Meet the Innovators: The Irish names shaking up the global status quo

Irish people are making their mark on the global stage – here are the names to look out for in 2024

Between groundbreaking ideas and global awards, here are 20 Irish heroes continuing to transform the way we live

The past year has been another of stunning accomplishments from the Irish people who are leading in their field whether at home or overseas.

Between groundbreaking ideas and global awards, these diverse Irish heroes continue to transform the way we live, spark new conversations, and push the boundaries of what is possible. Get to know Ireland’s most innovative.

Arts and culture

Annie Fletcher

Overseeing Self Determination, one of the largest modern art exhibitions to have opened in Ireland last year, Fletcher is the visionary director of the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA).

Standing at the forefront of Ireland's cultural renaissance, and with an acute curatorial eye and a passion for fostering artistic dialogue, Fletcher has transformed IMMA into a dynamic hub of contemporary creativity.

With a hugely impressive resume under her belt, including a role as the chief curator at Holland’s Van Abbemuseum, she is known across the global art industry as one of the most original and important curators of our time, and has served as the curator of Ireland’s contemporary art biennale EVA International and on a judging panel for the Turner Prize, an annual art award presented to a British visual artist.

Laura McGann

One of the biggest hits on Netflix last year was an astonishingly beautiful love story about two of the world’s foremost freedivers, which captured global hearts and minds and won McGann Irish Tatler’s Women of 2023 award in Film & Drama.

The documentary writer-director, who hails from Kildare, is no stranger to sports documentaries. Earlier in 2016, she created Revolutions, a film portraying the challenges of the growing sport of women’s roller derby in Ireland.

McGann, now at the famed A24 production company which is known for the most distinct independent movies in vogue right now, has created a name for herself as one of the most powerful storytellers in the industry.

Isobel Kelly

When famed music talent agent Troy Carter – known for managing Lady Gaga, John Legend, Priyanka Chopra and more – created his new music platform, it was Irish Isobel Dooley-Kelly he called on to manage it.

Based in Brooklyn, Dooley-Kelly is global head of streaming for Venice Music, Carter’s all-in-one music distribution platform. Her mission is to empower artists who are not signed to big labels to forge their own successful paths in the industry through recording, distributing and marketing.

The Galway-raised former Sony Music executive has one of the coolest jobs in the world, and can now be found hanging out backstage at the world’s hottest gigs and festivals.

Ross White

The past year has been extraordinary for Irish film, not least because Ross White, co-founder of Floodlight Pictures alongside Tom Berkeley, managed to win an Oscar for their dark comedy An Irish Goodbye.

The Belfast director graduated from the Guildford School of Acting in 2017, after which his first movie Roy was listed for a BAFTA. It was his second movie that stunned the world and brought Hollywood (USA) to Holywood (Belfast).

At only 27 years old, the Los Angeles illuminati are anxiously awaiting to see what comes next from this hugely talented creative.

Governance and leadership

Cormac Savage

It’s not every day that you see someone from Northern Ireland testifying before the White House Committee of Foreign Affairs on the Northern Irish peace process, but then again, not everybody is Cormac Savage.

The Harvard undergraduate student, who founded the Secondary Students’ Union of Northern Ireland, is currently serving as chief of staff to former Irish ambassador to the United States Daniel Mulhall at Harvard Kennedy School.

For his summer internship, Savage moved to Westminster and worked as a parliamentary assistant to the shadow chancellor of the exchequer. And somehow, he still finds time to be Taylor Swift’s number one fan.

Síobhra Quinlan

In her own right, musician Síobhra Quinlan forged a successful career as a premier opera and classical vocalist, as well as a co-curator for Ireland’s Edge, a stream of Other Voices.

Now she has moved into the world of diplomacy and is scaling her artistic influence as the head of cultural affairs at the Consulate General of Ireland in Los Angeles, working jointly with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Culture Ireland.

With the goal of forging new diplomatic ties with the United States, Quinlan is working to showcase both the ultra-famous and the up-and-coming Irish stars in LA. She is the first person to have held this job and has quickly become the face representing Irish contemporary cultural talent abroad.

