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First Fellow for Bristol Digital Futures Institute

4 March 2020

This week, we welcomed Stephen Hilton as our first Bristol Digital Futures Institute fellow. We asked Stephen about his new role and why Bristol Digital Futures Institute is such important work, at a critical time.

Stephen Hilton brings more than 20 years’ experience in innovation and collaborative research projects to the University’s newest research institute.

He is the founder of Bristol Futures Global, which is helping to connect people with smart, sustainable and inclusive city futures. Previous projects include working with the University of Bristol to pioneer the 5G Smart Tourism Testbed in Bristol and Bath.

Why is Bristol Digital Futures Institute so important?

Technology is coming at us faster than ever and the future can seem uncertain. At times, even quite scary.  Bristol Digital Futures Institute will help ensure that 5G, AI, big data, the Internet of Things, robotics, automation, blockchain and other disruptive technologies are developed and applied in ways that consider the human and environmental implications, rather than just efficiency and productivity gains - although these are important.

By focussing on the connection between society and technology, Bristol Digital Futures Institute will make sure people have a real stake in digital innovation, helping us all to make friends with our digital futures.

How will you be involved in the Institute?

I plan to be an enthusiastic and noisy champion for its vision and values. And of course, its innovative projects that will have real world impact, including benefitting people and communities that technology might otherwise leave behind. I particularly want to help ensure local impact - in Bristol and the West of England, but also to promote sharing with leading Smart Cities across the UK and around the world. 

Why were you keen to join us?

It is a great honour to become BDFI’s first Fellow.  It reflects a long history of University collaboration on Smart City initiatives. Of course, it is always exciting to be involved from the start - helping to shape the thinking as it develops and benefitting from seeing how the research unfolds.  Ultimately, Bristol Digital Futures Institute will play a central role in the University’s new Temple Quarter Enterprise Campus - which is one of the most significant developments for Bristol in the 20 years that I have lived here. 

What will the Fellowship involve?

I look forward to working with Professor Dimitra Simeonidou and Professor Susan Halford as they lead this exciting new venture. I will be actively sharing their ground-breaking work with my network in local authorities, Government and Industry. 

As part of my work, I regularly welcome international delegations to Bristol. Bristol Digital Futures Institute will become a ‘must visit’ experience for our international visitors and will provide a significant strategic opportunity to build exciting new, global research collaborations.  

What do you hope Bristol Digital Futures Institute will achieve?

Bristol Digital Futures Institute will develop new knowledge and understanding of the positive benefits that digital technology can bring to society.  There is huge potential to help solve challenges that cities such as Bristol face and to unlock new opportunities for communities - but people and technology need to move forward together at the same time and with the same pace.

I hope that the Institute’s unique focus on “Socio-Tech” will help to achieve this balance, leading to a more human, creative and caring approach to Smart Cities and truly inclusive Smart Digital Futures.

Further information

For more information, please contact Vikki Rogers, Senior Communications Officer:

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