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Future Proof: Edinburgh Futures Institute

31 Aug 2021

Ever since the publication of the review of Scotland’s technology ecosystem by Mark Logan, founder of Skyscanner, a year ago, the term ‘innovation ecosystem’ has become somewhat de rigeur.

By Professor Chris Speed, Chair in Design Informatics, University of Edinburgh

Adding some extra momentum to this term, just a few weeks ago the UK government published its innovation strategy. While the drivers of the strategy seem pretty terrifying (Brexit, global economic disruption, societal unrest and unprecedented global competition) the solutions, are, fairly standard; investment, stimulating innovation and creating new Prosperity Partnerships between government, industry and academia.

So mention ‘innovation ecosystem’ in a conversation nowadays and many heads will sagely nod and marvel at the paradox of ‘building an ecosystem.’

Yet, here at Edinburgh Futures Institute (EFI), we are already working inside and outside of an extraordinary innovation ecosystem where co-creation, morality and data-driven innovation are catalysing our business and public sector partners to, make the world a better place.

Allegedly Scotland lacks a Market Square, where incubators, scale-ups and large companies mix in something of an innovation soup along with educators, researchers and labs producing a multitude of different, unpredictable, hopefully beneficial, outcomes. But EFI is already a place where histories and futures collide to provide a valuable coordinate in the innovation landscape of the city.

In addition, central to steering the Institute and all those that sail within her is a moral compass that is cultivated through debate, deliberation and discourse toward academic and business practices that are good for society. Not fearful of engaging with the biggest challenges facing us all, the unique anatomy of the Institute encourages responsible innovation to flourish at whatever scale.

In short, a relationship with Edinburgh Futures Institute signals an affinity that an organisation ‘subscribes’ to our critical, values-driven approach toward developing a challenge-led and data-rich culture that will deliver ethical, social, cultural, economic and environmental impacts.

We thrive on the reciprocity of challenges, ideas and economies that flow between learners, researchers and businesses. Central to that process is co-creation.

Co-creation, in the context of research and business, refers to a product or service design process in which input from all stakeholders plays a central role from beginning to end. With spaces dedicated to fuel conversation and engagement, the outcomes of a co-creative culture are wide and varied, supporting trust-building, access to talent, networking within an ecosystem, growth and inspiration. The Futures Institute allows internal and external parties to meet, exchange and explore how knowledge from multiple perspectives (civic, technical, corporate and social) can tackle the significant challenges that society faces in the present, and near futures.

EFI supports plural forms of innovation: Continuous Innovation, the adoption and use of data-driven technologies to enhance established businesses and organisations; and Disruptive Innovation, fuelling start-up cultures that allow new businesses to emerge that use data-driven technology to signal new experiences, business models and services.

With a wide ‘funnel’ that onboards members across all sectors through events, skills, collaboration models and value creation, EFI is an exemplar for helping established organisations to continually innovate, and for new ones to begin.

We also support Speculative Innovation. Speculative Innovation is a Futures approach that identifies that the prevailing models of innovation remain anthropocentric with a limited social and environmental baseline. Alongside our responsibilities to support the business models of 20th-century organisations that need to evolve and help startups pivot until they find a meaningful market fit, our approach to Speculative Innovation embraces a more-than-human culture that looks toward including the environment as a key stakeholder.

This agile and design-led approach is how we can innovate with you to use our expertise and energy to future proof workplaces, government organisations, communities, creative industries and more.

We are an innovation ecosystem with a purpose.

Related Links

Discover how we can help you develop innovative ideas to deliver solutions to society’s problems at Future Proof

Design Informatics

Edinburgh Futures Institute