AHRC funded Green Transition Ecosystem: Future Island-Island

Project: Research

Project Details


This Green Transition Ecosystem focuses on citizen attitudes and behaviours through speculative design engagement, focused design initiatives, prototyping of new products and interrogation of circular economies. This work will be grounded in the analysis and application of seven key policies for the Northern Ireland (NI) region, including the Energy Strategy - Path to Net Zero Action Plan(DfE, 2022), Waste Management Plan(DAERA, 2019), Deposit Return Scheme(DAERA, 2023), the related consultation for Extended Producer Responsibility for Packaging(DAERA, 2022), Rathlin Island Policy and Action Plan (DfI, 2016),10X Economy - NI's Decade of Innovation(DfE, 2021) and The Circular Economy Strategy (CES) for NI (DfE, 2023). Our place-based themes of rural regions, land/water edge conditions and offshore islands, are delivered through three project-based Work Packages which use co-design, demonstrators and circular economy modelling. These overlap and are intersected by two strategy-based Work Packages informing education and policies for change. Details of the Work Packages are as follows: WP1, Product Waste Ecosystems; WP2, Green Digital Transition; WP3, Organic Waste Ecosystems; WP4, Design Sustainable Futures Education; and WP5, Green Policies. Given its contained scale and its geographically peripheral situation in relation to the UK and Europe, Northern Ireland is particularly suited to the creation of system-shifting changes, to meet our institutional and regional sustainability commitments. The role of design is to harness the potential of small countries to positively transform waste culture and behaviour, organisational change, and innovation generation through an accelerated journey of just community empowerment, applied design and worldbuilding. By extending and deepening our existing interdisciplinary research, this 'enculturing transition design' programme works through a range of community-based concerns (e.g. local waste management) alongside regional place-based challenges (e.g. coastal pollution and the negative impacts of tourism).
WP1: Product Waste Ecosystems interrogate waste plastics as a commodity within a 3D print ecosystem, serving repair and product innovation cultures (WP1.1), potentially reducing carbon emissions from plastics production or incineration. Waste electronic and electrical equipment are reimagined into diverse new value propositions (WP1.2) extending product lifecycles and reusing manufactured parts in new ways.
WP2: Green Digital Transition addresses the negative impacts of tourism. NI's flourishing Screen Industry will transcend sustainable and responsible tourism through digital design and technology. Content focuses on the Rathlin offshore island visiting experiences and the preservation of biodiversity through worldbuilding (WP2.1) alongside sustainable immersive digital heritage and culture (WP2.2).
WP3: Organic Waste Ecosystems propose climate transition pathways and build design ecosystem networks in NI through existing, tested co-design and civic engagement methods. Working with interdisciplinary researchers through collaborative multi-disciplinary design, nature-based solutions are fostered leading to nested circular economies.
WP4: Designing Sustainable Futures Education develops commitments for sustainable futures within educational institutions (primary to higher education), professional CPD, public sector and public engagement organisations. Design is deployed to build a visual language and knowledge base for future sustainable lifestyles.
WP5: Green Policies analyse, understand and position the findings for NI within the above contexts, to frame, synthesise, and co-evaluate visions for preferable futures. These simultaneously recognise contemporary constraints and plans for a future world that will differ from the present. It works in tandem with the design practice activities towards policy implementation and real change in the region.

Layman's description

Green Transition Ecosystems (GTEs) are large scale projects that focus on translating the best design-led research into real-world benefits. Capitalising on clusters of design excellence, GTEs will address distinct challenges posed by the climate crisis, including but not limited to realising net zero goals. A consortium led by Ulster University, under the project title of Future Island-Island, has been selected by the Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) to host one of four new £4.625m design centres across the UK. The consortium extends Ulster’s close working relations with Queen’s University and integrates expertise from Glasgow School of Art and University of the Arts London. In addition to these academic partnerships, there are eleven company co-investigators as well as eighteen 3rd party companies providing in-kind support of over £4.1m. The company co-investigators include Big Small Design, Big Motive, The B!G Idea, DoF Innovation Lab, CARD Group, National Museums NI, Rathlin Development Community Association (RDCA), the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), The Odyssey W5 , Todd Architects and Yellow Design.
Short titleFuture Island-Island
Effective start/end date1/10/2330/09/25


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