ALPHA’s ‘Innovation Cadets’ programme showcases the link between businesses and wider community in Killybegs

ALPHA’s “Innovation Cadets” Programme concluded in the Tara Hotel, on Thursday (18th May) with students being presented with their certificates as part of the second instalment of the programme.

Transition Year students from Saint Catherine’s Vocational School presented their findings from interviews with Killybegs Marine Cluster member businesses in front of parents, fellow students, teachers, businesses, and local dignitaries.

The workshops covered a range of topics including:

  • Learning about the fundamentals of innovation
  • Examples of innovative companies, including Apple, Ford, Netflix and Spotify
  • Innovative techniques including the Lightning Decision Jam (LDJ)
  • How to arrange interviews with business leaders
  • Conducting field research
  • How to pitch to an audience in 8 minutes or less
  • Understand future opportunities for Killybegs Marine Cluster businesses


Programme collaborator, Karl Bonner from the Killybegs Marine Cluster, organized businesses that were interviewed by students who presented the innovations from each business.

Among the businesses that participated included, Barry Electronics, KER Group, MMG Ocean, and SNG (Swan Net Gundry).

Before parchments were awarded to participants the audience heard from newly crowned Foroige Student Entrepreneurs of the Year 2023, Abbie, Aimee, and Aoife who took part in Phase 1 of the Innovation Cadets programme held late last year. After competing against over 6,000 young entrepreneurs across Ireland, the Killybegs entrepreneurs came out on top!

The trio showcased their company, Simply Soap, which creates beautiful gifts from goats milk and local scents like lemongrass and lavender. They explained how they saw a gap to sell souvenirs and gifts to the 29 cruise ships that will visit Killybegs throughout 2023.


The three students were joined on stage by Foroige Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) co-ordinator Jane McLean who explained how Simply Soap will now go on to represent Ireland in the NFTE Finals in Austria later this year.

ALPHA Innovation’s Head of Innovation, Kevin Sexton underlined the key objectives of Innovation Cadets:

“At ALPHA Innovation, our key goal is to demystify and embed innovation into the hearts and minds of everyone across Donegal. Innovation Cadets allows Transition Year students to be exposed to innovative techniques at an early stage, giving participants an advantage over third-level students who leave university without any exposure to how innovative techniques can be applied in business. Innovation also becomes a topic at the dinner table and it was great to see so many parents in the audience tonight to recognise the student's achievements.”

Speaking on plans for Innovation Cadets, Kevin said: “We’re looking forward to meeting with our collaborators over the next few weeks to get the next iteration of the programme up and running for 2023/24.“

Vice Principal of Saint Catherine’s Vocational School, Cathal Campbell underlined the success of the second instalment of the programme from the school’s perspective:

“I want to thank Kevin Sexton and Conor Doherty for the work they have put in with the students. They (the students) might not realise it now, but the learnings and opportunities they got from the programme will be invaluable to them when they go out into university or the workforce.”

Sales Manager at KER Group, Derek McBrearty highlighted the opportunity the programme provided to show the jobs and opportunities on offer in Killybegs;

“We had the opportunity to showcase to the students, the ecosystem of businesses that is here in Killybegs and the students asked fantastic questions to drill down further on how KER Group has innovated and evolved since our founding in 1995. After seeing the presentations here tonight, the future is bright for Killybegs.”

If your school or business is interested in learning more about programmes and supports available with ALPHA Innovation, click HERE to get in touch.

Alpha's next programme, the 'Pre-startup Bootcamp', takes place this across June and July. This is for you if you have an entrepreneurial gene but don't know where to start your journey! 

Learn more here
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