David Ireland is a familiar figure to participants and alumni of ON programs. Rarely standing still for a period of time, David has worked as a facilitator for the ON Accelerate, ON Prime, and Lean LaunchPad programs. David's role as a facilitator is complex and demanding; alongside his colleagues, he helps to design and execute each program. David also works closely with each team to make sure they are getting the necessary support to achieve their individual goals.

David Ireland facilitating at ON Accelerat4.

"The role is a multi-faceted one, there is certainly never a dull day," David says. "As a facilitator you are organising and designing each day, and then working hard to deliver it. We also act as informal coaches for each team – we are talking to them every day and checking on their progress. You also have to be flexible in your approach; if something isn't working, we are always ready to tailor it for our teams."

David's diverse background outside of the ON program allows him to draw on a wide variety of experiences as a facilitator. David has over 15 years of experience in advising, starting, and leading innovative companies and programs. His professional experience ranges from bench scientist to start-up founder, consultant, innovation systems policy, and international development practitioner.  How does he utilise this experience practically as a facilitator?

"I am lucky that I have had such a wide range of experiences that can help me talk to a wide variety of people," David says. "For me, the most rewarding part of this job is working with each team, and working out exactly how we can help each one realise their goals. When you manage to see a team make a breakthrough on something they have been wrestling with for a long time, it is incredibly rewarding."

The ON Accelerate program brings an eminent group of researchers and scientists together, and David tries to engender an atmosphere of possibility with every team. "For every team that we see, they are extremely high achievers who have done amazing things in their careers. With this program, we have to communicate that it's absolutely fine to fail, it's not school. We want our teams to find solutions and not be discouraged by the bumps that will happen on the road."

ON Accelerate can be an intensive program. Long days, working together as a team and with mentors to find the best possible route for a project. David believes that his role as a facilitator is key in helping to keep energy up in the room. "There's no doubt that ON can be an exhausting experience. I see a lot of my role in keeping the energy up. As a facilitator you can never let your energy drop over the twelve weeks, as it will affect the teams."

During the Accelerate program, David gets a bird's eye view of the teams' journey from concept to demo night. Being able to see a team's journey throughout the program remains his favourite part of the program. "We are privileged in the teams that we meet on this journey. We see them grow as the program continues and, with the tools that they have been given, we get to see them gain confidence. When you see a team confidently land on something they believe in when they go to pitch, that’s when this role becomes truly rewarding."

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