Speech

Infrastructure and investment: have we lost our nerve?

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Barbican, London

With HM Treasury having recently set up a new body to oversee £350bn of infrastructure investment, are we about to see an explosion of large projects around the UK? Or can we expect large-scale infrastructure projects to be used as political footballs and kicked into touch by a government too wary to risk its reputation on implementing them? The proposed HS2 high-speed rail network has been written off by some even before the first rail sleeper is to be laid in 2017, and not only on anti-development grounds; some suggest the future is with driverless cars rather than rail. Meanwhile, Thames Water’s proposed £4.2bn super sewer, meant to replace the capital’s creaking Victorian sewerage system, faces strong local opposition because of fears about smells, expected congestion and economic effects.Of course, not everything ends up being tied up in bureaucratic wrangling, opposition and procedural delays. The massive re-development of the 2012 Olympic park area including its stadia and underground infrastructure was a success—perhaps spurred on by an immovable deadline. There continues to be a lot of energy put into high-speed broadband networks, including providing digital infrastructure for the largest cities in the UK, in the hope that it will help businesses grow faster and make them more efficient. London’s Crossrail, currently Europe’s largest infrastructure project, provides another example of how to deliver an ambitious construction project that will have a significant impact on the capital’s rail network when completed in 2018. But while the spotlight is on improving the nation’s rail network, perhaps the more pressing problem is how to update our roads – with or without driverless cars – not least because the majority of the economy relies heavily on road transportation. Past governments have all resisted large-scale investment in road-building programmes, not least because of environmentalist concerns about cars.Why do some projects succeed while others struggle to get started? Is the problem the lack of a political sponsor, able to conjure up the compelling vision necessary to inspire support and private investment? Are environmental issues and concerns taken too seriously, or is the problem a NIMBY attitude that ignores the bigger picture? Should more effort be spent in deregulation and easing up the planning process to encourage competition between construction providers? Or is there an unwillingness to tear down existing infrastructure because no-one wants to lose face over betting on untested new ideas?

3D printing: a new industrial revolution?

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Barbican, London

Over the past two or three years, the idea of 3D printing has gripped the imagination of everyone from creatives in design and IT through to wider industry and governments up to and including President Obama. At a time when many business innovations are based around how the product is packaged and sold to the customer, it is indeed refreshing to see a technology-led boost to how material things are made in the first place, potentially transforming the production of everything from children’s toys to cars and even guns. Some go so far as to proclaim that with ‘additive manufacturing’, we are on the cusp of a new industrial revolution, one that will restructure society, make the means of production more democratic and give the economy a much needed boost.Others are more sceptical – seeing additive manufacturing as just another (albeit still exciting) technique that adds to the multitude of existing manufacturing processes. So where we are with this technology, and does 3D printing really amount to an industrial revolution or is it just overblown hype?

What does privacy mean in a connected world?

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

From Google and Facebook to government surveillance, our data is being mined behind our backs. But should we be surprised? When the product is free, we should realize we (in the form our data) are the product. Is surrendering our personal data and privacy the price of entry to gain access to free content (freemium)? And if we’re doing nothing wrong, do we mind what others know about us? Or is ditching freemium for premium, paid-for-content the way to regain control over our data and our privacy? Given that all business is based on confidence, how can consumers and corporations forge trusting relationships in the networked society? Are ‘the crowds’ being empowered or not? What’s the future role of social media
 and old media? Or are both trust and privacy dead? Is that what we call the price of progress?

Policy over a pint: Control Shift

Thursday, May 30, 2013

London

A discussion over a recent Demos report called Control Shift. It argues for a 'nudge-plus' approach to helping individuals, families and communities make 'better choices' and behave more responsibly.

Private dinner and debate - Design and healthcare: Getting the balance right

Thursday, December 6, 2012

De Santis, Old Street, London

Healthcare is an emotive issue. It consumes vast amounts of resources, and is crying out for new ideas that can improve access, services and treatments—especially given the demands of an ever-changing population. So: should design set about bringing advances in areas such as telehealth, the administration and packaging of drugs, and in the revival of R&D?

Or is design’s role better suited to highlighting ‘softer’, patient-centered issues, such as improving patient care, dignity and wellbeing, and providing patients with a greater say about how they are treated? Perhaps design should both help people more easily manage their health, and, through new advances in clinical innovation, also bring them greater freedom over their lives – not least, the freedom to stop worrying about their health.

Debated blue-skies thinking on Radio 4's PM programme

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Is blue-skies thinking just a management cliche or is it something we should pursue, at a time when big thinking seems so out of fashion today?

Can Design change the World? And should it try?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Plymouth University, Plymouth

Is it irresponsible to want design that is radical, experimental, is risky and that can challenge the brief? Or if not, then what is design for? And why does any of this matter?

The rise of the clicktivists: will the revolution be digitised?

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Royal College of Arts, London

Is the internet just another tool in the activists’ toolbox, accelerating normal protests, or has it brought about fundamental changes?

The future of Internet retailing

Saturday, June 11, 2011

University of the Arts, London College of Fashion, London

What are the key trends that small businesses should be aware of and learn from, including advances in technologpy to innovations in how leading retailers promote and develop their services online. 

Shaping Social Policy: Designers and Crime

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Forget the police: a new crime-buster is on the block. Designers claim they can lead the charge in the fight against crime.

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