Future 2.0 Returns with YouTube Star TomSka, Robot Wars and Sci-Fi Fun

A free-to-attend sci-fi extravaganza inviting young people to come face-to-face with cutting edge digital technologies returns to the University of Lincoln next month (7th November 2018) with the latest iteration of Future 2.0.

The one-day event, will take place on Wednesday 7th November 2018 at the University’s Engine Shed.

Influenced by the renowned space opera film franchise Star Wars, Future 2.0 will showcase innovative virtual reality and cutting-edge consumer technology advancements – with visitors able to meet the University’s expanding ensemble of new wave robots.

This year the event will welcome as special guest YouTube sensation and Lincoln alumnus Thomas Ridgewell, better known online as TomSka. Known for his comedy sketches, cartoons, and self-directed short films, he has accumulated a mass-following of over 5.3 million subscribers – with his videos achieving over 1.2 billion views.

Future 2.0 is aligned with the forward-thinking and pioneering academic research that is undertaken throughout the University across robotics, games-computing, media, art, and science with a range of activities for all ages spread across a number of interactive zones, including a return of the popular Robot Wars arena. There will also be the opportunity for visitors to transform into Jedi knights with stage combat workshops, learn more about the Universe in an interactive space dome and test their gaming prowess against cutting edge robots in our gaming zone.

Emma Jubbs, Assistant Director (Recruitment) at the University of Lincoln, said: “Technology is changing so much about how we interact with the world and each other. The jobs of tomorrow will look dramatically different to those of yesterday, and as a university preparing young people for a wide range of industries and professions, we’re keen to help people of all ages explore emerging technologies and ideas about the future in fun and interactive ways.

“Future 2.0 is a great opportunity for young people to take a look behind the scenes of science and technology research within the University, have fun with some of our sci-fi inspired exhibits and activities, and hopefully be inspired about the possibilities of digital technology.

“Few tech innovations have had more dramatic impact on our lives than the Internet so of course social media engagement is a big part of Future 2.0. We are delighted to be welcoming TomSka back to Lincoln to share the secrets of his YouTube success with our visitors through a series of talks and activities throughout the day.”

New Research Network to support the UK’s Food Manufacturing Digital Economy

A new project has been launched to examine how the Internet of Things (IoT) could transform the food industry through innovations such as ‘smart’ cooking appliances, data-driven supermarket refrigeration networks and enhanced food traceability systems.

The Internet of Food Things (IoFT) Network Plus will bring together data and computer scientists, chemists, and economists to investigate how artificial intelligence, data analytics and emerging technologies can enhance the digitalisation of the UK food supply chain.

The network, led by the University of Lincoln in partnership with the universities of Southampton, Surrey, East Anglia, and the Open University, will examine the application of the IoT in connected homes of the future – for example smart refrigerators which trigger a grocery order when food items run low, or cooking devices which could help us live healthier lives.

It will also examine the traceability of food, and how machine learning and artificial intelligence could be utilised to extract value from the vast amounts of data available across the whole food supply chain, improving efficiency and reducing food waste.

Businesses and researchers nationally will be able to participate workshops, run annual conferences to share best practice across the sector, and bid for funding for pilot studies, projects, and reviews. Collectively these initiatives, which will run until May 2021, will contribute to progressing the digitisation of food manufacturing in the UK.

The project is funded by a £1.14 million grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to nurture and grow the UK’s food manufacturing digital economy.

Professor Simon Pearson, Director of the Lincoln Institute for Agri-food Technology (LIAT) at the University of Lincoln, said: “The food supply chain from farm to consumer generates £112bn GVA per year and employs 3.9 million people, but it is operating against a backdrop of an increasingly competitive environment. It has never been more vital that we find ways to work more efficiently, saving money for producers, manufactures, retailers, and consumers.

“There are some other stark figures relating to the sector which makes this network and its goals even more vital: each year there are around a million cases of food poisoning every year costing £1.5bn; food generates up to 30 percent of the UK’s road freight; and 10 million tons of food is wasted each year, generating 20 million tons of CO2 of greenhouse gas emissions. We want to examine how we can improve these issues, which impact us socially and environmentally.

