a joint submission with Professor Sebastian Kernbach, University of St Gallen, Switzerland.


i2i:  The central focus of i2i (Idea to Impact) has been to take core elements of Designing Futures and extend the DF concept to Europe, particularly enhancing and transforming the relationship between higher education, enterprise and industry through mentoring and training of students, academic and professional staff, through supporting start-ups and scale-ups. i2i entails close collaboration, not only with higher educational institutions, but with enterprise and innovation districts throughout Europe. i2i is promoting and supporting innovation in health, technology, climate, culture and creativity, through the collaboration of higher education institutions with organisations and partners across five entrepreneurial ecosystems: Ireland, Spain, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Greece.


VIP Consortium:  University of Galway is now a full member (and the only Irish member) of the VIP consortium of around 40 universities, led by Georgia Institute of Technology. A member of the DF team now sits on the Advisory Board of the VIP Consortium and we will be contributing two papers to the VIP Consortium Meeting in Atlanta Georgia in March. We are actively discussing how to create cross-university VIP research projects in which students from different universities would participate in the same research project.


Provide a brief summary of the project’s key enterprise engagements

Designing Futures Enterprise Partners span the Health, Technology, Creative and Social Sectors with our level and depth of engagement being key success factor for student engagement across all our programmes.


IdeasLab work with enterprise in the design and delivery of all their programmes, this includes persona design and development, site visits, weekly mentoring and final presentations.  Engagement spans modules and micro accredited programmes.  The summer programme Start100 was also supported by over 10 companies in the region including current partners including Mybronics but also included other companies including Spotlight Oral Care, Glofox, Atlantic Bridge and Atrian Medical. We are on-boarding new enterprise partners as the project grows.


University of Galway Empathy Lab launched in January 2023 with Boston Scientific as the inaugural enterprise partner working with the lab.  The University of Galway Empathy Lab will enable University of Galway students who want to come up with solutions to specific problems to understand the feelings and experiences of those affected.  Students will use new technologies including simulation suits; infant simulators; haptic gloves; scent masks and donated equipment and supplies provided by the Enterprise partner. Each programme will now include the empathy lab experience and bring students and enterprise partners together to co-create and develop solutions through the Empathy Lab.


Several of our transdisciplinary modules have involved co-creation on project challenges. For example, the module “Communicating through Storytelling” was cocreated with the founder of a sales training company who participated in a series of curriculum development meetings with the academic team. Each year several social enterprises participate, each matched with a transdisciplinary student team. The module “Scalable Technology-Based Innovation” featured in class presentations from a range of founders of academic spinouts at different stages of commercialisation, and students were required to apply frameworks learned in class to these case examples.

Pictured:IdeasLab Launches Start100 2023

Project Showcase


Designing Futures:





In the News:

University of Galway Cois Corribe:



Programme Video:

Enterprise Partners Video:

Vertically Integrated Project video:

IdeasLab Enterprise Challenge student video:

IdeasLab Start100 student video:



Designing Futures: Twitter @GalwayDF

IdeasLab: Twitter @GalwayIdeasLab Instagram @GalwayIdeasLab LinkedIn University of Galway IdeasLab

Student Success Coaching: Instagram @ssc_uniofgalway



Designing Futures:

IdeasLab Programmes:



Last updated: Monday 24 April 2023

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