d-real is a novel PhD programme of research, digital and soft skills training that leverages complementary institutional strengths of the five partner institutions (Trinity College Dublin, Dublin City University, National University of Ireland Galway, Technological University Dublin and University College Dublin). Figure 1 depicts the ICT skills map for PhD students which will be supported via shared modules, summer schools, self-directed learning and shared research activities. By facilitating pathways across the three tiers, the d-real programme offers students opportunities to develop their skills in Digital Platform technologies (e.g., Personalisation, Human Computer Interaction, AI Techniques and Machine Intelligence for Media), Fundamental Digital Media (e.g., Natural Language Processing, Video Analytics, AR/VR), and applying such skills in real industry contexts such as in the Domain Applications. The programme will provide interdisciplinary research challenges as each student PhD project will follow a pathway comprising specific Digital Platform Skills, Digital Media Skills and a domain application context. In Figure 1 examples of individual pathways are shown using different colour lines and dots.

Figure 1: d-real Programme for Developing (ICT) Skills and Pathways


A d-real graduate will possess deep research skills in complementary areas across Digital Media & Platform Technologies (as seen in Figure 1) and proven ability in problem solving and development of innovative solutions. They will have excellent development skills for tackling complex problems, and extensive analytical and research methods experience for investigative tasks and performance evaluation. Uniquely, the centre will nurture an environment in which students develop the capacity to meaningfully translate their research to real world applications in the target domains. The unique cohort, cluster and pathway structure and embedded training activities will ensure interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary experience, peer mentoring experience and a broader outlook on the technology landscape. The deep industry involvement across the PhD project development, internships & placements, summer schools and industry masterclasses will provide graduates with unique insights into industry entrepreneurship, strategy and practices. This will enable the graduates from d-real Centre to pursue high impact careers that will redefine reality and the relationship between individuals, enterprises and digital technologies.


The d-real programme recognises that the core element of a PhD is the significant and original contribution to scholarship. The training programme complements and benefits the PhD research projects with cohort-based training actions that foster inter-/multi-disciplinary
research and opportunities for students to engage closely with industry. The d-real student experience will equip students to become academically outstanding future research leaders with the skills and knowledge required to address the future challenges of an ever-changing work environment.

The d-real training programme is integrated with and complements the PhD research projects. It provides student-focused training activities which will enhance student research capacities and contribute directly to the attainment of the d-real PhD graduate attributes. It is delivered through a variety of training actions consisting of shared modules, summer schools, master classes, self-directed learning and other shared research activities. This bespoke training programme utilises and builds on existing offerings and brings students together in face-to-face and virtual activities as a cohort. An indicative programme timeline with each of the training actions is outlined in Figure 2. While all actions have industry involvement, those highlighted in light blue are where students engage directly with industry partners and stakeholders.

Figure 2: Example PhD Cohort Activity Timeline

Setting Sail (5 ECTS): At the start of each academic year (i.e. each new year cohort), all newly recruited PhD students will engage in an intensive 3-day “Getting Started with a PhD” event. Setting Sail will be bespoke to the d-real training programme, leveraging content from existing institutional offerings. The event will include social ice-breakers and short workshops covering core topics such as ‘How to do a PhD’, ’Responsible Research and Innovation’, ’Research Integrity’, ‘Gender-in-Research’, ‘Intellectual Property’, ‘Ethics and Privacy’, ‘Publishing Your Research’, and ‘Academic Communication’.

Research & Innovation Rotations: To facilitate cross institutional and cross topic collaboration, each student will complete a team-based research and/or industry team challenge led by d-real supervisors in collaboration with industry partners. These challenges will address key inter-disciplinary issues and will bring together students with different skill sets needed for each project, widening their research and collaborative experiences, whilst fostering project management and teamwork skills.

Broadening Horizons Programme (up to 20 ECTS): Through this programme d-real students deepen their knowledge within their d-real discipline and broaden their interdisciplinary knowledge across other d-real disciplines.

Smaointe Summer Schools (5 ECTS per school): The d-real cohorts, supervisors and industry stakeholders will come together annually for 3-day summer schools. Smaointe (“Reflections”) Summer Schools consist of two types of activities. Firstly, building on the Dagstuhl model, themed workshops on big-ideas and hot-topics in Digitally-Enhanced Reality (e.g. Ethical dilemmas in Digitally-Enhanced Reality) with Smaointe topics designed in collaboration with industry partners. The summer schools will facilitate communication, interaction, knowledge and skills transfer across d-real.

CO-LEAD Initiatives: These will be entirely student-led activities that engage d-real students in driving forward their own education and training, firstly through active peer participation in a transformative phase (Year 1-2) and later as activity leaders. CO-LEAD Initiatives will encompass experiential training by enabling students to define and organise a range of scientific activities for the benefit of their cohorts and clusters.

Future Road-Mapping: Building on career development workshops and clinics already offered by d-real partner institutions, annual Future Road-Mapping events will provide d-real students with the opportunity to showcase their work and engage directly with a wide range of key industry stakeholders (e.g. showcase events, industry hosted events) and with alumni to discuss their research and seek guidance.

Influencing the Narrative Programme: This will build upon communication and Education and Public Engagement (EPE) training already offered by d-real partner institutions (e.g. communicating scientific research to the public; poster design; creating and maintain social media presence), which students will be exposed to in the Setting Sail event and through opportunities at their institutions. These skills will be put into practice in a range of cohort-based activities to communicate research to academia and industry and to the public more broadly.

Experiential Learning Placement (Internship)/Academic Exchange (10-15 ECTS depending on institution): Placements and exchanges form an integral component of the d-real programme affording an opportunity to enhance the impact of the student’s research and engage with industry sectors or international collaborators relevant to the research programme. Students will be hosted for 3 months by an industry or international partner in either year two or year three of their programme, whichever is most appropriate to their PhD research.