Human capabilities for innovation in UK makerspaces

by Cian O’Donovan and Adrian Smith Makerspaces can be a source of human capabilities that benefit people and society. But these capabilities will only lead to flourishing communities if they are accompanied by structural changes to our economies, cities and environment. Using lasers to precision-cut plywood is not easy. When Toni Buckby began running classes…

helicopter flying with high mountains in background

The 2020 Davos Manifesto: A Manifesto for the Past, Rather than the Future

Out of the networking orgy that is the World Economic Forum (WEF) has emerged the Davos Manifesto 2020: ‘The Universal Purpose of a Company in the Fourth Industrial Revolution’.  Unfortunately, the document is likely to fall short in its objective to improve the state of the world, writes Adrian Ely. It’s the 49th anniversary of…

Why does public research money often fail to support sustainable and just food systems?

The European Union and its Member States spend considerable amounts of their budget on supporting Research and Development (R&D) activities. In the summer of 2019, the EU Commission announced how it would spend the last annual tranche of Horizon 2020 – a €77 billion research and innovation funding programme running since 2014. For the Commission,…

Lightbulbs of different shapes and sizes

Doing digital differently: four innovation lessons from the grassroots

by Adrian Smith, Adrian Ely and Phil Jones When Knowle West residents met with artists Paul Hurley and Caleb Parking in 2016, they had little idea they were at the vanguard of grassroots innovation and doing ‘digital’ differently. The meeting was at Knowle West Media Centre (KWMC), a community-based space in Bristol that uses arts…

Experimentation to action: how Bioleft is helping to grow an open source seed culture

by Almendra Cremaschi, Patrick van Zwanenberg & Anabel Marin The seed breeding initiative Bioleft has received funding to work with more varieties of seeds in Argentina, and to develop a ‘sister’ initiative in Mexico. Bioleft is an ‘open source’, distributed seed breeding initiative that Cenit researchers, in close collaboration with public sector plant breeders, lawyers,…

Control room

When ignorance does more than you think

Unstudied conditions are avoided as vigilantly as possible—right now, when it matters—by control room operators of large critical infrastructures mandated to operate reliably and safely systemwide. Having failed to fail because an operator was behaving ignorantly is orthogonal to high reliability management. That said, ignorance has differentiated functions in large socio-technical systems—but in ways not…

Uncertain futures and the politics of uncertainty

Since writing The Romantic Economist – Imagination in Economics (2009) I have been fascinated by the link between the human capacity to imagine new futures and the prevalence of uncertainty. Imagination is both the ultimate cause of much of the uncertainty we face and our best tool for coping with it. This month sees the…

A new framework for thinking about technological change

Global development is all about creating change for the better.  One thing is certain: if we want to address the climate breakdown while achieving a high quality of life for all of the Earth’s citizens, it will take a transformation of the way we all live. Technological change will surely be an important part of…

Poster with text: Eradicate Measles

Measles, MMR and vaccines: where do vaccine anxieties come from?

Measles and vaccines are back in the news. The UK has lost its measles-free status, according to Public Health England. The Guardian reports that about 30,000 children are starting primary school next month with no protection against measles, mumps and rubella, while 90,000 have had only the first of the two vaccines necessary for protection….

What is revolutionary about the Green Revolution?

The dramatic increase in yields of wheat and rice in the 1960s and 1970s in India, along with many other countries in the post-colonial world, was framed as a technological breakthrough made possible by miracle hybrid seed varieties. This breakthrough ostensibly averted mass scale hunger and was central, so the story goes, to realising substantive…