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The Faculty of Art, Design and The Built Environment at the University of Ulster’s Belfast campus hosted a major symposium today (Wednesday February 23) focusing on the issues, challenges and opportunities which designers will increasingly face in the years ahead.

Based around the theme of ‘Creativity, Innovation and Sustainability’, the event drew on some of the most creative and influential thinkers from a diverse field of expertise across the province, around the UK and beyond.

Its aim was to stimulate the debate on innovation, creativity and sustainability and highlight the opportunities to develop design-led innovation.

The conference also offered a networking opportunity for academics, local government representatives and businesses, who all value investment in design for a sustainable future.

Highly influential speakers, representing the world of fashion, public relations, visual communication, manufacturing, technology and sustainability, provided both local and international perspectives.

Faculty Dean, Professor Ian Montgomery, said: “The Faculty of Art, Design and The Built Environment at Ulster is uniquely placed as a key provider of education and research in sustainability in areas such as renewables, wind and solar power, as well as cutting edge expertise in design and architecture.

“This conference provided an excellent platform to broaden the discussions on innovation, creativity and sustainability.”

Culture, Arts and Leisure Minister, Nelson McCausland, has a strong interest in the ways in which his Department can catalyse creativity and innovation and promote sustainability in Northern Ireland.

Speaking at the symposium, the Minister said: “My Department plays a leading role in promoting creativity, innovation and sustainability in architecture and the built environment.

“DCAL is the Northern Ireland Government lead on the creative industries. The key priority for government is to grow a dynamic, innovative economy. The impact of the global recession has emphasised more than ever the urgent need to rebuild and rebalance the Northern Ireland economy in a way that promotes sustainable economic growth.”

In conclusion the Minister said: “In Northern Ireland, over 36,000 people are employed in the creative industries or in creative occupations, which represents 4.6 per cent of the workforce.

“By encouraging creativity we fuel the emergence of creative people and creative enterprises. This supports the economy, but can also inspire new solutions that support Government priorities in education, health, social inclusion and the environment.”

As Director of Academic Enterprise at the Faculty, Janet Coulter has been working alongside a number of companies within the creative industries, linked to the University, to make this conference possible.

She explained: “We are locked in a recession and there is a driving force towards sustainability and many companies realise there are a lot of challenges ahead.

“However, businesses will always have problems to solve, even in a downturn and innovation is key to survival and growth.

“Through collaboration with the university, businesses can share costs and risks, and maintain a research and development momentum through the downturn. Factoring in sustainability must become a non-negotiable objective in all design briefs.

“We all need to change how we’re thinking as designers and as a society and to consider sustainability, in terms of both our resources and our social responsibility.

“Through this conference and the rich and diverse knowledge of the speakers, we hope to have explored how much creativity and innovation is driving forward new business ideas and how sustainability will integrate into the design of our society in the future.”

Janet Coulter can be contacted by email

Notes to editors

Speakers and presentation topics:

Professor Frances Corner; Head of College, London College of Fashion – ‘Ethical Design and Sustainable Fashion’

Mr Mark Nodder; Managing Director, Wright-Bus Ltd, Ballymena – ‘Development of the Hybrid Electric Bus’

Mr Stephen Moore; Creative Director, AV Browne Ltd, Belfast – ‘Innovation in Design Management’

Professor Jim Kitchen; Head of Sustainable Development Commission for Northern Ireland and Visiting Professor, University of Ulster – ‘Innovation in Sustainable Development’

Professor Greg Maguire; Chair, Visual Communication, University of Ulster – ‘Innovation in Animation’

Mr Kenneth Kaplan; Associate Director and Co-Founder, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Collaborative Initiatives – ‘Innovation: The International Perspective’