Feljin Jose

There’s nothing that excites the chairman of Dublin Commuters Coalition more than public transport. Advocating for a more sustainable, environmental and lifestyle-friendly transit system, Jose was born in Kerala and moved to Dublin when he was nine years old.

While he’s lived in, breathed in and campaigned for better transport in many cities all over the world, Dublin is the city he’s most passionate about improving.

It is this energy that has helped others to get excited about Dublin transport again, too. A physicist by training, Jose is a rising star amongst the urban planning community, and there is nobody who is changing the Dublin transport routes faster than this Green Party candidate.

Leo Clancy

In 2023, Enterprise Ireland celebrated its 25th year supporting Irish business leaders to succeed globally. Leading this historic celebration is its CEO of two years Leo Clancy.

Coming from the private telecoms sector, Clancy transitioned to serving the public sector a decade ago when he joined IDA Ireland. Since then, he has brought about significant disruption that has turned Enterprise Ireland into the first partner of choice for high growth start-ups in Ireland as they scale in the United States and beyond.

Despite it being notoriously hard to instigate change in the public sector, Clancy has achieved what few others have thought possible: bridging the gap between government and the private sector.

Science and technology

Dr Caoimhe Rooney

While many people may tell you to shoot for the stars, very few people have taken the advice as seriously as Belfast mathematician Caoimhe Rooney.

After her Ph.D. in the mathematics of thermal conduction and radiation at the University of Oxford, she moved to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory where she researched the distribution of clouds in exoplanet atmospheres.

Now, she has moved back to Oxford where she is a flight dynamics engineer for Astroscale, the world’s leading space start-up that is trying to clean up the old, defunct satellites that are littered around the Earth’s orbit; a career that seems more like science fiction, than science fact.

Dr Joseph Mooney

Finding a solution to the problem of global water shortages has never been more urgent. Luckily, if you walk around the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) campus in Cambridge, USA, you might bump into an Irish researcher who is working on precisely this problem.

A mechanical engineer from Sligo who has specialised in micro fluids, Dr Mooney obsesses over anything that sits at the nexus of climate change and water security. He is currently trying to build water filtration devices that can use solar energy to create clean water in developing countries.

Neil Skeffington

They say that one man’s waste is another man’s treasure, and this is certainly true for Athlone man Neil Skeffington who is working on the €30 billion problem of global plastics recycling.

Plastics can be found everywhere, and while creating them is easy, recycling them is a famously challenging problem.

Skeffington’s start-up, Novelplast takes plastic from all over the world that is too difficult or expensive to recycle elsewhere. Then, using his state-of-the-art systems, he can melt down the ‘rubbish’ into pellets that are then sold to be recast and reused as recycled plastic elsewhere.

While there’s a long way to go to create a circular economy with materials, at least there are people focusing on the hardest parts of the problem.

Dr Helen O’Neill

The number of couples facing fertility issues has skyrocketed in the last decade, with severe emotional, financial and societal consequences.

Dr Helen O’Neill, co-founder and CEO of Hertility - and a winner of an Irish Tatler Woman of the Year award in 2022 - is taking the academic and business worlds of reproductive science by storm.

A lecturer in reproductive and molecular genetics at the University College London, her co-founded start-up Hertility Health has pioneered at-home hormone and fertility testing, allowing women to better understand their bodies for the first time.

It’s no wonder O’Neill and her twin sister Deirdre have a cult following among their rapidly growing Hertility community.


Conor Maguire

Bundoran surfer Conor Maguire went viral late last year when a photo of him surfing a 60-foot wave off Mullaghmore Head caught the imagination of people all over the world.

The Red Bull-sponsored ‘big wave’ surfer is no stranger to the large swells of the Atlantic Ocean, and in 2020 surfed what is thought to have been that year’s biggest wave off the coast of Ireland.

With three nominations in three separate categories for the Big Wave World Tour awards, Maguire, aged 30, is the youngest European to be shortlisted for the World Surf League Big Wave Awards.

Nicci Daly

Some athletes have more than one sport they can compete in at the highest levels. Ireland hockey player Nicci Daly is one such person.

