I recently attended a virtual collaborative incubator, organised by the Oxford Brookes University, to collaborate in the generation of ideas for Enhancing the Future of Transport and Urban Infrastructure: How to engineer smart, sustainable and healthy cities?
This collaborative incubator was part of the Reimaging Recruitment Project, which is a programme of research into the experiences and attitude of early career academics. The Reimaging Recruitment project is funded by the EPSRC Inclusion Matters scheme to improve equality, diversity and inclusion within engineering and physical sciences. The research is embedded within, and disseminated through, the centrepiece activity: an innovative programme of collaborative incubator events. Incubators are domain-specific and run by experts in that field, attended by academics at all career stages who will formulate and/or solve interesting problems.
The incubator consisted of an intensive three-day hands-on workshop (from the 26th to the 28th of April) dedicated to exploring real-world problems in the research area of transport and urban infrastructure for smart, sustainable, and healthy cities and it brought together a broad range of participants from academia, public policy, and industry to identify barriers and opportunities in three main thematic areas: Urban emissions (Day 1), Public Transport (Day 2) and Urban Green Spaces (Day3). There were expert guest speakers presenting the current state of the art and research gaps in subject areas such as ICE vehicle emissions, electric vehicles and battery technology, emission related health concerns and green city planning.
The virtual environment of this incubator was achieved with the use of Gather.Town granting a strong element of immersion for the participants. However, the biggest impact was having an illustrator depicting all the sessions and discussions in several cartoons, which were sent to all the participants after the event.
The day started with presentations on the gaps and limitations in the three main thematic areas, after which the attendees were allocated to different rooms to debate and generate ideas or solutions on those challenges/areas. The workshop would generally end at around 1pm with the exhibition and analysis of the ideas developed by each group.
Overall, as an Urban Planner and Transport Engineer, it was an exciting and rewarding experience to be able to get to know a lot of different people from different backgrounds and expertise to be able to exchange and collaborate in the innovative ideas for tackling this ongoing challenge of making our cities more sustainable and people-centred through transport and the urban environment. It would be of great interest to see a follow-up on some of the suggestions made.