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Data and Design Lab

Origins and updates

Origins and updates

Origins and updates


The Data + Design Lab was established with Data-Driven Innovation (DDI) Initiative funding and supported by Scottish Funding Council Covid-19 Recovery funding to the University of Edinburgh.

Its aim is to establish a data and design service offer for a wide range of stakeholders and to deliver four initial demonstrator projects.

The Covid-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented disruption in commercial, social and cultural activities across the world. Measures restricting gatherings and movement shifted the playing field for businesses and workplaces. Many scrambled to adopt new practices for remote working and delivering goods and services digitally and remotely.

A digital shift that had long been in the making, accelerated, as many organisations were forced to make adjustments to secure their very survival. Not all impacts have been negative! Embracing new opportunities and business models has created new products and opened new market segments for some organisations and businesses. It was against this backdrop that the Data + Design Lab launched in the winter of 2020-21. Led by Edinburgh Futures Institute’s Director of Innovation Chris Speed, the Data + Design Lab aims to apply learning, methods and techniques from data and design fields to support change. The service initially worked intensively with external stakeholders on co-creation activities that support pivoting business models, re-designing services, and driving the uptake of data-driven innovation.




Through a process involving interested partners in co-design sessions, the Data + Design Lab resolved that building trust and understanding the needs around an outcome is key to supporting high quality business engagement. Data + Design Lab evidenced that digital touchpoints should be intertwined with meaningful and structured conversations that create trust rather than simply providing a digital self-service tool. Feedback from potential partners also highlighted the need to provide a few specific offers for potential partners, rather than offering general collaboration with Edinburgh Futures Institute.

“Businesses operate in an increasingly digitalised environment. The Data + Design Lab offers to combine data-driven innovation and digital skills with client-centric service design.”

Chris Speed, Director of Innovation, Edinburgh Futures Institute


The Data + Design Lab is founded on five principles

  • 1. Data-led  The lab is predicated on data-driven opportunities. We unravel possibilities for the future by exploring data-rich challenges.
  • 2. Future-focused  We tackle issues that will help society navigate complex futures.
  • 3. Applied  We want to make things, not hypotheticals. We are designers who believe in prototyping and testing ideas in the wild, in order to reveal unimagined insights that shape future possibilities.
  • 4. Accessible  The lab is open. We want everyone to feel welcome and included.  We use language that is accessible with a low barrier to entry. Where literacy in a certain aspect of the lab is required, we will provide the necessary training.
  • 5. Cross-disciplinary  We are sharpest when we come together with others, stretched by different perspectives. The lab curates experts across domains and brings together students, researchers, industry and community to make unexpected connections.



We are currently building and testing what the Data + Design Lab looks like on the ground, for our partners, communities, and the experience for you. We are doing this with the support and contributions of key stakeholders across the University of Edinburgh as well as co-designers in this process. Learn about what we have co-created and discovered so far.

What have we discovered and designed so far?

Data + Design Lab will create paths – pulling in the most effective tools, methods and expertise – to shape the conditions required to address challenges and collaborate on and co-create solutions. For this, Data + Design Lab works with the following aims and purpose at the core of its work:

  • Energise – through events and activities, the Data + Design Lab creates an environment that can bring together perspectives and generates excitement around new ideas. This is where new ideas and challenges are formed!
  • Enrichment – Data + Design Lab introduces new audiences to new contexts and new considerations to a challenge. This is the basis of the co-creation principles!
  • Progression – We work together to move ideas forward with a goal in mind, providing support through research methods, accessing communities and sense checking ideas.


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