With 200 caps and a Silver Olympic medal under her belt, Daly retired from hockey and turned her focus towards the fast-growing sport of electric scooter racing. Now an eSkooter racer, she competes against 30 professional athletes from all over the world on city streets across Europe and the USA.

More than being a multi-sport athlete, she is also the founder of Go Girls Karting which is designed to drive visibility and participation of young girls in motorsports.

Rhasidat Adeleke

Photo by ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy

Blink and you’ll miss one of the fastest sprinters alive. Recently, Adeleke became a household name after the Irish sprinter won the 100m and 200m double at the 2021 European Athletics Under-20 Championships.

In 2023 she came fourth in the World Championships 400m sprint in Hungary, and in doing some became the first Irish woman to break the 50-second barrier at that distance.

After a three-year scholarship at the University of Texas and a stunning collegiate performance, Adeleke announced last year that she had decided to leave amateur athletics to go pro.

James Roe

ln 2023 one of Ireland’s most talented race car drivers was selected to compete in the Indy NXT by Firestone Series, the final step on the road to IndyCar. Roe, who started racing when he was only fifteen, considers himself late to the sport. However, he seems to have made up for lost time.

After breaking UK and Irish records whilst topping podiums, Roe moved to the US. In 2021’s IndyPole 2000 Championships he was awarded the Pole Award, had the most overtakes in a season, and was a race winner.

And last year, the Naas native ran the full Indy NXT by Firestone season with Andretti Autosport.

Fashion and beauty

Simone Rocha

Simone Rocha photographed for the cover of Irish Tatler by Gaby Laurent, with styling by Aisling Farinella

Dublin’s Simone Rocha has made a name for herself as a designer whose rebellious romanticism can be found at some of the world’s most exclusive stores, as well as stand-alone locations in New York, London and Tapei.

In 2021, the London-based designer teamed up with high street megastore H&M for a unique designer collaboration. Last September, after showcasing her spring-summer 2024 ready-to-wear collection at London Fashion Week, she was named as the latest couture designer for French fashion house Jean Paul Gaultier.

An impressive list of celebrities have worn her designs, including singer FKA Twigs, Kiera Knightley, and Nicola Coughlan. Never afraid to innovate, we can’t wait to see what Ireland’s brightest talent in fashion does next.

Conor Clinch

It turns out that London’s hottest fashion photographer is a Paris-based Irish man named Conor Clinch. The Dublin native, who has been featured on but whose first cover shoot was for Irish Tatler, has top commercial clients including Nike, Burberry, Gucci, Jimmy Choo and Swarovski.

His talent “stopped me in my tracks”, says Rankin, the ultra-famous British photographer who has shot Björk, Kate Moss, Madonna, David Bowie and The Queen.

Clinch’s non-commercial work includes a standout exhibition at the Natural History Museum in London called Sanctuary, depicting captivating images of shells while exploring the unique and diverse world of molluscs.

Úna Burke

Very few people manage to achieve breakout success based on their master’s portfolio upon graduating from London College of Fashion. Úna Burke, however, had inbound requests for her specialist leather accessories from Taylor Swift, Madonna, Nicki Minaj, Rihanna, Lady Gaga and more.

Burke’s talent for luxury leather apparel was carefully honed as a designer for the biggest names in luxury leather fashion: Radley + Co, Smythson of Bond Street and Burberry Menswear.

Her latest collection, titled Loss and Gain, was designed in Roscommon and exhibited at Paris Fashion Week in spring of 2023.

Kate Synnott

What do Kirsten Dunst, Nicole Kidman, Nina Dobrev, Ashley Graham, and Cara Delevingne have in common? They rely on Irish makeup artist Kate Synnott to look their best at Hollywood’s most exclusive events.

Before working for herself Synnott was the National Lead Artist for Charlotte Tilbury’s line of luxury cosmetics after working for Tilbury personally.

Her work is a favourite for editorial photographers, and her commercial clients include Jimmy Choo, Dior, Calvin Klein, Armani and others. After starting her career in Dublin, Synnott is now based in a much warmer Los Angeles.