Festival of Ideas

Festival of Ideas

The Festival of Ideas

On Monday the 4th, Wednesday the 6th and Friday the 8th of November, the DVC: Research hosted the "Festival of Ideas".  All up, close to 300 academic and professional staff from across the University attended the three one-day sessions with one purpose:  brainstorming brilliant multi-disciplinary ideas for research projects that could inform the development of the University's Research Framework 2015 - 2024.

The Deputy Vice Chancellor: Research challenged participants to imagine the University at its 60th anniversary and to "incubate" ground breaking ideas that could influence the areas of research Macquarie is internationally renowned for over the next ten years.  Our performance in these research areas would have the following aims: be world-leading and have world-changing impact.  This will ensconce Macquarie's reputation as an internationally recognised research intensive institution, placing it as the 'go to' University for Government, industry, world-leading researchers and high quality research students.  This research alignment aims at elevating Macquarie to 6th amongst Universities in Australia and well within the Top 200 universities in the world on an array of indicators.


Participants were asked to develop their ideas within a framework of Alignment, Focus and Scale. The ideas generated needed:

  • To align with the national research agenda and the university's current and emerging strengths
  • To focus on being the best in a select range of areas rather than trying to be all things to all people, and
  • Be scalable in order for the University to build critical mass in the areas it chooses to excel in.  

Participants worked in groups of 10 and tables were a mix of staff from various faculties and departments across the University.  Each of the tables was given one of the following Societal Challenges to address:

  • Living in a changing environment
  • Promoting population health and well-being
  • Managing our food and water assets
  • Securing Australia's place in a changing world
  • Lifting productivity and economic growth

Read the full document outlining the 5 Societal Challenges.

Following an activity designed to challenge our assumptions about the Societal Challenges, participants were asked to brainstorm at least 12 innovative solutions addressing the Challenges and associated Strategic Research Priorities. Participants were encouraged to be creative and not let their ideas be hampered by 'black hat' concerns such as resources, current technology or processes.

Refining the ideas

Over the course of the day, each table was then asked to:

  • Distil their 12 ideas down to six key ideas, and present these as 'newsflashes' - comprised of a headline, keypoints and an image. Participants were able to view each table's key ideas and consider these over lunch. After lunch participants could move to a new table if they felt a particular affinity for the ideas being generated by that table.
  • Distil the six ideas per table down to the three best ideas and present them as a 'story board', where further detail was added. The storyboards were then posted up on the wall for all participants to consider.
  • Refine their three key ideas down to one top ranking idea and present this one idea as a 90-second 'elevator pitch'. The ten top ranking ideas from each day, and their associated spontaneous illustration, are shown below.

Day 1 - Top 10 ideas

A new methodology Unlocking the brain

Skippy & chipsBiodefence in the 21st centurySmart bodies

Building resilienceReal world healthMonitoring and mapping

centre for identity and securityAccommodating diversity

Day 2 - Top 10 ideas

MQ school and universityPredetermined Health

Sustainable living in the waste societyTrusted information in a globalised digital societyMQ national vector core

Preparing a printed worldBionic meMQ resource consumption

Adaptive resilienceInfinite product lifecycle

Day 3 - Top 10 ideas

Living in a fire prone environmentMQ resource consumption

Ocean based foodModelling future risk by understanding the dynamics of changeAdding that extra dimension: 3D technology

Human swiss army knifeOptimising information access for physical and mental wellbeingOffshore water capture

Advance Australia FairSustainable development and use of marine resources

Think like a DVC: R

Once the 90-second 'elevator pitches' were given, and the summary pages for each top ranking idea were posted to the wall, participants were encouraged to 'think like a DVC: Research' and decide which projects should receive investment.

Participants were each given $600,000 of 'Sakkie dollars' and were invited to invest in one or more projects (but not their own).

50,000 Sakkie dollars 100,000 Sakkie Dollars

200,000 Sakkie dollars

We know many great ideas can get lost over such full days or the appropriate opportunity to showcase them may not arise, so participants were also encouraged to put any and all ideas "in the bucket" and these were collected and transcribed.

Next Steps

At the end of each day Sakkie invited participants to continue their conversations within their areas and to feed through more suggestions and inspired ideas from individuals, Centres, Departments and Faculties.

So... now we are about to embark on the exciting job of working through the 179 newsflashes, 91 story boards, 30 Top 10 ideas and 224 ideas that were put "in the bucket", along with the ideas that continue to flow into the DVC: Research from across the University, to identify themes that might be used to inform the next stage in the development of Macquarie's Research Framework for the next decade, 2015-2024.

The Faculties, led by the Executive Deans and Associate Deans Research, will now use the ideas that arose from the Festival of Ideas along with a range of other inputs including Challenge Workshops to identify a suite of research areas that Macquarie will excel in over the next decade.

We will keep you posted and we look forward to more of your critical input as we progress.

Content owner: Office of the Vice Chancellor Last updated: 31 Oct 2019 3:35pm

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