University to host ‘ideas day’

Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the Liberal Democrats Nick Clegg.
Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the Liberal Democrats Nick Clegg.

Lancaster University is to host a special think-tank ‘ideas day’ as part of the Government’s ‘Northern Futures’ debate on creating a vibrant future for the region, which is being championed by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.

He said: “If ever there was a time to push for a better deal for the North, it’s now. But how? You tell us. These ideas days are crucial to make sure the policy is designed by you, not by Whitehall.”

The event will take place at Imagination Lancaster, a design-led research centre that is part of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS).

And it is one of only eight innovative ‘ideas days’ taking place in separate cities across the North of England next Thursday, October 16.

Twenty delegates will take part in the Lancaster event - discussing, designing and debating solutions, which will be focused on economic growth, an overarching vision for the North and creating desirable futures for different parts of the region. The panel will be made up of experts and non-experts.

Their work will form part of the ‘Northern Futures Summit’ called by the Deputy Prime Minister, which will be held in Leeds on November 6.

The debate is structured around a key question posed by him: “How do we build on the strengths in the North to create an economic core in the heart of the region that can compete with the biggest cities in the world?”

The Lancaster ‘ideas day’ is being organised by Dr Stephen Clune, senior lecturer in Design for Sustainability and Behavioural Change at Imagination Lancaster, along with colleagues Nick Dunn, Professor of Urban Design, and Dr Claire Coulton, Liveable Cities Project Co-ordinator.

Dr Clune explained: “Northern Futures is an exciting and important project, with the Cabinet Office’s Policy Lab bringing people together for a new kind of debate about the future of the North.

“The basis of the idea is to allow experts and non-experts to come together to share ideas and develop solutions using a mixture of creative problem-solving tools and design thinking methods.”

Prof. Dunn said: “We are honoured that the university’s Imagination Lancaster centre is hosting one of these vitally important ‘ideas days’.

“As an open and exploratory design-led research centre that exists to provide fresh perspectives on real-world issues and facilitate innovation, it is a fitting place for such an event.”

Dr Coulton added: “The debate will focus on establishing a clear vision for the North, incorporating economic growth and creating desirable futures for different parts of the region.

“I am sure that those taking part will come together to produce and share ideas that have real worth and potential as the development of the region is put into sharp focus through this project.”

As well as Lancaster, where the panel is currently being finalised, the open ‘ideas days’ are also being held in Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, York, Hull and Newcastle upon Tyne.

The ‘Northern Futures’ project aims to facilitate an open conversation about driving economic growth across the region and the overall future of the North by inviting both experts and members of the public to share their ideas on challenges and solutions.

The Northern Futures website has been set up (, so people can share and discuss their ideas online.

The Deputy Prime Minister and his staff are also visiting towns and cities across the North to give experts and non-experts alternative ways to engage in the debate.

The aim of next month’s ‘Northern Futures Summit’ is to bring the conversation together and agree a way forward.