Challenge your innovative thinking at the Festival of New Ideas

Getting up close and personal with some of the mind-blowing technology transforming how we live and work will be among the hands-on activities open to the public when the UNI-Versal Festival of New Ideas makes its debut in Aberdeen next month.

The second in the series of new mini festivals organised by the University of Aberdeen, the two-day event on May 27-28 will showcase some of the world-class research, ideas and inventions that are happening right here in the north-east.

In addition to a number of thought-provoking panel sessions and behind the scenes tours, members of the public can take part in a free family-friendly ‘Living and Working in an AI World Showcase’ and an ‘Exploring Robotics’ event in which they can see some cutting-edge robots in action and try their hand at a series of interactive games. Visitors will be able to go head-to-head against a machine in a healthcare challenge, hear how dolphins communicate with each other and discover how technology is helping local industries like fishing become more sustainable. They will also get the chance to see what happens when AI fails and the impact it can have on people and organisations.

Not limited to technological advances, the festival also celebrates the new ideas shaping the natural world. Visitors will get the chance to sample pancakes made with the latest sustainable superfood, hemp, as part of an event with researchers and nutritionists from the Rowett Institute looking at how we can tackle climate action through the food we produce and consume.

Combining traditional crafts with human biology, scientist and renowned textile artist Dr Lynne Hocking will lead a workshop demonstrating how she handweaves genetics into fabric, with participants getting the chance to have a go at weaving the human genome for themselves using frame looms, yarn and genetic data.

The packed programme also includes a number of events profiling the research being done by University students and staff to tackle some of the biggest issues facing the planet. This includes a regional heat of the ‘Three-Minute Thesis Competition’, a fast-paced contest held in more than 200 universities worldwide in which PhD students have just 180 seconds to present their research in an engaging way to an audience with no background knowledge. Participants will be able to vote for their favourite with the winner going on to compete at the national level. Further events will be added in the weeks ahead.

Open to all, UNI-Versal is part of the University’s commitment to supporting the region’s recovery from Covid-19.

Professor Peter Edwards, Vice-Principal of Regional Engagement and Regional Recovery, said: “Following on from the fantastic Dark Nights Film Festival in March which celebrated Scotland’s creative heritage, the Festival of New Ideas seeks to shine a light on some of the ground-breaking research and innovative thinking coming out of the north-east.

“The University - and indeed the region as whole - has a long and proud tradition of invention and discovery. From the creation of the world’s first full body MRI scanner to the recent development of the world's first 3D thermal image of an active volcano, blazing new trails and shaping the future for all of humankind is a fundamental element of the Aberdeen city region’s DNA.

“We look forward to welcoming enthusiasts of all ages and abilities to our Old Aberdeen campus for 48 hours of science, fun and discovery during which they get to not just see but to experience for themselves some of the amazing research being carried out on their doorstep.”

The Festival of New Ideas takes place on May 27-28. The full programme of events and booking details can be found here.