Greetings from the Near Future

Academy of the Near Future is a smart city education programme for students and local authority staff offered by CONNECT and Dublin City Council.

We exist to accelerate sustainable and inclusive smart city development through awareness, skills, and confidence-building.

Cities across the world are becoming smarter by using technology to make better decisions about how we plan, build and deliver services. Increased understanding of these technologies is needed at a city administration and community level so more of us can engage confidently in shaping the future of our cities and societies.

Academy of the Near Future programmes are a combination of interactive workshops, online learning and “hands on” activities with sensor kits that provide learners with an understanding of how technologies such as the Internet of Things and Big Data can help cities deal with traffic congestion, air pollution, extreme weather events, and more.

Committed to demystifying smart cities to groups who are underserved in STEM, 50% of our workshops take place in DEIS schools with 50% female participation.

In doing so, the Academy of the Near Future equips change makers to tackle 21st-century city challenges, and work towards a world where smart city technology improves the sustainability and liveability of cities across the world.

“What is now proved was once only imagined.”

William Blake

Our Timeline


In the early stages of the Academy we worked closely with Wia, an Irish IoT startup, and design experts Context Studio to pilot our idea with target audiences. The success of the pilot helped us to secure Science Foundation Ireland Discover funding to support the scaling of our Visioneers programme for Transition Year students.


In the early months of 2021, we focused on expanding our team and developing programme content in order to launch our school programme. We hit the ground running in September, delivering our hands-on workshops to Transition Year students across Ireland.


In 2022 we scaled our efforts even further, reaching over 1000 TY students in schools across the country. Committed to demystifying smart cities for groups underserved by STEM, 58% of our 2022 workshops took place in DEIS status schools, with a further 62% of participants identifying as female. We also held a 'Design Your Future City' week in March where 21 TY students joined us for a deep dive into smart city technology and creative design thinking.


In 2023, we expanded our student outreach and engagement from once off workshops to a three-part workshop series. We worked with 20 partner schools on an 'Active Travel' citizen science project. Students set up air pollution and traffic sensors, identified problems and created a local action project to improve air quality!


In 2024, we will continue our work on citizen science and 'Design Your Future City' while expanding our programmes with a new audience: primary schools! We will start to deliver a workshop series exploring telecommunications and deliver a programme in collaboration with Dreamspace at Microsoft Ireland where students reimagine their local area to be smarter and more sustainable in Minecraft!

About Our Team

We are a team of science communicators, creative facilitators and smart city experts passionate about enabling learners to expand their capabilities and build the city systems of the future.

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Grace D’Arcy

Grace is the Engagement Programme Manager of Academy of the Near Future. She aims to bring young people into the conversation about new technologies in our communities through interactive workshops and hands-on activities. This year she is leading on the Citizen Science and 'Design Your Future City' programmes with Transition Year students, as well as developing the strategy for what Academy of the Near Future does next!

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Clara Butz

Clara is an Engagement Programme Lead within the Academy of the Near Future. She is leading the programme 'The Connective Detective' that engages primary school students with the potential of digital connectivity. Her background is in social science and digital transformation. Clara brings a strong passion to empower young people to use technology to make a difference in their communities.

Mariana Chihenseck Blanco

Mariana is an Engagement Programme Lead within the Academy of the Near Future. She is working on a project called “Building Leaders, Crafting Communities” in collaboration with Dreamspace at Microsoft Ireland project, using Minecraft as a tool to increase awareness and understanding of smart and sustainable cities. She has a BSc in Biotechnology Engineering and a MSc in Biotechnology and Business. Mariana is passionate about STEM, leadership and technology, aiming to transform student’s perception of STEM.

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Claudia Bailey

Claudia is the Technology and Engagement Manager and is in charge of engaging with local authorities. She is passionate about impactful communication regarding sustainability initiatives, especially in urban spaces. She hopes to contribute to creating a more sustainable future for all by bridging the gap between tech-driven sustainability solutions and the local communities.

Meet Our Partners

A unique smart city test bed in the heart of Dublin’s Docklands.

A world-leading Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre for Future Networks and Communications.

Ireland’s largest local authority and a global pioneer in implementing emerging smart city and IoT solutions.

Ireland’s top ranking university, Trinity College Dublin nurtures ground-breaking research, innovation, and creativity through engaging with issues of global significance.

Science Foundation Ireland funds excellent and impactful research and talent, and shapes the future of Ireland through anticipating what's next and widening engagement and collaboration.