Initial Reflections on #ILW16

What a week! The ILW team had a blast running around from event to event and seeing the amazing energy of event organisers and participants.


We are currently compiling loads of data from surveys, direct feedback, and other metrics but wanted to share some initial thoughts – especially as we have made quite a few changes this year.

(Edit: See the finished impact report here and other info about ILW 2016 here)

As many of you know, we wiped the slate clean over the summer and launched the Open ILW project to better understand what we are trying to achieve and how do we get to and create ILW together. With our manifesto in mind, we have experimented with improving the support structure and processes for the festival – especially in terms of the experience for School Coordinators & event organisers.


What we know:

  • Nearly 300 events ran throughout the week
  • Reach of 1 million through #ILW16 hashtag on Twitter and Instagram over the week
  • Over 5k tickets registered for throughout the week
  • 240 nominations for the ILW Awards. Check out the award winners here.
  • Nearly 400 event organisers contributing to individual events throughout the festival
  • 4 pop-up events supported outside of the Festival – see more about them here.
  • 2 ILW part-funded internships created for ideas coming out of the festival
  • The majority of events were open to the public with quite a few in collaboration with community partners, often schools
  • That e-bikes are amazing and staff at the University can hire them for FREE!



What is emerging

While we need further data to understand these themes, it’s clear that ILW 2016 teaches us quite a bit about the following:

  • Support for grassroots collaborative action and communities of practice at Edinburgh University.

We exchanged knowledge from our own practice and shared information, as an artist I learnt in more detail about a specific technical process. As chemists they are left with a question as to how my work is being made and what effect a specific material I use is having – this is nice as it opens up possibilities for further investigations. – Event Organiser, ILW 2016.


  • Small grant funding & logistical support for staff/students to experiment and trial new approaches is a good thing – especially around ideation, event management, communication strategy, potential collaboration, and how to make the system work for you as a student/staff at The University of Edinburgh.

Although I have organised events before, as this was the largest and most complex one to date, I learnt many skills around project management and event planning. – Event Organiser, ILW 2016.

  • A creative, fun, and highly immersive approach to prototyping, experimenting, and enjoying what we do together with serious and impactful results is what ILW can be a space for.

The entire iGEM concept is focused on developing concrete solutions to real world problems or innovating new art, design or technological projects while having FUN!!! – Event Participant, ILW 2016.


  • Ideas can live on past ILW!  The take up for ILW internships, SLICCs, further grant support, and consultation around ideas has risen from this year’s festival.

At the end of the event, I was so awe-inspired that I contacted a company called Bio-Bean which turns coffee grinds into a biofuel, to see if they would interested in spreading their initiative to Edinburgh–and they agreed! It was an exciting event to participate in and and even that has provided me with much information and many opportunities. – Event Participant, ILW 2016.

  • Communicating with one another within the University is tough. By creating a community of champions for this kind of work – we can better celebrate all that is good about this place.

I have established a further network in the Biology School and collaborated with colleagues from departments such as Informatics, Medical school and School of Engineering. – Event Participant, ILW 2016.

  • Creative DOING is even more important than creative learning. We talk a lot about graduate attributes and skills development, and our event organisers and participants were getting their hands dirty all week.

As an event coordinator ILW provided me with an invaluable opportunity with which to develop and exhibit my project management skills. The scale and quality of the event have impressed many employers when I have discussed the event at interview recently, and on a personal level the task has augmented my confidence and its success brought a real sense of achievement. – Event Organiser, ILW 2016.


  • ILW is an opportunity to understand public engagement of our research within our own walls and a chance to conduct research for your own degree/projects.

I was working with a sustainability specialist from the business school in my workshop and it was fascinating to look at a social or cultural problem from his perspective, instead of a purely design-led thinking process. I also explained to him how we in the design school would usually go about solving a problem: by looking at all of the information and gaining as much research as possible, before narrowing down on the exact specifics of the root of the problem. This led to a more rounded approach and practical response – Event Organiser, ILW 2016.

We hit our mark in all areas of “success” for the event. Participants asked about using the glass facilities for their individual projects later in the term and were happy with the learning experience. New ideas were sparked and developed and a couple were seen all the way through to physical art output. And for me, the organizer, I received a lot of quantitative data for my research. – Event Organiser, ILW 2016.


What’s next?

We will be working through the data we have to provide our community and the wider University community with a comprehensive report on ILW 2016 and how we might be able to take some of the key successes (the curated programme, the support structure, the tools, and some of the ethos) for years to come.

If you have any feedback, questions or concerns about ILW 2016 – email us at


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