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Exploring the future of Digital Disruption

21st June 2017

Researchers, industry and the public will work together to explore the future challenges and opportunities created by advances in digital technology during an innovative event at the Northern Design Centre in Gateshead on September 1.


Organised by Northumbria University, Newcastle the Digital Disruption event will explore how technology is changing the face of business and services, exploring what the future may hold and what opportunities this may present private companies as well as public organisations.


With successful digital disrupters such as Uber, Airbnb and Amazon dramatically changing the face of transport, hospitality and retail in recent years, the event aims to explore what future technological advances could take place and how this could benefit business in the North East and across the UK.


The day will offer a full program with speakers, panels, networking and research demonstrations. Keynotes will include Kristina Höök, professor in Interaction Design at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden, who led the Mobile Life Research Centre in Sweden along with partners such as Ericsson, IKEA and ABB; and Microsoft Innovation Director Haiyan Zhang, who created a watch which uses vibrations to stem tremors caused by Parkinson's Disease. 


The centrepiece of the day will be a panel exploring how academics, industry and the public sector can work together to future-proof their operations. It will include insights from universities, business leaders, research councils, and other organisations that can benefit from future-oriented research.


The event has been organised by Lars Erik Holmquist, Professor of Innovation at INNOVATE, Northumbria University’s design-led innovation centre.


He said: “It is impossible to predict the future – but it is safe to assume that digital technologies will continue to disrupt the world. This has been happening for the last 50 years, from mainframes to PCs to the internet to mobile, and it will most definitely continue – we just don’t know exactly how.


“Although we can’t predict the future, we can still prepare for it. One way of doing this is to use scientific methods to create future scenarios and test them in the real world. Being aware of potential future events takes away uncertainty and helps organisations and businesses to be prepared for the future.”


To help its partners face these challenges, Northumbria University is launching an initiative in Digital Disruption, in which it will work with organisations and businesses to carry out long-term research to help predict future digital trends and how these may impact business.


During the Digital Disruption event three specific challenges will be explored – the future of money, the future of identity, and the future of aging.


John Vines, Professor of Design at Northumbria, will lead the future of money discussion. It will explore how technologies such as mobile payments, online banking and biometrics have changed how we handle money and how financial institutions, retailers and service providers will embrace a cashless society in future.


The future of identity discussion will be led by Pamela Briggs, Professor of Applied Psychology at Northumbria. This theme will explore how we manage our digital identities in future, what information we share and with who, the tools available to support us do this and whether keeping our personal data private will still be of such concern in the future.


Glenda Cook, Professor of Nursing at Northumbria, will lead the Future of Ageing debate, which will focus on the positive ageing movement that is disrupting deeply entrenched notions of ageing in society. The discussion will also consider how digital technologies are offering solutions for enhancing quality of life as we age, and combating issues such as isolation and loneliness in older people.


There will also be an opportunity to get hands-on with the latest devices and apps from Northumbria University’s research labs.


Following the Digital Disruption event, organisations will be invited to continue to work with academics to build and test plausible future scenarios, which could be used to create new processes and business models.


Professor Holmquist said: “This work is all about risk mitigation and future proofing – digital technology presents so many opportunities but while some business will benefit there will inevitably be those that are left behind. Our research aims to help businesses see digital disruption as a positive force and spot opportunities for future growth as a result.”


The Digital Disruption Day takes place from 9am to 4pm on Friday 1 September at the Northern Design Centre in Gateshead. For more information and to book a place please visit


Northumbria’s Digital Disruption initiative involves academics from a range of departments, including Design, Psychology, Nursing and Computer and Information Sciences. Interdisciplinary research is at the heart of Northumbria’s work and the university has recently established eight multi-disciplinary research themes (MDRTs). Each MDRT includes academics from across faculties, with the aim of sharing knowledge and expertise to find innovative solutions to some of the world’s greatest challenges. Researchers within the IDEATE group are exploring how creative design can be. The Digital Disruption initiative builds on this to create connections with partners that can work together with the university in new research projects.

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