The purpose of the Edinburgh Futures Institute (EFI) is to pursue knowledge and understanding that supports the navigation of complex futures. EFI’s distinctiveness stems from our approach to research, education and engagement – an approach that combines multi-disciplinarity with co-production. Working with industry, government and communities (at home and abroad) we will build a challenge-led and data-rich portfolio of activity that has demonstrable ethical, social, cultural, economic and environmental impacts.
Our ethos is:
Participatory: EFI is welcoming and outward-facing. We are developing new models of research, learning and knowledge-exchange that will enable life-long participation. Partner organisations that share our building will be active collaborators, participating in research and education, and becoming a fundamental part of our community.
Critical:: The foundation of our research and scholarship is criticality. We bring critical scholarship to bear on all our collaborations, and the questions that flow from them. Our perspective is provocative, constructive and mindful of a University’s role in confronting difficult questions, with humility, realism and persistence.
Future-facing: EFI is a place to question, envision, experiment, prototype, and evaluate futures from many perspectives. We aim to inspire unexpected collisions of thinking and to form a place of creative convocation, challenge, and innovation.
Why EFI now?
The biggest challenges facing societies globally are complex and interconnected. Our approach recognises that insight and innovation can come from bringing the arts, humanities and the social sciences into contiguity with data science, engineering, the natural sciences and with medicine. And our ethos and commitment to co-production stem from the University’s historic principles of the ‘democratic intellect’ updated now in Strategy 2030. These principles focus on the civic responsibilities of the University in working with and for its wider communities, and the importance of opening up education to all who can benefit.
Our first programme – Data Driven Innovation
One of EFI’s first major programmes is focused on the challenges and opportunities posed by the revolution in data, digital and artificial intelligence. EFI is a key component of the University’s Data Driven Innovation contribution to the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal. This multi-million pound investment by the UK and Scottish Governments aims to increase the provision of data and digital skills in the workforce and secure economic prosperity for all.
EFI’s data driven innovation programme links to four key sectors: financial services (including fintech); creative industries; tourism and festivals; and public services (data civics). Additionally it has two cross cutting themes: the ethical implications of data analytics and artificial intelligence; and the future infrastructure needed to drive social, economic, environmental and cultural inclusion.
Application and innovation
We will apply innovation from our data rich activities to the futures of:
- Democracy – exploring the changing patterns of, and preferred futures for democracy, governance and policy.
- Society – addressing the challenges posed by increasingly internetworked yet divided societies.
- Education – future-making through education policy, philosophies and the ways we teach.
- Creativity – understanding and utilising creativity as narrative, product, political agenda and practice.
- Justice – critically engaging with ethics and justice against a backdrop of rapid change and complex global dynamics.
- Health – driving action-oriented research and practice to promote urban and planetary health.
- Sustainability – reconciling the resources that populations consume and the carrying capacity of the planet.
- Economy – scoping futures for finance, policy and infrastructure and their social and economic impacts.
- History – building futures on and from our archives, heritage and culture.
Our place – the Edinburgh Futures Institute building
Following its renovation, we will move into Edinburgh’s Old Royal Infirmary on Lauriston Place. The Nightingale wards of this building, dating from 1879, were themselves an innovation in medical science, separating disease to limit contagion. With the sensitive renovation of this iconic, category-A listed building, the University of Edinburgh is transforming it into a space for multi-disciplinary collaboration and partnership.
The 20,000m2 space will include state-of-the-art teaching facilities, space for co‐working with industry partners, incubation space for businesses, labs for innovation and prototyping, and exhibition and performance space.
As custodians of this much-loved building, our aim is to fulfil the pledge set in stone above the main entrance: ‘patet omnibus’ – open to all.
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Interested in working with us? Contact us via telephone (0131 650 4107) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org)