Nothing is more inspiring to us as sustainability students than getting the opportunity to work with an organisation eager to enhance its sustainability strategy in the real world.


This opportunity was provided to this year’s UCD Innovation Academy  Graduate Diploma Design Thinking for Sustainability courtesy of Fergal Brophy, UCD Innovation Academy and Nicola Brannigan, Abbey Theatre Business Development Manager and UCD Innovation Academy Alumni.



Ireland’s National Theatre is accelerating its sustainability journey and targeting zero emissions by 2030. Our task was to support this goal by providing a set of recommendations to the leadership team at the Abbey via a five day Innovation Sprint. We were encouraged to leverage our new design thinking toolkit, embrace a sustainability mindset, and exploit the diverse collaborative skillsets our class has nurtured over the past few months.

The Abbey opened their doors to us, and their enthusiastic staff provided ‘Access All Areas’ to our class. This enabled us to empathise using first-hand observation, stakeholder interviews and desk research to identify areas of opportunity for sustainability across four key areas of interest to the theatre (1) people & culture (2) front-of-house operations (3) stagecraft (4) energy generation & management.


Our four teams rolled up their sleeves to develop ideas or potential solutions that were generated using hybrid brainstorming techniques and a combination of diverse and critical thinking.

We chose ‘SustainOvation’ as our overall theme and progressed to creatively prototype our ideas with role-play and graphic designs before testing them at a final pitch in front of an audience from the Abbey. This was no dress rehearsal!

The journey to becoming a carbon-neutral organisation is a challenging road. The Abbey Theatre is well on the way to achieving that, and it was a real privilege to contribute a small part to this effort. Thanks to all who made this Innovation Sprint such an immersive learning experience.



“No man can discover his own talents”

– Brendan Behan

“Upon the recommendation of the students, we will set up a sustainability steering group in January to implement further actions suggested. We were particularly excited by the suggestion of the energy group to put Pavegen tiles on our foyer floor to create energy from our customers and we loved the idea of recycling our stage sets and costumes into saleable products for retail. ”