“The network is being set up to specifically engage with the whole food and digital innovation chain. It will multiply impact by including interdisciplinary contributions from food science and technology practitioners, policy makers, engineers, management specialists and colleagues in social and behavioural sciences. The inclusion of food retailers like Tesco within the consortium provides access to unrivalled data sets demonstrating behaviours.”

Alongside academic expertise, the project will involve industry specialists from a range of areas, such as global engineering company Siemens, IoT and machine management solutions’ firm IMS Evolve, supermarket chain Tesco, the rural agricultural consultancy Collison and Associates, and the High Value Manufacturing Catapult. Regulators such as the Food Standards Agency and GS1, an international agency that sets data standards for bar codes will also have input, and consumers will be engaged through representative bodies.

New Digital Skills Curriculum to Equip Workforce for Industry 4.0

Academics and employers will work together to develop a new digital skills curriculum to serve the innovation needs of major industries ranging from food manufacturing to renewable energy.

The project, led by the University of Lincoln with direct input from industry partners, aims to identify and close skills gaps in digital literacy across a variety of employment sectors, including engineering, food and farming, pharmaceuticals, renewable energy and tourism.

It is funded with a grant of almost £200,000 from the Higher Education Funding Council for England, and contributions from the University and industrial partners.

A team of academic and industry experts will be formed to align the teaching curriculum in STEM subjects at Lincoln with the current and future digital skills needs of specific industries, ensuring a pipeline of digitally-literate, industry-ready graduates.

The project will draw on the University of Lincoln’s recognised expertise in computer science and engineering, but will cut across all subject areas, recognising the interdisciplinary nature of the digital economy.

Employers will co-produce course materials designed to prepare learners for the digital economy. Students will work on real-world challenges set by businesses to find digitally-enabled solutions. The goal is to equip more graduates and workers with the cutting-edge digital skills that can drive economic growth and prosperity in Greater Lincolnshire.

Professor Libby John, Pro Vice Chancellor and Head of the College of Science at the University of Lincoln, said: “Society is in the midst of a Fourth Industrial Revolution and those economies which thrive in the 21st Century will be those that embrace digitally enabled technologies, such as robotics, machine learning, the Internet of Things and big data analytics.
“Lincolnshire is in prime position to build on its strengths in sectors such as food and farming, engineering and tourism – if we can establish the infrastructure needed to realise the full potential of digital to enhance productivity and deliver real innovation. Digital literacy of the current and future workforce will be a crucial component and this project directly addresses that need, working hand-in-hand with employers.”

The project responds to the Government’s Industrial Strategy and Made Smarter review, which detailed the scope for digital technologies to bolster the UK productivity in what has been called ‘Industry 4.0’. The latter report made reference to the work of the University of Lincoln’s National Centre for Food Manufacturing to develop robotics and automation technologies for the food manufacturing industry.

New digital skills modules will be created on undergraduate programmes and new professional development short courses created for work-based students and employers. Students will gain credits towards the University’s Lincoln Award, a nationally-commended initiative run jointly by the University and Students’ Union to formally recognise extracurricular activities, work experience and other employability skills.

A variety of industrial partners of different sizes and sectors will support the creation of the new curriculum content. These include global companies such as Siemens, NHS organisations, Anglian Water and innovative local SMEs in high-tech sectors such as agri-tech, oil and gas, cloud-based software, and laser manufacturing.

Lincoln is one of more than 30 universities and colleges in England that have been awarded a share of £6.1 million by HEFCE to develop new and enhanced higher education courses through the Catalyst Fund programme.

HEFCE Chief Executive, Professor Madeleine Atkins, said: “We were delighted with the quality of proposals received for this funding call and particularly the impressive levels of engagement between higher education and industry.
“This investment represents important support for the government’s Industrial Strategy. The funding will provide new courses and vital skill developments in key industrial sectors across the country, from which students, the workforce and employers all stand to benefit.”