On 23rd June 2017, Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) students Eva Auer (Design Informatics), Sean Greaves (Design Informatics) and Joe Revans (Product Design) showcased their project, “UK 2029”, at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, winning the runner-up prize in the international Biodesign Challenge.

UK 2029: Post-Natural Artefacts from the United Kingdom discusses potential social and political responses to broadening access to DIY Biology. “Told through three speculative case studies, our project explores how communities present within the UK today could navigate the increased accessibility of synthetic biology,” said Joe, a Product Design – BA (Hons) student, “and reflects the way emerging technologies are often used as tools to empower, disrupt or protect.”

The project was developed in an interdisciplinary course initiative led by Dr. Larissa Pschetz, a Lecturer in Design at Edinburgh College of Art, and Dr. Naomi Nakayama from the School of Biological Sciences, with the support of Anais Moisy, Eric Thorand, Bettina Nissen, and ASCUS Lab. 24 students from Biology, Biomedical Sciences, Product Design, Design Informatics and others developed seven biodesign projects as part of the initiative. “We hope that this success story will encourage more students to join our newly-approved course next year,” said Larissa.

The UK 2029 team delivering their presentation
Image: Larissa Pschetz
The UK 2029 team delivering their presentation

“Our project explores how communities present within the UK today could navigate the increased accessibility of synthetic biology, and reflects the way emerging technologies are often used as tools to empower, disrupt or protect.”

Joe Revans, Product Design - BA (Hons)

The Biodesign Challenge is a competition that envisions new ways to integrate living systems and biotechnology in design. The team chosen to represent the University competed with 22 design schools and universities from seven countries around the world.

They presented to an audience of 200 curators, artists, designers and scientists, and the project was also on display at a gallery show at School of Visual Arts in New York City.

The UK 2029 team with their award at ASCUS Lab
Image: Larissa Pschetz
The UK 2029 team with their award at ASCUS Lab
The UK 2029 team collecting their award
Image: Larissa Pschetz
The UK 2029 team collecting their award

“It was fascinating seeing controversial bodies such as Intrexon and the FBI in the same room as speculative designer Anthony Dunne and artist Heather Dewey-Hagborg,” said the students, “It was also great to see how other schools responded to the open brief of the competition and what conversations they had engaged with. The experience made us greatly appreciate the quality of resources within the University of Edinburgh, and the critical framework we were introduced to.”

“As a team, we feel so much more confident in our ability to work in multi-disciplinary environments, and knowledgeable about the nuances of constructing narratives through design processes.”

 

The trip to New York was made possible by a £3,800 Innovative Initiative Grant (IIG) given by the University’s Development and Alumni office. 

IIGs are funded by alumni and friends of the University of Edinburgh who are keen to support innovation in teaching, research and student life. IIGs promote new initiatives in teaching, research and student experience. Applications are open to permanent members of staff and current students (both undergraduate and postgraduate) as well as EUSA, EUSA societies, the Sports Union and recognised sports clubs.

The next submission window for Innovation Initiative Grants opens on Thursday 14 September 2017 and closes at 12 noon on Thursday 26 October 2017.




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