DERC: Digital Economy Research Centre

To complement the Digital Civics research undertaken in our Centre for Doctoral Training in Digital Civics, the Digital Economy Research Centre funds 25 post-doctoral researchers across a range of disciplines.

DERC will deliver a sustained program of multi- and cross- disciplinary research using research methods that are participatory, action-based, and embedded in the real world. The research approach will operate across multiple scales (e.g. individual, family, community, institution) and involve long-term embedded research activity at scale. Like the CDT in Digital Civics, DERC aims to support research to design, develop, and evaluate new digitally mediated models of citizen participation that engage communities, the third sector, local government and (crucially) the commercial digital economy in developing the future of local service provision and local democracy.


Date: November 2015 – October 2020

Funding: EPSRC £4,051,357

Researchers: Patrick Olivier (PI), Peter Wright.

Centre for Doctoral Training in Digital Civics

CDT-002Across the UK political spectrum there is a consensus that communities need to play a greater role in local government, both in the decisions made that affect people’s everyday lives, and in the design and delivery of services provided by local government to communities. With the enormous public uptake of digital technologies including broadband internet, mobile phones, laptop and tablet computers, there are opportunities to create more representative and sustainable forms of local democracy and service provision.

Digital Civics is the endeavour of developing research, theories, technologies, design approaches and evaluation methods for digital technologies that support local communities, local service provision, and local democracy. This area poses new challenges for researchers across a range of disciplines. It requires researchers that are not only experts in local government and the services they provide (such as education, public health and social care), but also researchers that can: (i) understand the limitations of existing technologies and approaches to design and use; (ii) innovate in the design, delivery and evaluation of services; (iii) produce underpinning technologies that meet the real-world requirements of local service provision and local democracy. The primary goal of our Centre for Doctoral Training is therefore to train the next generation of researchers that can meet these challenges.

The Centre has three distinctive features. Firstly, it brings together academics from five internationally leading centres of excellence already extensively engaged in Digital Civics research at Newcastle University.  Secondly, the research will be conducted in the context of real-world service provision and communities, through the engagement of three local councils who will act a host partners to the research. The centre also has a range of deeply committed commercial, public sector and third sector partners who will actively engage in the design and delivery of the research training. Thirdly, the training provided to students will be cross-disciplinary in nature and focused upon three challenging application domains for digital civics research: local democracy, education, and public health & social care. There will also be two underpinning technology training programmes: human-computer interaction and security, privacy & trust.

Press release: New centre will use digital technologies to transform local government services


Date: April 2014 – April 2022

Funding: EPSRC Doctoral Training Centre £4,707,329

Researchers: Patrick Olivier (PI), Peter Wright.

MyPlace: Mobility and PLace for the Age-friendly City Environment

MyPlace-001The aim of MyPlace is to develop and test through real-world research a digital platform and toolkit that will enable members of the public to engage with local councils and other organisations more effectively in the research, planning and design of the urban environment.

The specific domain of this project is people’s experiences of mobility and access to the urban environment, and how this changes with age and across the lifecourse. The project is a collaboration with City Councils in the North East Region, and Newcastle’s Age Friendly City initiative. Through VoiceNorth we will collaborate with members of the public in the project as co-researchers and co-designers, to collect a body of quantitative and qualitative data on older people’s experiences of mobility in the built environment, and to co-design digital tools, information and services to enhance that experience.

To achieve this we will design and develop a toolkit of digital sensors to capture evidence and experiences from older people’s journeys through and social interactions within the city centre. We will combine this evidence with social research data through interactive architectural visualisations which will support citizens and stakeholder in participatory design of the age friendly city.

We will also develop a participatory platform which will allow members of the general public to access, comment, and vote on design issues, and to add their own experiences of access and the built environment. This extended public engagement in the research and design activities will offer a new model of public engagement in civic decision making.

The toolkit and platform will be validated through the design of and deployment of digital interventions in the city. We will also document our findings for policy makers and other stakeholders regionally and nationally.

Date: March 2014 – March 2017

Funder: EPSRC (Design for Wellbeing) £1,301,006

Researchers: Peter Wright (PI), Patrick Olivier, Katie Brittain, Thomas Ploetz, Rose Gilroy, Helen Jarvis, Lynne Corner, Cathrine Degnen, Tim Townshend, John Vines, Rob Comber.

Collaborators: Rose Conroy-Dalton (Northumbria University), Mark Blythe (Northumbria University), James Charlton (Northumbria University).

The Creative Exchange

The Creative Exchange (CX) is a Knowledge Exchange Hub for the Creative Economy. We aim to develop strategic partnerships with creative businesses and cultural organisations, strengthening and diversifying their collaborative research activities and increasing the number of Arts and Humanities researchers actively engaged in research-based knowledge exchange. CX has a network of 41 partners throughout the UK, including the BBC, MediaCity UK, Microsoft Research, TATE Liverpool, SAGE Gateshead, Opera North, NESTA, Lancaster City Council, the Storey Creative Industries Centre and FutureEverything, as well as over 30 small and medium-sized companies working in the creative sector.

Newcastle University, Lancaster University, and the Royal College of Art are facilitating the Hub, with each institution focusing on complementary but separate research. Newcastle will focus on two themes. The first is “Performance, liveness and participation”, which looks at new ways for people to be involved in live performances, for example, through the use of social media. The second is “Stories, archives and living heritage”, which creates ways of exploring historical archives and encourages people to generate their own content.

Meanwhile, our collaborative research will explore the broad theme of the “digital public space” through six more specific themes: personalisation, experience, participation, connectivity, narrative and identity. This will inform the development of prototype digital systems and services that innovate in the areas of broadcast interactive media, user-generated content, narrative experience and live performance, leading to local and national deployments and field trials. To support this research, Newcastle has offered seven fully-funded PhD studentships; the students will undertake project-focused, practice-based research, including funding to support placements without creative sector partners.

This page will be updated during the course of the Hub with details of collaborative projects and knowledge exchange outcomes. Please see the main CX website for more information.

Press release: Newcastle to play key role in new £4 million creativity hub

Date: Jan 2012 – Dec 2015
Funding: Arts and Humanities Research Council