Digital Disruption Conference: Exploring the future together

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Northumbria University

Northern Design Centre

Abbott's Hill



United Kingdom

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Northumbria University invites you to a day exploring the future of digital disruption!

In the last decade, digital technologies have disrupted many sectors, from transport to health, from housing to retail. To stay prepared, organizations will have to invest in forward-looking research, or they run the risk of being left behind by new technological forces.

How can universities work with partners to find new markets, develop new products and explore new opportunities through digital innovation? On this day, we will hear from industry, academia, the public sector, research funders and more. The program includes talks and panels as well as demonstrations of research projects and opportunities for networking.

Two exciting keynote speakers will show how research and business can co-exist in practice. Professor Kristina Höök from the Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden will talk about how she worked alongside major companies to turn her research on affective interaction into new products. Haiyan Zhang, Innovation Director at Microsoft in Cambridge, tells the story of how she invented a device to help a friend suffering from Parkinson tremors – the Emma Watch.


9.00 Doors open, coffee

9.30 Introduction by Prof. George Marston, Pro Vice-Chancellor Research and Innovation, Northumbria University

9.40 Introduction to Digital Disruption by Prof. Lars Erik Holmquist, Professor of Innovation, INNOVATE at Northumbria University

9.45 Keynote by Prof. Kristina Höök, Professor in Interaction Design, Royal Institute of Technology:

From high-risk design research to fruitful collaborations in the innovation system

11.00 Digital Disruption research panel: Professors John Vines, Glenda Cook and Pamela Briggs are joined by public and private sector research partners to discuss new initiatives at Northumbria University, including:

  • The Future of Money
  • The Future of Ageing
  • The Future of Identity

12.00-13.30 Lunch, networking activities and research demonstrations

13.30 Creative Fuse: Unlocking the true potential of the creative, digital and tech sectors in the North East. Professor Jonathan Sapsed, Professor of Entrepreneurship & Innovation, Newcastle University.

13.45 Research panel: How do we build successful research collbatorations between academia, industry and public organizations?

Moderator: Prof. Steven Kyffin, Pro Vice-Chancellor Business and Enterprise, Northumbria University

Panellists include:

  • John Baird, Head of the Digital Economy Theme at the EPSRC
  • Geert Christiaansen, Senior Director Design Innovation, Philips Design
  • Prof. Richard Harper, Co-Director of the Institute for Social Futures, Lancaster University
  • Prof. Steve Benford, Professor of Computer Science, Mixed Reality Lab, Nottingham University
  • Prof. Kristina Höök, Professor in Interaction Design, Royal Institute of Technology
  • Prof. David Kirk, Professor in Digital Living, Northumbria University

14.45 Closing Keynote: Haiyan Zhang, Innovation Director, Microsoft Research

Inventing the Emma Watch – A Wearable Device to Ease Parkinson’s Tremors

15.30-16.00 Networking, coffee

The Digital Disruption Initiative at Northumbria University

Researchers, industry and the public will work together to explore the future challenges and opportunities created by advances in digital technology. Northumbria University in Newcastle invites you to join us for an innovative event at the Northern Design Centre in Gateshead on September 1.

The Digital Disruption event will explore how technology is changing the face of business, exploring what the future may hold and what opportunities this may present private companies as well as public organizations.

With successful digital disrupters such as Uber, Airbnb and Amazon dramatically changing the face of transport, hospitality and retail in recent years, we pose the question 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 organizations 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 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 it partners face these challenges, Northumbria University is launching an initiative in Digital Disruption, where it aims to 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. Here, we will 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 the University’s research labs!

Following the Digital Disruption event, organizations 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 4.30pm 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. The Digital Disruption initiative builds on this to create connections with partners that can work together with the university in new research projects.


What are my transport/parking options for getting to and from the event?

Parking at Northern Design Centre is very limited. However, there are a number of Pay and Display car parks adjacent to Northern Design Centre. Excellent rail and public transport links connect Northern Design Centre to both Gateshead and Newcastle centres.

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Northumbria University

Northern Design Centre

Abbott's Hill



United Kingdom

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