Tag Archives: innovation

UKTI Ideas Lab

2015-07-08 15.19.44

I’ve been working at the UKTI Ideas Lab for about six months now – it’s high time I explained a bit more about what we do there on this blog.

Disclaimer: this is all written from my point of view and does not represent UKTI. You’re not going to find out about UKTI future strategy from this blogpost, but you can learn a bit about the working life of a service designer in government.

What is UKTI Ideas Lab?
UKTI is a government department – UK Trade & Investment. It provides support services to people that want to export goods or develop their business abroad. It also encourages investment in British businesses from abroad.

The Ideas Lab is a team within UKTI. It was set up to encourage and nurture ideas from staff to improve UKTI internal practices and services they provide. More recently, the Lab has developed in a way that I have not heard of other Labs developing – our main result and unwritten objective is to drive principles internally. Continue reading

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2015-07-09 12.06.16Charlie Leadbeater speaking at Labworks

On Thursday I went with my entire Ideas Lab team from UKTI to the LabWorks event organised by Nesta. It was a jam-packed day and we all left feeling quite overwhelmed.

Many of the talks were enjoyable. It was great to hear stories from other labs about their successes and struggles. I felt that I tacitly knew much of what was being said, but it was incredibly useful to hear and see how certain concepts were being articulated.

Here are my notes from the day, complete with cartoony hairstyle drawings of speakers to help me remember who said what.

2015-07-09 12.12.41Bonus picture: the ‘typical lab’. I have to say, I have not worked in a government innovation lab which is this sidelined. I’d quite like to though – it would be like being back in the Goldsmiths design studio. The more sidelined a space is, the less of a spotlight there is, the less pressure to be neat and perfect… which means more chances to make mistakes without consequences.

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How can we embed creativity in organisations?

Image from Shift website

I was at an RSA talk by Charles Leadbeater today. At the end of the talk I very briefly met a lady who said that her work was about getting leaders to be creative, and to embed creativity in organisations. She wasn’t sure how to make that happen yet.

Earlier today I was asked how to get non-creative people come up with good solutions to problems. The person I was having the conversation with and I had both noticed that too often, when people are asked for ideas, people will outline the problem again rather than thinking of solutions. Or if a solution is thought of, it’s an area of solutions rather than a specific imagining of how that solution might work in practice. It’s something that I have experienced time and time again with groups of people who are not used to thinking creatively.

The conclusion I am reaching, at least for today, is that it’s not enough to ask ‘non-creative’ people to be creative and expect brilliant results. Creative thinking workshops and introducing design thinking processes into workplaces alone are not going to make the change.


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How can GPs use open data to innovate?

Image supplied by @HoneyBeaDHU

On Thursday I attended a talk in Nesta entitled ‘Open Data for Innovation in Primary Care’. Before I found out about the talk, I didn’t know that ‘primary care’ meant GP practices, or anything about the link between GPs and innovation really. I went as a patient/citizen and as a designer interested in innovation in the public sector in general.

Nesta has produced a publication ‘Which Doctors Take Up Promising Ideas?’; the insights were discussed in the talk. The speakers were Michael MacDonnell, Head of Strategy NHS England; Fran Bennett, Mastadon C; and Professor Richard Barker, Centre for the Advancement of Sustainable Medical Innovation (CASMI); the talk was chaired by Jo Casebourne, Director of Public and Social Innovation at Nesta. Continue reading


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Last week in Shoreditch on my way home I saw a bald man wearing these glasses in the street. I walked past him, fighting with the urge to ask him where he got them from. As I found my head turning to stare, I ran back and asked him about them. He bought them 10 years ago in Belgium. He wasn’t sure if the company was still running, but it is: theo.

What an idea.

Thanks to Miet Vaes for the image.

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The Happiness Machine

Alice Osborne and Ella Britton have created a Letter Writing Machine. They put it into action on Saturday at the Knee High Play Space in Gabriel’s Wharf. Continue reading

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Blanch and Shock at the illy pop up gallery

I met Blanch and Shock as they were packing up their workshop at the illy gallery when I visited. They made some of their liquid nitrogen frozen goodies just for me though.

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Curtain Call

We spotted Ron Arad on Sunday afternoon at his new installation at the Roundhouse. (He’s the one in the hat.)

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You know those interactive screens with funny effects that are cool now?

They had one in the Science Museum recently, near the genetics exhibition. They’ve had them at the V&A during the fantastic DeCode exhibition and there was one at Kinetica Art Fair. You move and you watch a colourful you mirror your movements with a time delay, or watch yourself become three yous and gradually disappear, or your hands become monsters… there are all sorts of fun things people are doing with cameras and displays these days.

One company that makes these sorts of things is Quadratura, you should check them out.

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Following Kari’s fish leather work…

Kari Furre at New Designers exhibited some beautiful works made with fish leather – a material which has a great deal of potential. Tonnes of fish scales are discarded every day in the fish industry, so it makes economic and environmental sense to use it.

A graduate from the RCA has taken this idea in a different direction. Kari’s work is delicate and artistic – Erik de Laurens‘ project, The Fish Feast, has used the fish scales to make a plastic which can be used in a variety of applications.

Dezeen has a summary of de Laurens’ project here.

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