New role

Note: When I wrote this post two years ago I did not complete it. Probably I was preoccupied by taking up the new role. I publish it now with the caveat that this is an early draft, long and meandering. The reader has been warned.

Oscar mike. I’m on the move, and taking up a new role as Executive Director of the Innovation Academy at UCD.

We undertook some radical projects at The Irish Times in my two and a half years: projects that changed how advertising agencies and how much of the news industry look at startups for ideas, and introduced data science R&D into the newsroom. Something counterintuitive happened as a result. The advertising agencies, which are essential to The Irish Times’ commercial viability, began to regard the 156 year old paper as an innovation leader, and today develop wholly new types of partnerships with it that previously would have been unthinkable. And separately, we have built a multi-million euro (state-supported) big data R&D program that will, I hope, give The Irish Times reporters a significant advantage in the discovery and rapid dissemination of insight to their readers. This is especially important because the information market has pivoted from one in which information was once scarce and expensive to one where most people receive some level of news at no cost at all. But there is a paradox: as information becomes increasingly cheap and plentiful, what occurs is a white noise effect that makes trustworthy insight scarce and valuable. And as a result Big Data R&D is a strategic imperative for The Irish Times over the next decade. 

Part of the strength of the Innovation Academy, where I will be taking up the role of Executive Director in mid April, is that it can help other organisations to undertake similar transformative initiatives.

innovare (in + novus). Unto, make new.

Big change.

A creative mind set. Open to

The spark on campus.

Open for business. To help established companies deal with transformation and ideation.

I am moving on from my role over the last two and a half years as Chief Innovation Officer at The Irish Times and joining the Innovation Academy at University College Dublin as Executive Director.

Tapping into and unlocking creativity across the campus. Working with partners across Ireland (see the Academy’s work with GAA here).

The idea of transformative education

John Henry Newman and his thoughts on education

… Robbed, oppressed, and thrust aside, Catholics in these islands have not been in a condition for centuries to attempt the sort of education which is necessary for the man of the world, the statesmen, the landholder, or the opulent gentleman. Their legitimate stations, duties, employments, have been taken from then, and the qualifications withal, social and intellectual, which are necessary bot for reversing the forfeiture and for availing themselves of the reversal. The time is come when this moral disability must be removed.

Newman was writing at a time when the Irish Catholic was at a disadvantage, and when the distinction was along religious lines. The emphasis was to bring a generation of Catholics of a calibre equal to their Protestant peers so that the political discussion could be had. So his focus is necessarily on the liberal education that frames a mind capable of debate.

“Whereas Protestants have great advantages of education in the Schools, Colleges, and Universities of the United Kingdom, our ecclesiastical rulers have it in purpose that Catholics should eenjot the ike advantages, whatever they are, to the full. … They view it as prejudicial to the interests of Relgin that there should be any cultivation of mind bestowed upon protestants which is not given to their own youth also”.

Catholics who aspire to be on a level with Protestants in discipline and refinement of intellect have resource to Protestant Universities to obtain what they cannot find at home”.

Remove the religious context of Victorian Ireland in which Newman wrote, and the core elements of his view of education is as useful in engineering as it is to humanities.

The object is “not mere knowledge, or knowledge considered in its matter”, but “a process of enlightenment or enlargement of mind”. Before setting out on his argument he tells his listener, “you will be able to judge, Gentlemen, whether Knowledge, that is, acquirement, is after all the real principle of the enlargement, or whether that principle is not tather something beyond it”.

Uneducated minds “are merely dazzled by phenomena, instead of perceiving things as they are”.

“Hence such persons have no difficulty in contradicting themselves in successive sentences, without being conscious of it.”

“The business of a University [is] to make this intellectual culture its direct scope, or to employ itself in the education of the intellect, – just as the work of a Hospital lies in healing the sick of wounded. … It educated the intellect to reason well in all matters, to reach out towards truth, and to grasp it.”


“In the combination of colours, very different effects are produced by a difference in their selection and juxta-position; red, green, and white, change their shades, according to the contrast to which they are submitted. And, in like manner, the drift and meaning of a branch of knowledge varies with the company in which it is introduced to the student. If his reading is confined simply to one subject, however such division of labour may favour the advancement of a particular pursuit … it has a tendency to contract his mind.”

“It is a great point then to enlarge the range of studies which a University professes, even for the sake of the students; and, thought they cannot pursue every subject which is open to them, they will be the gainers by living among those and under those who represent the whole circle. This I conceive to be the advantage of a seat of universal learning, considered as a place of education. An assemblage of learned men, zealous for their own sciences, and rivals of each other, are brought, by familiar intercourse and for the sake of intellectual peace, to adjust together the claims and relations of their respective subjects of investigation. They learn to respect, to consult, to aid each other. Thus is created a pure and clear atmosphere of thought, which the student also breathes, though in his own case he only pursues a few sciences out of the multitude. He profits by an intellectual tradition, which is independent of particular teachers, which guides him in his choice of subjects, and duly interprets for him those which he chooses. he apprehends the frat outlines of knowledge, the principles on which it rests, the scale of its parts, its lights and its shades, its great points and its little, as he otherwise cannot apprehend them. Hence it is that his education is called @Liberal@. A habit of mind is formed which lasts through like, of which the attributed are, freedom, equitableness, calmness, moderation, and wisdom, or what … I have entured to call a phoslopohical habit. This then I would assign as the special fruit of the education furnished at a University, as contrasted with other places of teaching or modes of taeaching. This is the main purpose of a University in its treatment of its students.”



1854, John Henry Newman became the Catholic University of Ireland’s first rector. The faculties of Theology, Philosophy and Letters opened.

University College Dublin as a Constituent College to which a Charter was granted on 2 December, 1908. 

The Innovation Academy


I will still have a role at The Irish Times as [   ]

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