Science Foundation Ireland

Academy of the Near Future and the Cellnex Foundation launch new partnership

Academy of the Near Future, which is an award-winning Smart Cities Education collaboration between CONNECT and Dublin City Council  designed for young people and Local Authority staff, has partnered with the Cellnex Foundation for 3 years to develop young people’s understandings of smart technologies and digital connectivity in primary schools across Dublin and nationwide. The programme builds awareness of new trends in telecommunications and digital connectivity as well as supporting future careers in STEM.

Cellnex Ireland is Ireland’s largest, independent telecoms infrastructure provider. The Cellnex Foundation is a Cellnex Group initiative which aims to use technology to bring people together through improved connectivity, particularly those at risk of exclusion.

A €345,000 co-investment initiative

A €345,000 co-investment (the Cellnex Foundation will fund €50,000 every year) will build on the Academy of the Near Future resources and expertise, which has reached 1,500 students nationally over the past 3 years. This new partnership, led by the Academy of the Near Future team, brings the experience of Cellnex Ireland employees, as well as Smart City experts to deliver interactive workshops in primary schools across Ireland. The programme’s mission is to broaden participation in STEM, with a commitment to delivering half of the workshops to female students and prioritising DEIS schools. The workshops focus on empowering communities to tap into the potential of smart technologies to address challenges in their local environment in sustainable ways.

Academy of the Near Future, founded in 2020, is a partnership between CONNECT and Dublin City Council to engage communities and Local Authority staff around new and emerging technologies. It won a Chambers Ireland Local Government award for excellence in 2022 for best project in the diversity and inclusion category. To date, Academy of the Near Future has received funding from Dublin City Council under its Smart Docklands research collaboration with CONNECT, and through two successful SFI Discover awards totalling €96,000.

The partnership will draw upon the expertise and know-how developed to date by the Academy of the Near Future programme and bring additional resources to support the scaling of the programme through the hiring of an Engagement Lead hosted at Trinity College Dublin. The engagement lead will co-create content and projects with youth ambassadors and deliver workshops alongside telecoms and Smart City experts to showcase the power and potential of digital connectivity and telecoms.

Find out more about the partnership and details on the engagement lead role here.

Colin Cunningham, Managing Director of Cellnex Ireland, said:

“Connectivity is vitally important for inclusion in our towns, cities and rural areas. Cellnex Ireland works at a practical level every day in ensuring that people are connected through telecoms infrastructure, and we are delighted to be supporting Academy of the Near Future in taking that to a new level. This partnership will allow us to provide further connectivity expertise and guidance to the next generation in areas who may run the risk of being left behind. The commitment to ensuring that 50% of the workshops delivered are to female students is particularly important in ensuring greater representation and diversity in STEM.”


Prof. Ann Devitt, CONNECT Investigator at Trinity College Dublin and Associate Professor of Language Education at the School of Education in Trinity College Dublin:

“We are thrilled to launch this partnership with Cellnex Ireland, which will greatly enhance our efforts to foster future careers and opportunities in STEM starting at primary level. The new engagement lead we are now recruiting will be crucial in developing a programme of learning with youth ambassadors that is inclusive and exciting for primary school children.  In the school workshops, they will work alongside telecoms and Smart City experts to explore the power and potential of digital connectivity and telecoms to solve some of our most pressing challenges.”

Jamie Cudden, Smart City Lead at Dublin City Council, said:

“We are delighted to see the expansion of our Academy of the Near Future programme through this partnership with the Cellnex Foundation and the SFI CONNECT research centre. This programme is about promoting the potential and opportunities that smart technologies can bring to local communities and schools. I am really looking forward to seeing what ideas and solutions the students can realise through these workshops and engagements”

CONNECT is the world leading Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre for Future Networks and Communications. CONNECT is funded under the Science Foundation Ireland Research Centres Programme and is co-funded under the European Regional Development Fund. We engage with over 35 companies including large multinationals, SMEs and start-ups. CONNECT brings together world-class expertise from ten Irish academic institutes to create a one-stop-shop for telecommunications research, development and innovation.

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